I've been waiting for a new sitcom to tickle my funny bone for a while. No, not a new season of a sitcom I love (such as the excellent third season of What We Do in The Shadows). But a whole new show that takes me somewhere I'd never go, to see situations I'd never see. And it turns out it's been on Hulu for a couple of months.
And then I started to see opinion bubble up about a new show that I'd never heard of: Abbott Elementary. Debuting on Dec. 7, 2021, Abbott Elementary arrived in that foggy haze of winter obligations when many of us (myself included) were too busy to look for something new.
There's also the matter of where you watch Abbott Elementary. The series originally airs on the ABC network, a channel that I don't actually have (Sling TV is great for many reasons, but its lack of the ABC and CBS broadcast networks is a major con), so it kinda makes sense that I didn't see any of the hype. I don't miss ABC, though, as I'm not looking to watch American Idol's 2022 season.
But now that I've started Abbott Elementary, I need to climb the nearest ladder and shout about how great it is (and how it reminds me that Hulu is one of the best streaming services).
Abbott Elementary is a reminder of why Hulu rules
The workplace sitcom is a great (and often undervalued) resource. Shows such as A.P. Bio, Superstore and American Auto have all come and gone, but they're often missed out on. I can't say if that's because the social media hype that got me to start Abbott Elementary rarely forms around network TV shows (while Ted Lasso has all the love in the world over on Apple TV Plus of all places), but that's the vibe I get.
That's why I love Hulu, which gets new episodes of currently-airing shows the day after they broadcast. An arguably underrated aspect of Hulu — and the biggest reason why it's great for cord-cutters — this re-airing of TV shows means that Hulu's programming isn't just limited to its own exclusive shows and movies.
Hilariously, Abbott Elementary is called out as an ABC Original, to make sure nobody sees it as a Hulu show. So, if the below resonates with you (and you don't have a membership yet), it's time to find that $6.99 per month to get in on Hulu.
Abbott Elementary is a perfect modern sitcom
If you've somehow missed this inescapable fact of life, the U.S. public education system is as broken and dysfunctional as they get. Hence, why shows like A.P. Bio have chosen the high school as a canvas for their comedy.
Abbott Elementary aims younger, though, focusing on the teachers at the underfunded Willard R. Abbott Elementary School in Philadelphia. And this makes Abbott Elementary feel all the more fresh: not only is it rare to get a TV show about an underfunded school (outside of season 4 of The Wire), but there seems to be only one other elementary school-focused live action TV show in recent history: Teachers, which ran for three seasons on Prime Video.
This setting also means that Abbot will never be short on reasons for calamity, with an early episode involving a broken overhead lightbulb that leads to a power crisis. Of course, the overarching issue in the series is the fact that Abbott's teachers need more money for supporting their students. And in pure sitcom fashion, this leads to some excellent situations, including one where teachers look to raise funds on TikTok of all things.
Abbott Elementary puts the teachers first, to great effect
While Abbott Elementary does have some child actors as the students, its focus is on the misfit adults that try and teach these kids lessons.
Casting is such a potential minefield, but Abbott Elementary's succeeded (in part) because its lead knows the material very well. That's because the main teacher of the show — the nervous and awkward Janine Teagues — is played by Quinta Brunson, who is also the show's creator, writer and producer. Janine is the heart and soul of the show, and that makes sense when you realize it's her show. Nobody's more suited to deliver its messages than she is.
But Janine doesn't work nearly as well as a character without the grizzled young veterans teaching around her. My favorite so far is Barbara Howard (played by Sheryl Lee Ralph), who teaches kindergarten and doesn't have time for Janine's go-getter drive and optimism.
Many shows have a gruff figure who our hero is always trying to warm up (see Ted Lasso's Roy Kent, for example), but Barbara works well because even we the audience can find Janine a bit too much. Take for example, the early scene where Janine's trying to meet up with Barbara after work, but is told that her emails go to her colleague's spam box. Janine can't take the hint, and even wonders aloud about how that doesn't happen with any other coworkers.
Janelle James does fantastic work in Abbott Elementary as principal Ava Coleman, who is wrong for her job in every shape and way. Supremely confident, and completely unfiltered in what she says, Ava's brilliant at making things awkward and crafting TikToks, two skills you don't expect from a principal. The other main characters — the brash Melissa Schemmenti (played by Lisa Ann Walter) and timid Jacob Hill (played by Chris Perfetti) — help give the teachers a range of tones to hit.
Now is the perfect time to start Abbott Elementary
As Brunson tweeted, Abbott Elementary is on a break for three weeks following its ninth episode that just aired on Tuesday (Feb. 22). Then, it will be back for four more episodes, as Brunson notes this first season is 12 episodes long.
That means, class, we all have three weeks to watch nine episodes. And, trust me, this show is easily binge-watched. You might be finished watching it in a single day off.
By then, you'll probably start wondering about the show's "will they or won't they?" relationship (no spoilers here). And you might discover that Janine's on-screen boyfriend Tariq doesn't just play a rapper on TV, he's actually the hilarious rapper Zack Fox in real life.
So, let us know if you love Abbott Elementary as much as we do. For now, class is dismissed. And, hey, ABC: if you're listening, when are you going to green-light Abbott Elementary season 2 already?
And over on Netflix, the wait for Better Call Saul season 5 on Netflix is getting annoying. In other TV talk, check out my Euphoria season 2 finale preview to see why I'm so excited (and worried). I've also got all the details about how to watch Killing Eve season 4 online (which is surprisingly complicated).