Is Abbott Elementary The New “The Office”? It might be the next best thing.
Let’s face it, sitcoms in the past ten plus years have mostly been duds. Sure we had such beloved gems as Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Last Man Standing, The Middle and Blackish that all became giant hits with audiences and\or critics, but those were basically the only ones of note… In over ten years. Even Modern Family and Blackish got terribly stale after being dragged for what seemed like endless amount of seasons. (Thank God they bowed out before reaching The Simpsons levels) It seems like with each passing year the networks have fewer and fewer sitcom hits like the days of old where sitcoms reigned supreme. Streaming services have passable comedies that end up stealing all the viewership that networks used to score easily “back in the day”. In fact, the most beloved sitcom of this era hasn’t made new episodes in over a decade and that’s The Office which ran from 2005–2013. The Office was only a moderate hit during its initial run on NBC, not even cracking the top 50 its entire run.
Yet somehow its very successful run on Netflix made this once under the radar comedy a cult classic for millions of die hard fans and critics. The show’s popularity also inspired what they call the “mockumentary” style which has since been used in almost every single camera situation comedy since. Not since the golden era of sitcoms has one sitcom stole the hearts of so many people, making them laugh with light hearted and relatable humor like The Office has. It reinvented the workplace sitcom and has been given proper credit for doing so. For a while it seemed like nothing like The Office would gain such love and affection from a specific fanbase with a light hearted, comfort food approach that seemed to be a thing of the past…
Well, fast forward to December 2021 when a new network sitcom premiered that took us all by surprise. That sitcom is Abbott Elementary, created and written by current breakout star Quinta Brunson who came up with the idea for the show while visiting the open house at the school of which her mother worked as a teacher, as well as the goal to bring back the kind of tv show that families would watch together:
Abbott took the world by storm after getting good reviews with its pilot airing right after the latest Jimmy Kimmel\Norman Lear Live Studio Audience episodes. Viewers were introduced to this quirky staff of teachers at this underfunded West Philadelphia public school, and obviously fell in love at first sight. Much like The Office, Abbott became a fixture on social media and deemed meme worthy. The show was off to a very good start, though it did have some bumps along the way.
Similarly to The Office’s first season it took a little while for Abbott to find its groove. The actors were finding their characters, the writers were finding the tone of the show as well as how to develop the characters, it took a little while for them all to find their footing throughout the course of this season, but in episode 8 “Work Family” the cast and the writing started to jell. The Office corrected itself when Steve Carell’s character went from being a complete one dimensional A-hole to a more sympathetic, lovably self centered goof. Abbott corrected itself by giving the main character Janine Teagues a bit more color as a character as well as giving the other characters a bit more personality outside of their initial constructs.
Now, Quinta has gone on record in an interview with Insider about her inspiration for Abbott saying that she isn’t writing The Office for teachers, but despite that it’s clear that for many Abbott Elementary has filled that particular void in their light hearted mockumentary style sitcom choice. I think after getting off to a pretty good start with the popularity of its first season that Abbott has real potential might become for this new generation what The Office has become in the last generation. I, like all of you am looking forward to seeing what those kooky educators are up to when school’s back in session this Fall on ABC. I’m giving Abbott Elementary an A for maximum effort and helping to make network sitcoms great again.