ABC’s Abbott Elementary is set at a deeply underfunded school, but Tuesday’s series premiere is not lacking when it comes to laughs.
The comedy stars A Black Lady Sketch Show‘s Quinta Brunson (who also wrote the pilot) as Janine Teagues, a second grade teacher at a Philadelphia public school that can’t even afford textbooks that include the last three presidents so Janine tapes them into the back pages. Her colleagues include Barbara Howard (Moesha‘s Sheryl Lee Ralph), an elegant, older kindergarten teacher who actually commands respect from her students without needing to count to 40; second grade teacher Melissa Schemmenti (The Parent Trap‘s Lisa Ann Walter), who has a guy for everything; history teacher Jacob Hill (In the Dark‘s Chris Perfetti), one of the few survivors from his and Janine’s group of newbie teachers; and Gregory Eddie (Everybody Hates Chris‘ Tyler James Williams), who comes in as a sub after one of the teachers loses her cool and kicks a child. (Before Gregory arrives, a 70-year-old janitor who voted for Kanye is put in charge of the classroom.)
Despite the challenges of her job, Janine is optimistic and determined to help her students. When one of the kids pees on the class rug, which Janine describes as like a huge Xanax for the students to sit on, Janine asks Principal Ava Coleman (Black Monday‘s Janelle James) for money to get a new one. Barbara scoffs at Janine’s naivety and wants to know why the young teachers can’t hack it. (“More turnovers than a bakery,” she laments.)
Even though Ava encourages Janine to send an email with her request, Barbara and the other teachers know Ava is bad at her job, which she only got because she caught the superintendent cheating on his wife. Ava even brings in a film crew that’s documenting underfunded public schools, citing a “still thriving” Mel Gibson as an example of no press being bad press. She also openly and repeatedly lusts after Gregory, joking to his face that she thought her colleagues hired her a stripper. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Janine that Ava uses the $3,000 the school district sends to buy a large vanity sign rather than much needed supplies, but it does.
Janine sends an email about Ava to the higher-ups, but it gets bounced to Ava, who calls a trust meeting and invites all the teachers to basically dump on Janine. The lunchtime scheduling also means they’re forced to eat cafeteria pizza, which even a hungry child politely refuses. Ava’s plan, however, backfires when Barbara and the others come to Janine’s defense and encourage her to keep trying to provide for her students. After all, none of them are in this job for the pay; it’s a calling. Janine gets creative and asks Melissa to reach out to her guy who’s building a fancy new stadium nearby to procure some rugs.
Meanwhile, Gregory decides Abbott Elementary, which splashed him with its “reverse-y toilet” on his very first day, has surprised him. So he’s going to stick around… for the kids. Not for the chemistry with Janine.
What did you think of Abbott Elementary‘s premiere? Grade it below, then hit the comments!