'Abbott Elementary': Here's Your First Look at ABC's New Workplace Comedy (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
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Teachers are the heroes of their own story in ABC's new workplace comedy, Abbott Elementary.
Created by and starring Quinta Brunson, the half-hour mockumentary-style series follows a group of dedicated and passionate teachers -- and a slightly tone-deaf principal -- at a Philadelphia public school where, despite the odds stacked against them, are determined to help their students succeed in life. Though the educators may be outnumbered and underfunded, they love for what they do -- even if they don't particularly care for the school district's less-than-stellar attitude toward educating children.
ET exclusively premieres a first look clip from the first episode of Abbott Elementary, where Brunson's Janine Teagues discovers that one of her young second grade students may be watching some very age-inappropriate movies at home.
"My favorite movie is American Gangster and my favorite character is [drug trafficker] Frank Lucas," Janine says, glancing nervously at the camera that's filming the classroom interaction. "Okay... that is a great sentence. And I will be having a third talk with your mom about what you're watching at home."
When she introduces herself to camera later, Janine reveals that she's a product of the Philadelphia public school system herself and that, yes, the biggest issue is "no money."
"The city says there isn't any but they're doing a multimillion-dollar renovation to the Eagles stadium down the street from here," she says with a blank smile. "But, we just make do. I mean, the staff here is incredible. They're all amazing teachers. I really look up to them all." Cut to a chaotic scene of uncontrollable students in one of her fellow teachers' classrooms. "Well, I look up to the older ones," Janine clarifies. "We younger teachers are still getting the hang of it -- if we don't end up leaving."
"Look, I know this school is rough but I became a teacher to make sure students come out alive," she says. "And after learning a lot in my first year, I finally feel on top of things." But Janine catches an unexpected scene out of the corner of her eye just as she says it, and well, maybe she's not quite on top of things as she thought. Watch ET's exclusive sneak peek above.
Recently, Brunson explained why she chose to make Abbott Elementary a mockumentary comedy in the vein of past workplace shows like Parks and Recreation.
"I love the mockumentary genre. My favorite comedies have been mockumentaries -- The Office, Parks and Rec. I was so impressed with what they did. What I love the most about the format is it gives an opportunity for the audience to build a different relationship with the characters. I think teachers deserve that," Brunson told reporters during ABC's virtual press day last week. "I had seen other teacher shows, and it's a lens on them that often can make them seem one-dimensional, and they are the least one-dimensional people there are. It's the least one-dimensional job."
"I said, 'If these people could talk to camera and talk about their reasoning for doing this job, the reasoning for doing it how they do it, the reasoning for jumping through hoops to get these things done, I knew that would build a different relationship with the audience, and I thought that was important as it pertains to educators in America," she continued. "For a mockumentary show to work, in my opinion, we'll see once it goes out to air you have to have some type of veil. You have to be something to go behind. And I felt like public schools deserved to have that veil gone so people can see how much these people actually do."
The series also stars Tyler James Williams as Gregory Eddie, Janelle James as Ava Coleman, Chris Perfetti as Jacob Hill, Lisa Ann Walter as Melissa Schemmenti and Sheryl Lee Ralph as Barbara Howard. Brunson serves as writer and executive producer alongside Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker.