Review: ‘Abbott Elementary’ deserves an A+

Photo courtesy of IMDb.

By Kameron Brooke | Reporter

If you’ve ever seen the popular television show “The Office,” you likely enjoy it for the documentary-style filming, dry humor and perfectly timed stares into the camera. The way it was shot and edited almost mimicked reality television.

After watching the first episode of the newly released show “Abbott Elementary,” I was reminded of exactly that, only it brought something new. The employees are more diverse — not just in race but in cultural upbringing as well — and I think the jokes are a lot more relatable to the audience.

The show is about a documentary crew recording the lives of teachers who work in a mismanaged school in Philadelphia: Willard R. Abbott Elementary, which is a predominantly Black public school. The idea of this show made me love it before I even watched it.

I think we are starting to see a more diverse cast being the center focus of television shows and movies, instead of side characters. I think it means a lot for minorities to see people who look like them in these big roles and important positions.

ABC’s “Abbott Elementary” gives attention to a profession that, however much we say it’s needed and valued, gets lost. We’ve seen shows about doctors and lawyers, professions that are already very glorified and compensated as such. This is a show about teachers who love what they do despite not having all the resources

Firstly, the casting of the show is very inclusive. I love how diverse it is, I think it makes the show so much more rich when there are characters from multiple backgrounds.

Quinta Brunson, who is also the creator, as Janine Teagues and Sheryl Lee Ralph as Barbara Howard are my personal favorites but Tyler James Williams as Gregory Eddie and Janelle James as Ava Coleman are hilarious because Eddie trained for years for a principal job Coleman got by bribing the superintendent.

Jacob Hill, played by Chris Perfetti, a young white guy who is a bit awkward but very supportive and Melissa Schemmenti, played by Lisa Ann Walter who is a fiery, street smart south Philly native who always “knows a guy,” add even more humor to the show especially seeing them all interact in settings like the break room or staff meetings.

The show definitely established itself as very sweet-natured and big-hearted immediately. It mainly focused on Teagues, a bright-eyed second-year teacher who is a people pleaser. She wants the approval of veteran teachers like Barbara Howard (Sheryl Lee Ralph), but doesn’t have as much control of her students because she almost seems like a kid herself.

However, it feels like throughout the first season you really get to learn each of the characters and form a “Hey, I really like them” type of feeling. One moment that was memorable was when the school got new tablets to teach the students on with a new learning program. Howard was seriously struggling, which excited Teagues because it would finally be a moment she could teach her something, someone she looks up to so much. Howard was so stubborn and unwilling to receive help she ended up faking that all her kindergarteners were at a fourth grade reading level.

I think watching Teagues really find her voice makes her a more confident teacher and person overall. After watching the first season it’s a no-brainer to root for “Abbott Elementary” and they had a strong return. The school is starting classes again, and there are new challenges to adjust to, but I liked to see Teagues more optimistic than ever it really showed me how much of an “anything is possible” attitude she has.

One thing you can surely see throughout the show is how passionate each teacher is about educating their students and it’s funny to see how it manifests. From Teagues hopping on a ladder to fix flickering lights to Hill starting a garden and trying to grow vegetables for the students to have a well-balanced diet, you see how, despite the lack of resources, the teachers do everything in their power to provide a good learning experience.

Personally, my only critique is that the seasons should be longer because the show as a whole truly makes you feel good, one truly connects with the characters and can see the realities of the teaching profession while also being able to laugh and smile. The show is available to watch on Hulu and has already won multiple Emmy Awards. I give “Abbott Elementary” an A+.