Sitcom earns A: Shows success in struggles


Photo courtesy of IMDB

Amber Adefope, Contributing Writer

“Abbott Elementary” is a name that might sound slightly juvenile, but the show is full of laughter, joy and heartfelt moments. The earnest new comedy has become an unlikely hit, setting rating records for series creator and writer Quinta Brunson and ABC. The show follows the faculty of Abbott Elementary, a Philadelphia public school, as they struggle to do their jobs with limited resources in the face of administrative obstruction.

The characters are witty and compelling. Each staff member at Abbott Elementary is a valuable part of the team. Janine (Brunson) is determined to make things better and does her best to stay optimistic no matter what. Barbara, an older teacher, is lovable, sarcastic and has a wealth of experience. Melissa always tells it like it is. There are two male teachers – Gregory is nonchalant and Jacob can be sweet but also goofy.

School principal Ava isn’t exactly qualified for the job, but is hilarious and chaotic. The team is just plain funny, all of them bringing something unique and irreplaceable to the table. I  can’t imagine a better ensemble to root for. All of their performances are amazing.

“Abbott Elementary” draws on the charm of mockumentary-style sitcoms such as one of its predecessors, “The Office.” If you couldn’t understand or enjoy “The Office,” “Abbott Elementary” is perfect because it is very relatable. Most of us have been in a school setting and can recall our youth and favorite teachers growing up. Whether a viewer attended a lower economically funded school or not, they can still connect to the hardships of the teachers at “Abbott Elementary” exceedingly well.

At first glance, “Abbott Elementary” may seem like a straightforward sitcom about a place everyone can recognize. However, the series also pushes back against sitcom history by not offering escapist fantasies and not pandering to the wealthy audiences popular sitcoms are bound to have.

Naive teacher Janine is the main protagonist and often a vehicle for positivity in the face of the school’s challenging condition. The show doesn’t give viewers what it might think they want. “Abbott Elementary” is communicating what its writers want to communicate, specifically Brunson’s enthusiasm and knowledge of Philadelphia public schools.

“Abbott Elementary” is great because the main cast is made up of mostly Black people and doesn’t revolve around Black trauma. The show has an amazing representation of people of color, and it’s abstract to typical shows and movies featuring Black characters. It’s very refreshing to see lighthearted themes in this sitcom. “Abbott Elementary” stands out in the TV landscape, as it stars a majority female and mostly Black cast.

This light-hearted show manages to bring the workplace sitcom back into the realm of laughs and good vibes. It reminds us that there are careers out there that make all the difference, even if finding that purpose means giving up the money and prestige we typically equate with success in the workplace.

Something else about this show is that it premieres on ABC, a regular primetime channel, making the joy of this show accessible to anyone. Any person, even an inmate in prison, can turn on the TV and watch a network television show. Streaming, although popular, still requires a subscription. Not anyone can pick up a remote and turn on a streaming platform, but you can do that with ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

Making great entertainment accessible is another reason this show is worth the time and attention. The show’s landscape is innovative, something that has arguably been missing from the comedy space for a long time. I’m glad that the gap we all have for great entertainment is finally starting to be filled.