Five reasons to tune into ‘Abbott Elementary’ on ABC

The comedy comes from the mind of Quinta Brunson and focuses on the education system with a heartfelt and hilarious lens

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ABC’s newest comedy, Abbott Elementary, premieres tonight, and theGrio has five reasons you shouldn’t miss this series from the mind of Quinta Brunson.

Abbott Elementary aired its pilot episode a few weeks ago, following the latest version of Live in Front of a Studio Audience on ABC. The mockumentary-style series follows Janine (Brunson) and the rest of the dedicated teachers of Abbott Elementary in West Philadelphia, who are “determined to help their students succeed in life” despite the various odds stacked against them.

ABBOTT ELEMENTARY – “Light Bulb” – Going against everyone’s advice, Janine takes it upon herself to fix every problem herself when she notices a flicking light bulb in the hallway. Despite the best intentions, Janine ends up causing new issues throughout the school. Elsewhere, Gregory asks Barbara for help talking to a parent, which leads him to spend his lunch period in an unexpected way. “Abbott Elementary” returns TUESDAY, JAN. 4 (9:00-9:30 p.m. EST), on ABC. (ABC/Raymond Liu) QUINTA BRUNSON, CHRIS PERFETTI, TYLER JAMES WILLIAMS

The brainchild of Quinta Brunson

Brunson not only stars in the series, but she is also its creator, fresh off of two acclaimed seasons as an actor and writer on HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show. The inspiration for the series is a very personal one, as her own mother was an elementary school teacher herself in the West Philadelphia school system for 40 years.

“To me, it just seemed like a rich world to make a workplace comedy with,” Brunson said in a promotional video.

Essence recently profiled Brunson, to whom she spoke of her mother as the inspiration: “The way she cared for her students beyond just teaching them how to read, she became so many different jobs and roles,” she said.

“That really is what inspired me to go there, because I just felt that it was such a rich world that hadn’t really been tapped into yet.”

A timely premise

While the series takes a comedic approach, the setting of an underfunded elementary school is still a vital one, especially as the country continues to examine what seems to be a flawed education system.

Brunson told Deadline, “We don’t want to create an environment where we say these issues are okay and shouldn’t be fixed, that’s not what we’re going to do. What we want to do is say, ‘Look at these people who do the job anyway – how can we support them further? How can we take a look at our school system and say it shouldn’t be this way any more?'”

“I think that’s what’s really important about this – giving people a behind-the-scenes look of what teachers really do through humor and heart and straight up comedy.”

Enter Sheryl Lee Ralph

The legendary actress of Dreamgirls and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit has a hilarious main role on the new series. Her character, Barbara Howard, is a tenured and well-established teacher at Abbott Elementary, one that Brunson’s Janine seems to look up to.

Ralph told LA Confidential Magazine, “Quinta has given me a great gift because I get to act while being parts of myself, parts of people in my family because I come from a long line of educators. But I also get to play a character that is not Sheryl Lee. When you see me as Mrs. Howard, that’s one thing. And then when you see Sheryl Lee, you realize that those are two very different people.”

A stellar supporting cast

The talent doesn’t stop with Brunson and Ralph. The rest of the cast of Abbott Elementary is exciting as well, including comedian Janelle James as Ava, Abbott’s brand new principal whose qualifications are questionable at best. Tyler James Williams, a sitcom vet himself (Everybody Hates Chris), joins as a new teacher at the school. Rounding out the cast are Lisa Ann Walter (The Parent Trap) as another mainstay teacher and Chris Perfetti, a liberal teacher who started with Janine.

A new classic?

With many shows ending this year, including ABC’s esteemed comedy Black-ish, there is plenty of room for some new shows to take the empty slots, with Abbott seemingly entering the arena as a perfect fit. Reviews of the first three episodes have already been positive, with many calling it “a new The Office.”

Abbott Elementary premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST on ABC, with new episodes airing every Tuesday.

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