“I’m so happy to be back!” Janine Teagues (Quinta Brunson) screeches in the opening scene of Abbott Elementary‘s second season. Janine is excited to get back into the classroom and show that she has it all together this year (and for her colleagues to notice that she parted the other way), but I imagine Brunson is excited to be back, too: After a historic three Emmy nominationsscored its first win (Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for the Pilot), while the show scored two moremy statues.
It’s well established that a sitcom takes time to find its footing. Go back and watch the first few seasons again. of Parks and Recreation either The office and you’ll see things feel a little off compared to the comedy time and dynamic chemistry they became known for. However, thanks to Brunson’s clear vision and specificity as a Philadelphia local, Abbott Elementary showed a rare confidence in his first outing. Y it’s exciting to think that with time and development, the show will get even more fun and insightful as it progresses. The good news: laughter came more frequently in posterior half of sseason oneand that ssecond season premiere does not skip a beat.
We continue with the gang on the titular “Development Day,” with teachers returning from summer break to prep their classrooms before the students arrive. Janine assures the audience and her colleagues that she “fast-tracked” her break.upstairs with Tariq (Zach Fox), which is basically Chekhov’s “Janine is going to have a meltdown” for the episode. This year is going to be different! But when he arrives at school and tries to park, he discovers that Ava (Janelle James) has taken over the parking lot to force Eagles fans to keep going. So… not so different.
We get a quick rundown of what everyone did over the summer: Jacob (Chris Perfetti) taught abroad in Peru and took an ASL class (“I wasn’t inspired by CODA, per se, but…”); Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph, also an Emmy winner) lost her shoes on an all-inclusive cruise while extremely drunk (“Sea Barbara is different than Land Barbara”); Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) was on the Jersey shore with Gary, the guy from the vending machine; and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) dove into the firstgrade curriculum as he is now a full-time teacher.
During her morning speech at the gym, Ava throws some summer thirst traps of herself on screen for Gregory’s benefit before sharing the day’s agenda. Janine has planned a mix of teachers, and when she brings up her idea of ”wisdom sharing”, Barbara and Melissa are quick to tell her that she won’t work. She starts to argue, but then stops—“I don’t have to make them change their minds, because it’s mandatory”—in a show of confidence that impresses veteran teachers. Between that and the revelation that she hooked up with “the only celebrity that matters” to surprise the kids on the first day of school (Gritty, the Flyers’ terrifying mascot), Janine is stepping up. “Looks like someone got it this year,” Barbara murmurs to Melissa.
The team quickly gets bogged down in the public’s administrative nightmares.school system. Although Barbara managed to get a ramp installed at the school, the district is mulling over an accessible desk for its next student who uses a wheelchair. Melissa, poor thing, is now second combined Y third grade teacher with ten additional students because there weren’t enough kids to warrant another class.
But no one is freaking out like Gregory, who can’t believe how much material the school has.meeting-The compulsory curriculum expects first graders to learn in one year. He plans everything out on a very detailed schedule on his white board, with headshots of each of his children pinned to their desks. Your classroom isn’t as bad as John Nash’s office in An amazing mindbut it has similar vibes.
And refering to sweet janine, the default crash comes to spoil his hot streak, just in time. As she and Jacob brainstorm about an icebreaker for his mixer, he sees threatening emails from the landlord about him being three months behind on rent now that Tariq is out of the picture. Janine ignores Jacob’s concern, but right in the middle of their meeting, Mr. Johnson (William Stanford Davis) comes to inform the group that his car is receiving a boot for unpaid parking tickets. (Tthey were Tariq’s, and she used to pay for them, but “in a mature act, I haven’t since we parted ways.”) development day instead of the first day of school. Oops.
Her image of having everything together shattered, Janine gets some heart to heart advice from Barbara and Melissa: You have to go through a breakup, not on him. Healing is part of the process.
Janine reflects on this as we watch the teachers welcoming the students on their first day. It is a beautiful sequence that reinforces Abbott Elementary beating heart. Forget the jokes about Jacob’s obsession with ASL. yesSeeing him sign with a deaf student is really moving. Barbara takes her new student into her classroom and discovers that Gregory found an ADA-compliant desk in storage. Threading the needle between the heart and humor is not easy, but Abbott Elementary is at the top of the class.
- “This year is going to be different.…because the Eagles got A.j Brown baby! says Mr. Johnson as he joins the back door of Ava’s parking lot. (he goes to a good start!)
- It’s good to see that Ava is still Ava, despite getting closer to the staff at the end of last season. “Keep quiet in the presence of greatness,” she says to calm them down in the gym.
- Last year he didn’t like pizza, this year he doesn’t like Gritty. Gregory is not afraid of having controversial opinions. (Gritty wins it with a very Gritty exchange in the post-credit scene.)
- Philadelphia-specific humor is always good, like when JAcob is desperate to find out if Gritty’s phone number is the 215 or 267 area code.
- Chris Perfetti is a delight as Jacob. I laughed out loud when he said, “President Joey B will write off the rest of that debt like any other day.” And as we get to get to know the character better, their exchanges become even funnier. Barbara’s initial panic at her claim to have an emergency and then leave immediately once hTurning a chair around to sit down was perfect. “I’m not going to play with that boy this year.”
- Mr. Johnson: “Does anyone drive a beat-up sedan?” Raising of hands from everyone in a room full of teachers.
- With Gregory teaching first grade, he and Barbara will probably interact a lot, which is good news for us because Tyler James Williams and Sheryl Lee Ralph do beautiful scene work together. She snaps him out of his panic with harshness and warmth.
- Will they look, will they not look? Despite saying that things with Barbara’s daughter Taylor are going well, Gregory was the only one who noticed the change in Janine’s part at the end of the episode.