All for Abbott

New sitcom series brings light to issues in America’s public education system


Photo courtesy of IMDb

The new sitcom series, Abbott Elementary, provides comical entertainment while bringing attention to serious issues in education.

Kaitlin Reynolds, News Director

Abbott Elementary: to most in the Millard district it is a K-5 school located off of 156th and Dodge St., but for entertainment-enjoyers across the country it is a brand new ABC television series that relays the ups and downs of public education in America.

The sitcom follows a group of devoted teachers, a slightly tone-deaf principal and the building’s odd-ball custodian as they combat challenges in their run down public school in Philadelphia, Pa. The main character, Janine Teagues (Quinta Brunson), holds the group together with her fiery, new-to-education attitude and perseverance, while her older colleagues Barbra Howard (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and Melissa Schemmenti (Lisa Ann Walter) show her how to take on issues based off of experience. Teacher Jacob Hill (Chris Perffeti) and long-term substitute Gregory Eddie (Tyler James Williams) try to survive alongside them in a school that is not set up for success, as principal Ava Coleman (Janelle James) and custodian Mr. Johnson (William Standford Davis) add to the chaos.

Through the use of comical one liners and humor, the show covers an array of serious issues in public education, such as the lack of funding for essential programs, ineffective administration and red tape within the bureaucracy. I found that Abbott’s close connection to my life as a public school student was what really drew me in and made the witty banter between characters more enjoyable. 

Although I was previously aware of many weaknesses in America’s schools, the plot revealed nationwide issues that I personally have not encountered during my education thus far and drew attention to the fact that they need to be fixed for both students and staff. The sitcom not only helps to expose major faults that are hidden from those outside the field of education, but also can aid in gaining wider support for essential system reform.

Most sitcoms in recent years have had predominantly white casts, but immediately after starting the series I noticed that there was a minority majority on set — not just in front of the camera. Brunson fills another role, outside of her place in the cast, as the series creator and one of many directors. Having more diversity, not only within casts but also within crews, is something that the film industry has been slow to improve, but Abbott’s myriad of minority representation has helped to speed up the process, and it is a trait I appreciate seeing in entertainment.  

As I kept up with the show each Tuesday night, the one thing that I hoped to see was a look into the lives of the characters outside the walls of Abbott. In the second episode Janine’s life with her not so up and coming rapper long term boyfriend Tariq (Zack Fox) was revealed when he dropped her off at work and the two quarreled over money problems, but the story line was not continued in the following episodes. Even though I think that the show should be concentrated in the school, by including more of the characters’ personal lives the show would be further enhanced.

Although the show encompasses numerous pressing dilemmas in the field of education, it has an inherently funny nature. As problems continuously appear and the building goes awry, the group never has a dull school day. The personalities of each role mesh together in a natural and lighthearted way that incorporates modern topics such as social media. Through the contemporary storyline the show reaches a younger audience and truly pulls the audience in its humor. Now that all 13 episodes of season one have aired, the incorporation of serious issues, a diverse character base and comical plot have me anticipating the next.