Impressive debut for 'Abbot Elementary' – Kankakee Daily Journal

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Updated: December 7, 2021 @ 9:13 am
It only takes a hit — or at least a good show — to revive a tired format. It’s too early to call “Abbott Elementary” (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) a hit, but the exciting pilot breathes new life into the single-camera docustyle sitcom.
Way back at the beginning of this century, two versions of “The Office” made old three-camera sitcoms seem stale. “Modern Family” was so artfully produced one hardly noticed the characters were performing for a camera crew instead of a studio audience.
A series about beleaguered teachers at an underfunded Philadelphia grammar school, “Abbott” is framed by a film being prepared at the behest of a clueless, incompetent and self-absorbed principal (Janelle James), who believes “all publicity is good publicity.”
Quinta Brunson stars as Janine, an overeager new(ish) teacher still learning the ropes and in awe of the no-nonsense veteran (Sheryl Lee Ralph) whose classes always are orderly, polite and line up single file.
Lisa Ann Walter plays it up as a tough cookie and Italian/Sicilian stereotype “connected” to any number of questionable businesses. Chris Perfetti is the naive white liberal teacher always ready to share some “woke” observation in the most self-flattering way.
Among the joys of “Abbott” is the return of Tyler James Williams, who played the titular Chris on “Everybody Hates Chris” way back in the day. All grown up, he arrives here as a permanent sub with ambitions to become principal, the job he was supposed to get before its current occupant blackmailed her way into the position.
“Abbott” is filled with likable characters who slowly but assuredly arrive through the “interview” process of the documentary gimmick.
Many sitcoms, particularly those on ABC, dwell in a never-never land of effortless affluence, but “Abbott” might be a tad too realistic about the grim realities of underfunded schools. And I’m not sure how “funny” all the frequent vomiting and public urination will be to some viewers — not to mention the gruesome bureaucracy and petty corruption.
The focus here is largely on the faculty, so the students of “Abbott” are mere background noise. This being grammar school, I’m not ready to assign any fixed grade to this pilot, but it definitely deserves more than a check mark and quite possibly a gold star.
ABC promotes its new sitcom with a reenactment of some classics. Jennifer Aniston, Gabrielle Union, Kathryn Hahn and Allison Tolman will participate in “Live in Front of a Studio Audience: The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes” (7 p.m., ABC).
• The documentary “The Slow Hustle” (7 p.m., HBO, TV-MA) recalls the death of a Baltimore police officer in the line of duty and suspicions his death might have been linked to official corruption.
TONIGHT’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
• A widow’s new beau has terror links on “FBI” (7 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
• The top four emerge on “The Voice” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
• “The Ornament of the World” (7 p.m., PBS, TV-14, check local listings) recalls Spain before the Inquisition, when Muslims, Jews and Christians created a unique culture.
• “People’s Choice Awards” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) honors popular favorites.
• A young woman’s dreams turn to what might have been in the 2021 romance “Next Stop, Christmas” (7 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).
• An entertainment writer and the owner of a small-town bijou meet cute in the 2021 romance “Christmas Movie Magic” (7 p.m., Lifetime, TV-PG).
• Bombs over Budapest on “FBI: International” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
• Bickering siblings accept their aunt’s invitation to a destination holiday in the 2021 comedy “A Sisterly Christmas” (8 p.m., OWN, TV-PG).
• Terror hits the horsey set on “FBI: Most Wanted” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at kevin.tvguy@gmail.com.

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