Abbott Elementary season 2 — stellar sitcom lives up to its early promise


Charming school-set sitcom Abbott Elementary returns for a new term as a veritable critics’ pet, having been awarded many gold stars and three actual Golden Globes (as well as a few Emmys). While some of its comedic forebears — Parks and Recreation, The Office (US) — were under pressure to improve on shaky beginnings in their second seasons, Quinta Brunson’s show finds itself in the no-less daunting position of having to live up to its early promise.

In the first few episodes, everything seems to be just as it ever was at the ramshackle Philadelphia public school. All except for callow second-grade teacher Janine (Brunson), who comes back from vacation with a reinvigorated sense of purpose, a newfound assertiveness and a radically different way of parting her hair. Sadly for her, it’s only noticed by Gregory (Tyler James Williams), whose recent promotion from substitute to fully-fledged teacher means he can embark on another year of awkward flirtation.

The show masterfully balances its sweetness with acidic barbs, most of them courtesy of inappropriate principal Ava (Janelle James) and mafia-adjacent Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter). There are also some gently indignant observations about the dysfunctionality of the US education system. The school won a grant last season in a small but significant triumph for veteran teacher Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph, so warm yet so withering).

But Abbott has so many issues — from asbestos-filled walls to a mouse infestation — that the money can only do so much good. “At least they’re not rats,” Janine notes sanguinely. The staff’s commitment to making the best of unfavourable circumstances is the thread that runs through the series, elevating an already stellar sitcom into one of the most uplifting and quietly touching shows on TV.


On Disney Plus from March 1 and on Hulu in the US now

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