‘Abbott Elementary’ is a reminder of the importance of comedies

The new ABC sitcom “Abbott Elementary” has set records for the network and already been renewed for a second season. The show’s lovable characters, refreshing humor and original plot make it a must-watch.


The ABC sitcom “Abbott Elementary” premiered on Dec. 7, 2021, and has since become ABC’s first show to gain four times the ratings since its original premiere. (Photo by Temma Hankin, courtesy of ABC)

Sunny Sequeira, UTA Staff Editor

Spoiler warning: This article includes potential spoilers for “Abbott Elementary.”

Quinta Brunson is a name that may ring familiar. Many will remember her from Buzzfeed’s most memorable videos of the 2010s, which helped popularize the channel. Her latest project, the sitcom “Abbott Elementary,” is a delightful testimony that her comedic ability has only improved.

The show, which premiered last December and returned last Tuesday, centers around five elementary school teachers and the school principal as they deal with the chaos of their students and each other. It immediately struck a chord with audiences, becoming ABC’s first show to quadruple its ratings following the original premiere, amassing an impressive 7.1 million viewers. There’s a good reason for these numbers — the show contains everything you want in a comedy.

There has been a growing trend for shows to air on the somber side. The beloved sitcom has been slowly dying, but “Abbott Elementary” revives it with a lighthearted tone. Episodes about embarrassment over struggling to keep up with technology and feeling insecure about a relationship are paired with the hijinks of children and characters poking fun at each other. The jokes are never spiteful, but quips the audience can laugh along with, knowing that no one is actually being hurt.

This is substantiated by the support, kindness and respect the characters show one another. Janine (Quinta Brunson) reveres Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and often points out her colleague’s teaching methods that she admires. Gregory (Tyler James Williams) provides Jacob (Chris Perfetti) with advice when he struggles to discipline his students and just a few episodes later, Jacob drives two hours to buy Gregory’s favorite pizza. 

Each person’s undeniable charm is shown alongside their flaws, creating authentic characters audiences can sympathize with. Their unique, defining qualities set them apart and create surprisingly touching relationships or hilarious clashes, such as the staff’s outburst upon learning Gregory doesn’t even like pizza. It’s impossible not to feel attached to characters you’d want to know in real life. 

Every teacher’s students receive this compassion and engagement which is heartwarming to see. When Gregory doesn’t understand why one of his students repeatedly asks the same question, he makes an effort to understand them by enlisting the help of Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) and Barbara. Following their explanation that some children need different approaches to being taught, he finally answers the student’s question and is met with the correct answer he’d been waiting for. 

These intimate moments between teachers and students are heightened when the show tackles broader, relevant issues facing schools today, such as the importance of individualized attention when teaching children and underfunding in public schools. There’s even an entire episode dedicated to the problem with gifted programs, where students who are not accepted feel left out, discouraged, and less valued. Considering the show has already been so successful, one has to hope it will inspire real-life change or at least convince people to consider faults in the U.S. education system. 

The show’s focus on elementary-aged children is another kind of coverage we rarely see. Most shows about minors focus on high school, but in “Abbott Elementary,” children as young as five are represented. Not only are the students adorable, but storylines engaging with them provide an honest and insightful portrayal of that age group. The kids have distinct personalities, needs, and a joy that reminds viewers children are real people deserving of attention and respect.

The show exhibits a parallel commitment to humanizing its adult characters. The writing is sharp and naturally reveals information about the characters’ histories, coinciding with the events of each episode. So far, these details have explained the characters’ behavior, like Janine’s need for approval from Barbara stemming from her lack of a mother figure, or simply provided a random quirk that grounds them. Either way, the unveiling of different aspects of their lives has pulled viewers in and strengthened their desire to follow these characters’ journeys.

After a month-long hiatus, “Abbott Elementary” returned last Tuesday and was well worth the wait. While the episode featured more tense scenes than previous ones, fan-favorite moments, like characters eyeing the camera in a panic in true mockumentary style, were dispersed throughout. The introduction of a few personal storylines, such as a potential relationship between Gregory and Barbara’s daughter Taylor (Iyana Halley), suggests the show is moving in a character-focused direction. This is an exciting development, as it promises a deeper dive into the characters’ backgrounds, something that is sure to make audiences fall more in love with them. The 11th episode, “Desking,” airs Tuesday at 9/8c. If it’s anything like the episodes that came before it, you won’t want to miss it.

Email Sunny Sequeira at [email protected].