What’s the Buzz on Abbott Elementary?Jan 31, 2022 10:00AM ● By Mac Johnson
(Image Source: Hulu)
Abbott Elementary is proving to be one of the season’s hottest new comedies. The show breathes life into the “mockumentary” style of sitcom made famous by shows like “The Office”. One major difference between this show and many of the shows before it, is that Abbott Elementary focuses on a mostly black cast of teachers and administrators serving an underfunded black school, and it all takes place right here in Philadelphia.
Quinta Brunson is the comedic torchbearer in this show. A Philly native in real like, Brunson plays a passionate first year elementary school teacher who retains a positive outlook even when situations seem bleak. Brunson’s fans have watched her grow from a pleasant surprise on social media worthy of a few chuckles, to being a part of an Emmy nominated sketch comedy show on HBO. Brunson is now using this new show to not only showcase her chops in comedy, but to cement herself as a television star, all while staying true to her Philly roots.
Joining Brunson are a cast of characters many will be familiar with. Janelle James may not have the name recognition yet, but her role as the principal who does things any way but by the book provides consistent laughter.
Sheryl Lee Ralph plays the seasoned teacher who takes Brunson’s character under her wing. She’s most famous for her roles in hit shows like “Moesha” and the movie “Sister Act 2”. While serving as the matriarch of the show, Ralph must find ways to continue to hold her student’s attention while navigating the ever evolving world of social media and technology. Ralph is also no stranger to Philadelphia. Not only does she live in the area, but she’s married to Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes. Like her on-screen character, Ralph is a proud servant of Philadelphia, even hosting a series of vaccination clinics in West Philadelphia last year.
As for the show’s leading male, Tyler James Williams has been familiar face in television for more than a decade. Best known for his leading role in “Everybody Hates Chris”, Williams now plays the part of an overqualified substitute teacher. While his task is to educate his classroom, Williams often finds himself on the receiving end of lessons about community, compassion and overcoming unfavorable circumstances.
What makes the show a must watch is how familiar many of the storylines are. The characters are relatable, but the problems that they face are common in many underfunded school across the country, let alone in Philadelphia. Lack of school supplies, improper use of funding by the administration, schools and classrooms crumbling from old age and overuse, none of these narratives are uncommon in schools that serve mostly minority students.
What the show does highlight is the cast’s ability to overcome adversity, to lean on each other in points of weakness and to use a sense of community as not only a safety net, but a guiding light that leads to the education of Black youth. With that formula and impeccable comedic timing, I expect Abbott Elementary to remain one of the hottest comedies on television.
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