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Abbott Elementary: Why The ABC TV Show Is Worth Checking Out

Quinta Brunson in Abbott Elementary
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Television Studios)

Abbott Elementary on ABC has been gaining quite a bit of buzz since its December 2021 premiere. It’s becoming a social media favorite and receiving high praise from critics. The series stars Quinta Brunson and an ensemble cast. As of January 2022, Abbott Elementary has only aired a few episodes on ABC, so that means people curious about the series can easily dive right in and see why it's quickly gaining a cult following. 

With so many new and returning shows on the 2022 TV schedule, it may be difficult to determine which shows are worth watching. Abbott Elementary on ABC is definitely a TV series worth adding to your must-watch TV list. Let’s discuss some of the reasons why Abbott Elementary is worth checking out. 

Janelle James in Abbott Elementary

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Television Studios)

Abbott Elementary Feels Like The Perfect Blend Of Classic Sitcoms And Modern Comedies

Abbott Elementary is a workplace comedy that uses the mockumentary style to tell its story. Abbott Elementary is one of the subjects of a documentary being made about underfunded schools in Philadelphia, something noted in the first episode. The series is already being compared to shows like The Office and Parks and Recreations. It’s easy to draw comparisons to other mockumentary TV shows, from filming style, character types, and tones. However, Abbott Elementary follows a winning formula that has made many sitcoms of many generations successful and popular.

The show has a very distinct cast of characters that are fun to watch but familiar. These types of characters are often seen on shows such as Cheers and Mary Tyler Moore: the offbeat/sort of dumb character, the dorky character, the mentor character, and so forth. It also implements a sort-of lesson of the week tradition. The end of every episode of Abbott Elementary, so far, ends in a way where the characters, mainly Quinta Brunson’s character Janine, learn an important lesson about being a teacher and life in general, which gives the show some elements similar to family sitcoms, such as Boy Meets World, Family Matter, Full House, and many others.

Abbott Elementary is definitely most similar to The Office and Parks and Recreation, but it takes elements that have worked for decades for other entertaining, smart, and popular sitcoms and creates a familiar yet unique comedy. It knows what makes sitcoms work and uses those elements to brilliant results.

Tyler James Williams and Sheryl Lee Ralph in Abbott Elementary

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Television Studios)

The ABC Show Tackles Tough Topics With A Spoonful Of Sugar

At Abbott Elementary’s heart, it’s about this underfunded school and the struggles that comes with being an educator in a system that fails to provide even basic supplies for children in underprivileged areas. This is a very real issue that many schools in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, and many other cities face daily. It’s not a fun topic. And tackling it could easily make Abbott Elementary go from an entertaining comedy to a depressing drama. However, the team behind Abbott Elementary manages to present these serious issues and draw attention to them without allowing the TV show to lose its comedic tone.

In an interview on The Hollywood Reporter TV’s Top Five, Quinta Brunson discusses how the writers on Abbott Elementary know that some topics just don’t have funny elements to them or are just too dark or not the right tone for the show. She started this discussion when asked why it took a route like shows like Emily in Paris and doesn’t address COVID on the ABC TV show. Brunson mentioned that the writers know what works for Abbott Elementary and what does not work for it.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Brunson also shared how she hoped Abbott Elementary inspires people to think about what’s going on in the United States school systems and puts a little pressure on those in charge of it. She also had this to say about the show’s overall message:

It’s a bigger commentary on America’s treatment of lower classes. Our country doesn’t care as much about its lower classes as its richer class ... and because of that, schools like Abbott are suffering.

Quinta Brunson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lisa Ann Waiter, and Chris Perfetti in Abbott Elementary

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Television Studios)

Abbott Elementary’s Cast Includes Rising Stars Like Quinta Brunson And Comedy Veterans Like Sheryl Lee Ralph

Quinta Brunson stars in Abbott Elementary as Janine. She also created the TV show, and acts as a producer and writer on the series. She revealed in her interview on TV’s Top 5 that she never intended to play Janine nor did she see Janine as the lead, but Warner Bros. convinced her to star. She wanted Sheryl Lee Ralph’s character Barbara to be the lead.

Brunson got her start as a viral sensation, then became a Buzzfeed video producer, and then began branching off to other long and short-form entertainment. She has appeared in A Black Lady Sketch Show, Single Parents, New Girl, and iZombie. Abbott Elementary is one of her first live-action lead roles.

Sheryl Lee Ralph is a stage and screen veteran, who has appeared in the Broadway productions of Dreamgirls, Designing Women, Moesha, Ray Donovan, and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. The Abbott Elementary cast also includes Tyler James Williams, best known for his roles on Everybody Hates Chris and The Walking Dead. The rest of the cast includes Lisa Ann Walter,  known for a variety of TV and film roles including The Parent Trap and Bruce Almighty, Janelle James, a well-known comedian and writer, and Chris Perfetti, best known for roles in In the Dark and Looking. 

The Abbott Elementary Cast

(Image credit: Warner Bros Television Studios)

It Honors Teachers And The Teaching Profession

Quinta Brunson named the show after one of her favorite elementary school teachers. On Good Morning America, she even spoke about wanting to name the show after her elementary school but couldn’t legally do that, so did the next best thing by naming it after a teacher she adored. 

Brunson has also spoken about how her mother was a kindergarten teacher and that’s what helped inspire the show and the character of Barbara. Even without knowing Quinta’s background and history with teachers, you can see how much admiration, respect, and love for teachers goes into Abbott Elementary. It’s clearly a love letter to teachers for their sacrifices, and for all the love and passion they put into their work. 

Tyler James Williams and Quinta Brunson on Abbott Elementary

(Image credit: Warner Bros Television Studios)

There Is A Slow Burn Romance That Could Become One Of The Great TV Romances

If you’re like me, you love a good slow burning sitcom romance. Two characters who clearly are destined for each other but it may take anywhere between two to five seasons before we finally get their romance to be realized. Janine and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) are clearly the slow burn romance of Abbott Elementary. They’re the Jim and Pam romance of the show, and like Jim and Pam, we’re already on board to wait however long it takes for them to finally get together.

Quinta Brunson and Sheryl Lee Ralph in Abbott Elementary

(Image credit: Warner Bros Televison Studios)

Abbott Elementary Is A Heartwarming Show That Makes Viewers Excited For Its Future 

Abbott Elementary is just a feel good show. Yes, it covers some serious topics but the show makes you feel a little bit better about the world, because you know there are many real teachers out there like the ones on the show. The ones who do so much with so little, just because they love their students and want a successful future for them. Abbott Elementary is also just a really funny sitcom that’s smartly written.

Because Abbott Elementary is starting off so strong on ABC, it makes me excited to see how the series looks five seasons from now. The evolution of the current characters, the new characters we meet, the running jokes, the guest stars, and the mark it makes on the sitcom world. 

I hope that ABC keeps Abbott Elementary around for a long time. It’s already a great sitcom but could become even better with time to grow. Catch Abbott Elementary on ABC every Tuesday at 9:00pm EST and on Hulu every Wednesday. 

Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.