“Abbott Elementary” rocked the Emmys last month. A freshman comedy on ABC, its three biggest wins of the night were Outstanding Supporting Actress in a comedy, Writing for a Comedy Series and Casting for a Comedy Series. During the age of streaming show supremacy, many wonder how “Abbott” is so successful in a time when network television is struggling to maintain a young audience for its shows.
“Abbott’s” success is thanks to its showrunner and creator, Quinta Brunson, who plays the lead character, Janine Teagues. The show is filmed in a mockumentary style, similar to other hit shows like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.” The setting of “Abbott Elementary” is an underfunded public school in Philadelphia’s inner city.
The documentary is meant to follow the poorest schools in America and the principal, Ava Coleman (Janelle James), gets the school this opportunity so that they could be featured on TV. Following the lives of five featured teachers, the school principal and the janitor, we as an audience are able to get an inside look into what actually goes on in the underfunded public schools of America.
As someone whose mother is a public school teacher in a large city like Philadelphia, “Abbott Elementary” hits close to home. It is clear that the show is made with genuine love and respect for the impact that teachers have on the lives of every single student they have. Quinta’s own mother was a public school teacher, making the work grounded in reality while being able to take the edge off with a bit of comedic writing.
“Abbott Elementary” is a masterclass example of how to advocate on behalf of a community and talk about serious issues all under the guise of comedy. The show never fails to miss a beat. Online compilations of “Abbott’s” funniest moments are turned into tweets.
“Abbott” is a show that bridges the gap between generations. For many in the teaching profession, characters like Barbara Howard (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and Melissa Schemmenti (Lisa Ann Walter) are veterans and remind all of us of our favorite teachers from elementary school. On the other hand, you have teachers like Jacob Hill (Chris Perfetti) and Gregory Eddie (Tyler James Williams) who are newbies trying to get their footing in the chaos of a place like Abbott. All of these characters want the best for their students and help each other get over their shortcomings.
What “Abbott” does best is make you feel like part of the family. You’re invested in the lives of the students. You want to laugh with Janine and Jacob in the faculty lounge and even take a class with the janitor, Mr. Johnson (William Stanford Davis). “Abbott Elementary” manages to capture the joy of teaching as a profession, one that is severely underappreciated.
“Abbott Elementary” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC, with new episodes streaming the next day on Hulu.