Abbott Elementary: An Ode To Comfort TV
Evoking the spirit of The Office but reflective of our modern age, Abbott Elementary is a breath of fresh air.
Good comfort television is something of a rare occurrence - it should be compelling enough to keep you tuned in while also being fun, escapist, warm, and if a comedy, genuinely laugh out loud funny. Many boxes must be ticked, and Abbott Elementary ticks them all. It’s a comedy that exemplifies comfort television, taking the setting of an elementary school in Philadelphia, a place that feels mundane and familiar, (maybe even traumatic, let’s be real), and makes us feel right at home. Just as The Office did so brilliantly and part of what made it so special, is that it compels you to appreciate the simple everyday joys that make life bearable, the moments that comprise a meaningful existence amidst the everyday mundanity. From the mind of Quinta Brunson, who also stars as teacher Janine, Abbott Elementary feels like one of those rare comedies that only comes around every now and again that has a magical combination of a stellar ensemble, setting, and genuinely funny writing.
Each member of the ensemble is a character in every sense of the word. Would any brilliant office comedy be complete without a boss that has no idea what they’re doing and commits all sorts of HR violations? Abbott Elementary’s iteration of Michael Scott takes the form of Principal Ava. I cannot emphasize enough how utterly hilarious and brilliant Jannelle James is in this role. She steals every single scene she is in with a single glance into the camera or flip of her hair. There’s nothing that puts into perspective just how ridiculous power structures can be like the one who’s in charge being the most incompetent and lazy one in the bunch. Among other standouts are Sheryl Lee Ralph as Mrs. Howard, the traditional and stern teacher who’s been there the longest and who Janine idolizes, and Gregory, the uber-serious and very endearingly socially awkward substitute teacher played by Tyler James Williams. Gregory and Janine have had a subtle, budding romance throughout the first season, and you can already feel just how wonderful their eventual declaration of feelings will be.
The children also add much to the show, and are bright and endearing characters in their own right, delivering some of the first season’s most iconic moments. Another key component of Abbott Elementary that makes it so great is the mockumentary style. Nothing beats this comedic approach when it’s executed correctly, and they nail it here. The glances at the camera and interviews punctuate the already smart script with more comedic treasures. I’m so eager for this already-beloved series to return. For a sitcom to be so strong in its first season bodes for such an exciting and promising future. It’s rare to feel like a series is in such good hands, and Abbott Elementary is in the best of hands with Brunson, who clearly has such a distinct vision and plan for the show. I can’t wait to see these characters grow and evolve - I’ll miss the weekly trip to their classrooms.