Danielle O’Brien, editor
“Abbott Elementary” is a show airing on Tuesday nights at 9 on ABC. It captures the struggle of teachers in today’s American education system displayed in a nevertheless fun and comical twist. Not to mention, it is based on the Philadelphia area and school district, which is why it is especially deserving of your attention.
The premise of the show revolves around the staff of a public elementary school set in Philadelphia. One of the main characters of the show is a once-Temple attendee, Quinta Brunson, who plays Janine Teagues in the show. Quinta dropped out of Temple to pursue a career in Hollywood working for the poultry news and entertainment outlet, Buzzfeed. You may remember Brunson Janine from her “Girl who’s never been on a nice date” video (if you don’t know what I’m talking about from the title, look it up and you’ll remember instantly). Quinta has been one of the most successful women emerging from the Philadelphia area, being featured in Forbes “30 under 30” list in 2017, a list of people under 30 years of age recognized from 600 different small businesses and industries in which 30 are selected in twenty industries each.
Quinta plays an optimistic young teacher fresh to the field of education who struggles to balance her personal wants and goals with the limited resources handed to her in the school. On top of being forced to navigate how to give a quality education to her school kids in an underprivileged school system, Janine and her fellow younger coworkers, Jacob Hill (Chris Perfetti) and Gregory Eddie (Tyler James WIlliams)struggle to gain respect from teachers who have worked in the school system for much longer and are uninspired by the changes Janine and her generation seek from the world, approaching her with the attitude of “these are just the way things are.”
For example, in the first episode, Janine struggles to get something as simple as rugs for her class to sit on. At the beginning of the episode, her older colleagues become frustrated at her constant need to ask for more. They try to persuade her that this is the type of thing she’ll have to get used to, working in a school district such as this one. and that you just end up disappointed when you ask for things you’ll never receive. Nevertheless, the two groups find out they have more in common when their common enemy for the episode, Principal Coleman (played by Janeele James) uses a large amount of money awarded to the school for rugs on a new hairdo for herself and a new sign for the school. Together, the teachers work to get Janine the rugs she needed for her classroom on their own merit thanks in big part to South Philly don, Melissa Schemmenti (played by Lisa Ann Walter), and her under-the-table Italian connections.
Janine reveals that she was so persistent about the rug situation because some students, in particular, find it a safe space to rest as they have personal issues going on at home, which sets the deeper tone of the serious, highlighting how our educators work through the financial obstacles thrown at them in America’s education system because they so love the children they teach, sometimes even having to resort to their own means. On a more positive note, however, the rug that they do end up getting for Janine is an eagles rug! On two of the issues Janine is facing in her career, she also has a SoundCloud rapper boyfriend who doesn’t seem to contribute much to their relationship but headaches. Interestingly, it seems as though Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris”) who plays substitute teacher Gregory Eddie is interested in Janine in a romantic type of way.
“Abbot Elementary” is a must-watch for everyone in the Philadelphia area, as there are constant references to Philadelphia culture. But besides the “The Office’s” style direction and overall laughs the show has to offer, “Abbot Elementary” is worth watching, as it is doing something not many other shows on prime time TV can brag about. For one, having a predominantly black cast sheds light on the very real issues facing Philadelphia and the U.S education system at large in a nevertheless very light-hearted way. The show has employed real Philadelphians who look the part to represent one of the most diverse and unique cities on the east coast. From its references to Philly slang to north, south, east, and west Philly culture, Abbott elementary is a must watch aside. At a time in which Philadelphia is experiencing one of its highest peaks in crime and violence as displayed on the news daily, by just flipping over the channel we are reminded about the identity of Philadelphians which makes us the City of Brotherly Love. Make sure to watch “Abbot Elementary” on ABC, Tuesday nights at 9, and it is available to stream on Hulu.