“Abbott Elementary” is a success story for internet-based creators. As an older gen Z, I remember watching Quinta Brunson’s web series “Girl Who Has Never Been on a Nice Date” and her Buzzfeed content while in high school in the 2010s. As an internet creator she felt closer to her audience, writing and acting in her own content that she published online. She was an important voice on Twitter and an iconic meme. It’s amazing to see such a talented writer and actor finally come to mainstream success with their own show on network television. It can be hard for internet stars to make that leap from social media to mainstream entertainment. Although incredible content is created online, it’s a different world than cable TV. Brunson’s title as an executive producer and star of her own show represents a younger demographic shift in TV writers rooms — one which has led to a new hit show on ABC.
Maybe “Abbott Elementary” is so watchable because it feels safe. The structure is familiar, but it is planted firmly in the 2020s. It is relevant without being hard to watch. The show follows in the footsteps of other great mockumentaries such as “The Office,” “Parks And Recreation,” and “Modern Family.” Creator Quinta Brunson explains, “It was so interesting to figure out what each of their relationships will be with the camera.” In this format, an entirely new relationship is formed in the show between the viewer and the character. Breaking the fourth wall gives a self-awareness to humor, and it gives us a unique perspective into the characters’ minds and behavioral dynamics.
The romantic subplot is so simple and well set up, we can’t wait for the inevitable scene between Brunson’s character and the begrudgingly involved substitute teacher, Gregory (Tyler James Williams). Initially seeing teaching as a temporary position, he seems to be more engaged with his students and his job with each new episode. Brunson embraces the show as “the black office.” She said, “when Jim is hitting on an engaged Pam, I say that would never happen on a Black show. His ass would’ve been beaten asap.” A new demographic means a new perspective on a classic trope.
In a current TV world that includes mostly intense subject matter, extreme violence and sexuality, this sitcom feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s entertaining, easy to digest and because it comes from a young creative who got her rise on the internet, that is reflected in the show’s humor.
“Abbott Elementary” airs Tuesdays at 9/8 central on ABC, with new episodes streaming the next day on Hulu.