ABCs Abbott Elementary is set in a severely underfunded school, but Tuesday’s series premiere isn’t lacking when it comes to laughter.
The Comic Stars A Black Lady Sketch ShowQuinta Brunson (who also wrote the pilot) as Janine Teagues, a second grade teacher at a Philadelphia public school who can’t even afford textbooks with the last three presidents, so Janine puts them on the back pages. Her colleagues include Barbara Howard (Musha‘s Sheryl Lee Ralph), an elegant, elderly kindergarten teacher who commands respect from her students without counting to 40; second grade teacher Melissa Schemmenti (the parentage‘s Lisa Ann Walter), who has a man for everything; history teacher Jacob Hill (In the dark‘s Chris Perfetti), one of the few survivors of his and Janine’s group of novice teachers; and Gregory Eddie (Everyone hates ChrisTyler James Williams), who comes in as a sub after one of the teachers loses her cool and kicks a kid. (Before Gregory arrives, a 70-year-old janitor who voted for Kanye is put in charge of the class.)
Despite the challenges of her job, Janine is optimistic and determined to help her students. When one of the kids pees on the classroom rug, which Janine says is a huge Xanax for the students to sit on, Janine asks Principal Ava Coleman (black monday‘s Janelle James) for money to get a new one. Barbara mocks Janine’s naivete and wants to know why the young teachers can’t hack it. (“More sales than a bakery,” she laments.)
Although Ava encourages Janine to email her request, Barbara and the other teachers know that Ava is bad at her job, which she only got because she caught the supervisor cheating on his wife. Ava even brings in a film crew documenting underfunded public schools, citing a “still thriving” Mel Gibson as an example that no press is bad press. She also openly and repeatedly lusts after Gregory and jokes to his face that she thought her coworkers hired her a stripper. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Janine that Ava uses the $3,000 the school district sends to buy a large vanity board instead of much-needed supplies, but it does.
Janine sends an email about Ava to the higher ranks, but it is sent back to Ava, who convenes a confidential meeting and invites all the teachers to basically dump on Janine. The lunch schedule also means they are forced to eat cafeteria pizza, which even a hungry child politely refuses. However, Ava’s plan backfires when Barbara and the others come to Janine’s aid and encourage her to keep trying to care for her students. After all, none of them have this job for the pay; it’s a calling. Janine gets creative and asks Melissa to contact her husband who is building a beautiful new stadium nearby to buy carpets.
Meanwhile, Gregory decides that Abbott Elementary, who splashed him with his “reverse-y toilet” on his first day, surprised him. So he stays around… for the kids. Not for the chemistry with Janine.