Why Quinta Brunson Feels Abbott Elementary Can Hang Its Hat Next To Classic Sitcoms Like Family Matters With Season 2

Full cast of Abbott Elementary
(Image credit: ABC)

With its 13-episode first season, ABC’s Abbott Elementary quickly entered the hallway trophy case dedicated to TV’s all-time great school-based comedies, largely thanks to the stellar ensemble’s magical chemistry together. Not to mention the breadth of optimism imbued in show creator Quinta Brunson’s imagination, as well as that of her creative team. So it was a huge achievement when the show’s sophomore season got bumped up to 22 episodes, giving it a proper fall-to-spring run coinciding with the real-world school year. Thus, Abbott will be able to deliver certain holiday episodes that Brunson feels like truly cement the ABC hit in the sitcom genre.

When Abbott Elementary’s superstar cast spoke with CinemaBlend and other press ahead of Season 2’s premiere, I asked Brunson how excited she was to be able to somewhat mirror the full school year, and how holidays such as Halloween would be incorporated into the storytelling. With a quick burst of infection energy, she started her answer, saying:

So excited to be having this much space to play. I mean, you brought up one of the key things I got to be excited about, which [is] we're having holiday episodes. Which, to me, are just a staple of the genre. You know, my favorite sitcoms from Family Matters to The Office all have banger holiday episodes, and so specific and unique to that show. And I'm so excited to throw Abbott's hat in the ring for what our holiday episodes look like. I'm so excited. I just, I can't talk about them. They're so far away. But you guys! I just think we really - [makes growling sounds] - NOW I feel like we put our mark on the genre of sitcoms. [Laughs.]

For anyone who grew up with a medium-to-heavy subsistence of sitcoms of the '80s and '90s, few times of year could inspire the same kind of elation as a full-on holiday extravaganza. I absolutely share in Quinta Brunson’s presumed preference for Halloween-infused installments, too. Shows like Family Matters and Roseanne routinely went the extra mile for themed half-hours that were full of costumed imagery and sometimes supernaturally tinged stories. (To say nothing of The Simpsons’ yearly non-canonical Treehouse of Horror eps.)

So her enthusiasm for bringing those classic episode types into Abbott Elementary’s playbook makes me all the more convinced that Season 2 is going to raise the bar in all the ways now that it’s hitting the Fall TV season in earnest. She continued, heaping more praise on the Winslow family and Steve Urkel’s spookiest episodes, saying: 

I know people will say, 'Well, you did that last year.' But no. To me, getting to make these holiday episodes, that's what it's about. I now feel like I can hang my hat next to Family Matters. Family Matters' Halloween episodes are just - I don't know if you guys have seen them - but they're iconic, unreal television. And I just wanted to come close to that in Abbott's own way.

If I had to guess, I'd wager that the Emmy-winning Sheryl Lee Ralph would maintain her exquisite fashion choices without dipping too heavily into costumes, while Tyler James Williams will overthink everything and swing way too hard in the opposite direction. While nobody will be able to outperform whatever William Stanford Davis' Mr. Johnson brings to the table. How amazing would it be if they landed some Family Matters guest stars for it? Just putting that idea out into the universe. 

While we can likely also expect some Christmas cheer around Abbott Elementary's classrooms and hallways, among other days of recognition, the themed installments aren't the only reason why Quinta Brunson is so pumped about landing the 22-episode order. She's also eager to tackle episodes that aren't necessarily about anything at all. As she put it:

And then we have more room to play. I think last year, for me, every episode kind of had a point. I wanted to show people what we were capable of. This season, I feel like people know. So we can have a lot more fun, a lot more meaningless storylines that still mean something, because I think my room is incapable of doing meaningless. Sometimes I try to shake them and I'm like, 'Guys.' But we do a good job. We care so much about this school and these characters. But I guess I should say, 'storylines that don't hold as much weight and are just a good time.' And I'm so excited to do stuff like that.

Somewhat similar to how Halloween celebrations always make for TV highlights, some of the most classic sitcom episodes are also the ones that stand completely apart from the norm for one reason or another. Whether it's a bottle ep held entirely within a Chinese restaurant's waiting area, or homage-filled paintball wars, or one of many other examples, there's nothing wrong with a TV comedy having a good time for the sake of it. And Abbott Elementary is always a good time.

Abbott Elementary airs new Season 2 episodes on ABC every Wednesday night in its updated time slot of 9:00 p.m. ET, and is available to watch the next day with a Hulu subscription, which also allows instant access to The Handmaid’s Tale Season 5, which is about as far away from Abbott’s tone as can be.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.