Familiar School Comedy Hijinks Updated for Today in Abbott Elementary
Abbott Elementary. ABC. Tuesday, December 7, 9:30 p.m.
Ordinarily, broadcast network television quiets down in December, airing reruns and burning off failed pilots while awaiting the burst of new midseason shows in January. But this week, ABC is debuting an epic new time-travel story. No, not the long-threatened remake of The Time Tunnel. It’s Abbott Elementary, a new sitcom about a raucous inner-city grade school and the teachers trying to survive it. Watching it will definitely give you some painful 1960s and 1970s whiplash.
Each episode of Abbott Elementary starts like the prototype schoolteacher TV show of the mid-1970s, Welcome Back, Kotter, with a beleaguered teacher armed with nothing more than his or her wits (or, more properly, those of his screenwriters) as he or she fends off underage extortionists and bunco artists who resemble less a class than a street gang.
But by the end of the show, you’ll find yourself tumbling into the early 1960s, when TV teachers were sociologist wannabes, tenderly caring for misunderstood teenagers in teary dramas like Mr. Novak and Room 222. And more often than you might wish, you’ll find yourself longing for a visit from that archetypal character of the 1950s, Officer Krupke.
Written and starring internet comedian Quinta Brunson, Abbott Elementary‘s getting a quickie sneak preview before joining the regular ABC schedule next month. It’s a mockumentary purportedly based on her mother’s account of 40 years teaching in Philadelphia schools. And much of it is sulphurously funny. Brunson plays second-year teacher (one of three survivors of the 20 new recruits a year ago) Janine Teagues, still bubbly though her professional ambitions are considerably shrunken from her college days: “I became a teacher to make
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