“Abbott Elementary:” The best workplace comedy of the last decade

By Riley Dauber

Opinion Editor

Workplace comedies have grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to shows like “The Office,” a satirical comedy about a group of employees at a paper company in Scranton, Pa; “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and “Parks and Recreation.” While many viewers are loyal fans of these series, one new workplace comedy is likely to become a favorite: Quinta Brunson’s “Abbott Elementary,” which released its first episode on Dec. 7, 2022.          

The series – created, written, and starring Brunson – follows a group of teachers and their unqualified principal at an elementary school in Philadelphia, Pa.

Upon its initial release, many viewers were comparing it to “The Office.” Both function as mockumentaries, where the characters speak to the camera and break the fourth wall, giving viewers the opportunity to learn more about them and hear what they are thinking at any given moment. Both shows also feature a slow-burn romance – Jim and Pam in “The Office,” and Janine and Gregory in “Abbott Elementary.”

However, the similarities stop there, since “Abbott Elementary” has proved itself to be the more entertaining, more diverse, more relatable, and frankly better workplace comedy to be released in recent years.

What helps “Abbott Elementary” is not only its talented cast, but its ability to discuss current issues and balance them with comedy.

According to Insider, “The show depicts the reality of the ridiculous situations educators are sometimes forced to overcome without making fun of the profession.”

Brunson, who was inspired by her own teachers and her mother to write a series about an elementary school, clearly has a lot of respect for teachers during a time where teachers are unpaid and underappreciated. “Abbott Elementary” manages to recognize these educational situations while also showing how teachers handle them in their day-to-day life.

Whether it is finding money for a new rug or ordering a desk for a student in a wheelchair, the teachers on “Abbott Elementary” are dedicated to their students and want to make their experience at school the best they can.

The discussions around education are important now more than ever as viewers reflect on the toll the pandemic took on young peoples’ lives.

According to USA Today, “Channing Dungey, chairman of ‘Abbott’ producer Warner Bros. Television group, notes the show’s December premiere came after the pandemic forced many parents to become teachers at home during months of lockdown, when “everybody [was] looking at teaching through a slightly different and more appreciative lens.”

With teaching at the forefront of the show, many viewers, including teachers and educators, can relate to both the joy and frustration of teaching.

The diverse cast is another great component of the show, which actor perfectly cast in their respective roles. Sheryl Lee Ralph, who earned an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance as veteran kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard, is excellent in the role.

Janelle James as principal Ava Coleman is another delight. According to Insider, “Viewers simultaneously laugh and cringe at her behavior because, yes, frustrating bosses are a universally relatable experience. But we also learn more about the things that make her human, like her family and her love life.”

Although the teachers are often disappointed in Ava for her selfish attitude and apathetic nature about her job, even Ava has her moments, like encouraging the students’ love for step and hosting a school event to stop Abbott from turning into a charter academy. These moments allow viewers to understand and root for her.

Thanks to the diverse cast, the show is able to discuss situations like underfunded schools. A current plotline is the worry that Abbott Elementary will turn into a charter school, meaning some students will not be able to attend due to financial concerns.

The diversity also provides some of the best comedic moments in the show. During the first season, history teacher Jacob Hill (Chris Perfetti) brings his Black boyfriend, Zach, to class. Jacob is often the butt of the joke for being one of the only white teachers at Abbott, and for his overly politically-correct beliefs. Upon meeting Zach, Ava exclaims, “Black?” The cherry on top is when Zach replies, “Actually, it’s pronounced Zach,” the smile never leaving his face.

Thanks to its writing and diversity, “Abbott Elementary” is able to discuss current issues both in the school system and in society. The show is currently in its second season, and new episodes air on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC, and are available the following day on Hulu.

If you have not already, now is the perfect time to start watching the hilarious and charming “Abbott Elementary.”

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photo Caption:Quinta Brunson’s workplace comedy “Abbott Elementary” follows a group of teachers at a fictional elementary school in Philadelphia, Pa.

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