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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey

Abbott Elementary

The hilarious mockumentary set in a US school, Abbott Elementary, is full of astonishingly rapid-fire jokes, immaculate timing and note-perfect acting. It’s absolutely charming. The single-camera comedy created by Quinta Brunson follows a small group of teachers at a chronically underfunded public school in West Philadelphia.

Janine, a second-grade teacher who’s been at the school for a little over a year, is the character who most embodies the spirit of the show - earnest, upbeat and prone to letting her good intentions overwhelm her common sense, with sweetly amusing results.

Surrounding her are staff members offering varying degrees of support in her mission to change the school for the better.

True, there are still some wrinkles to be ironed out. Young teacher Jacob (Chris Perfetti) is little more than a collection of liberal white guy stereotypes, and so far works better as a sidekick for Janine than as a protagonist in his own right.

And like most shows this young, Abbott Elementary is still calibrating the relationships between some of its characters. It has Parks and Recreation’s sense of community, Modern Family’s precision-tooling, Ted Lasso’s charm, but it is its own, hilarious thing. Despite – or, of course, because of – the truth its underlying tale of real-life deprivation tells.

Still, it works well enough to deliver a consistent good time — and I suspect that given time, Abbott Elementary could blossom into something truly special.

What stands out in its initial episodes is a willingness to deal with class head on, while also finding humour in the characters’ situations.

If Abbott Elementary can keep finessing that balance — between uplift and honesty, celebrating individual moxie and critiquing systemic failures — it could yet grow into a series as thought-provoking as it is crowd-pleasing. Perhaps it could even become a minor force for change, like Janine herself. And as every teacher knows, there’s nothing more rewarding than watching a new kid grow into their full potential.

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