In the era of streaming, miniseries, and reduced seasons, linear broadcast series in the United States have lost their impact, but there is a comedy that has managed to prevail from the traditional formula and with a higher number of episodes to be considered at the height of their companions, a priori, more prestigious. This is ‘Abbott College’, a labor sitcom that narrates the daily life of a group of teachers from a public elementary school in Philadelphia. The series, created and starring Quinta Brunson, has completely conquered the audience, becoming one of the great television revelations of last season, where it won up to three Emmy awards. AND is back with its second installment on Disney+, where its first 10 episodes are now available.
To celebrate the return of the series, eCartelera has been able to speak with Brunson, who in addition to being a creator, producer and protagonist, works as a fiction scriptwriter, a job that has earned her her first Emmy. The awards have raised her as a talent to follow closely, but she assures that they have not changed anything. “She’s just made me focus more on making sure I keep my vision,” she says. “I already have ideas of what I want the next seasons and the finale to be like, and I don’t want awards or audience success to change what I have in mind.”
Brunson assures that the Emmy or other awards (she also won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Actress) were not her goal and, in fact, she is a little worried that she ends up raising the audience’s expectations so much, that they end up disappointed:
“What scared me about the awards is that people weren’t so benevolent towards the second season.. We’re only two years old, we’re still babies, and we’re trying things out, so I didn’t want new viewers coming in season two saying, ‘This isn’t the Emmy-winning series I was promised. […] I was hoping the audience wouldn’t be disappointed that we were taking risks, but for now it’s working.”
Those risks are part of Brunson’s strategy to avoid stagnation or rest on his laurels. “I’m always trying to go to the corners of the school that we haven’t touched yet and that the audience doesn’t expect us to touch”, it states. “Sometimes people say to me ‘Why don’t you do a chapter on the photos of the border?’, and I don’t want to, because that chapter is what you expect.”
It is clear that for Brunson, ‘Abbott College’ is a very personal project that he intends to take maximum care of. In fact, there’s a lot of her own history in her, as the character of Barbara (the magnificent Sheryl Lee Ralph), a veteran teacher who reluctantly mentors Janine (Brunson), is inspired by her mother: “I saw my mother taught for many, many years. I was in her class during kindergarten and went to the school where she worked for 5 years. I got to see behind the scenes of what it’s like to be a teacher and, for all my years of education, I continued to watch it and it inspired me. I know that world very well and I knew there was comedy there“.
It’s more, Originally, ‘Abbott College’ focused on the character of Barbara and Brunson wasn’t even going to play Janine, as the creator reveals in our talk, where she also tells that, before filming the pilot, there was one more character, but it was decided to do without him because they already had many main characters. As the idea for ‘Abbott College’ evolved, Janine emerged as the clear lead. “The series was originally built around Barbara, with Janine as a supporting character”explains Brunson. “Then it became a series with two leads, and later, when we started looking at mockumentary, we thought about who would be the most open to having a documentary filmed at school, and it was Janine. That’s how she came to the fore.” Brunson ultimately decided to play her character, which he acknowledges poses a “very exciting” challenge for him, as they are so different from one another: “I’m not as optimistic as she is,” he admits.
“The Light in the Darkness of the Working Class”
‘Abbott College’ is often compared to ‘The Office’, ‘Parks and Recreation’ or ‘Modern Family’, series that have their format in common: the mockumentary or false documentary. The success of the series has led many to claim that it is responsible for revitalizing this type of more traditional series, but Brunson does not see it that way:
“I don’t believe it. A lot of people say that, but I just think ‘Abbott College’ is one sitcom in a long line of sitcoms.. When it came out in America, there were a lot of great sitcoms running at the same time. I think ‘Abbott’ is special to people because of what it blends, but I don’t necessarily see it as renewing or reinventing anything.” […] “There’s not much you can do to change the format from what’s already been done, but people enjoy it. To me it’s like any other format, like single-cam or multi-cam. I’ve even compared it to movies in black and white. If someone does one now, it’s a deliberate decision of how to tell a story.”
What makes ‘Abbott College’ special is the way in which uses mockumentary and light comedy to bring important issues to the tablemainly education in the United States and the difficulties that public schools are going through, a balance that Brunson attributes to what happens in real life and his experience observing it:
“It’s the reality of a public school in Philadelphia. There’s a lot of hope in a very dark place, it’s just like that. And that happens with many jobs, but especially those of the working class. Every time I go to the airport, I think ‘This job has to be the worst’, but then I see the workers laughing with each other and having a good time, and I think that’s the human spirit, that’s what we do. We are very resilient.”
unresolved romantic tension
Following in the wake of Jim and Pam in ‘The Office’ or Leslie and Ben in ‘Parks and Recreation’, among many other couples, One of the aspects that the audience of ‘Abbott College’ has fallen in love with the most is the endearing relationship between Janine and Gregory (Tyler James Williams), a new addition to the faculty, with whom the protagonist maintains the will they – won’t they dynamic, that is, the classic sexual tension (or romantic, we are talking about an ABC series, owned by Disney ) unresolved. For Brunson, this is another element of the genre, which he has enjoyed incorporating into the series:
“I’m a big fan of unresolved tension. The audience clearly loves to see it over and over again. [se ríe]. I think the fun thing about sitcoms is that you don’t have to go crazy breaking the mold with them.. People want to see the same thing and are surprised over and over again. It’s like the wedding episodes. They say ‘Oh my God! They are getting married? What is going to happen? The wedding is getting out of hand!’ Of course they’re getting married, but we like the ride.”
In the second season, the series goes much deeper into that tension, with a closer relationship between the characters, which the audience is looking forward to seeing together, but Brunson insists that romance is not a priority for her:
“With Janine and Gregory, I wanted to focus on the individual characters first. They’re young, 26 or 27. They’re growing as people and as teachers, so those two things come before their relationship. The first season revolved around around Janine’s job growth and her problems with her boyfriend and her mother, Gregory was in the third place. In fact, school was third and Gregory was fourth. And the same with Gregory. In the second season, his journey goes about establishing himself as a teacher, growing up and becoming a better person.It was about not placing romantic tension at the center of the series. ‘Abbott College’ is about teachers and we have to make sure it stays about the school, which was our goal from the beginning.. But it’s a lot of fun to see that tension play out.”
The truth is that, although the relationship between Janine and Gregory is one of the main attractions of the series, ‘Abbott College’ has plenty of incentives to enjoy, especially an ensemble cast full of comic talents, the kind that work magic when They are together, and some dialogues and gags that you can’t help but see every time you come across them on the Internet. The series enjoys the success of the public and the recognition of the industry, and It is reassuring to know that its creator does not intend to let that distract her from continuing with her plan and maintaining that natural essence that makes her so special..
‘Abbott College’ is available exclusively on Disney+ and It’s already renewed for a third season..