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How Abbott Elementary Perfects the Workplace Sitcom

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Sitcoms have defined comedy since the genre was popularized in the 1950s. Viewers have latched onto sitcoms due to their ease of viewing, which makes them perfect for countless rewatches. The term is short for “situational comedy” and indicates a formulaic structure that audiences have eagerly embraced for decades.


The typical sitcom features a core group of characters in a limited number of settings, with the comedy coming from the unique hijinks that the group finds themselves in — at least until the end of the episode. One of the most popular subgenres is the workplace comedy, which is focused on a unit of coworkers. Series like The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Netflix’s new series Blockbuster are all standard examples of the workplace sitcom, but ABC’s Abbott Elementary has updated the formula.

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Sitcoms reflect and exaggerate day-to-day reality. The workplace sitcom became into a form of escapism by providing a comedic take on mundane work. Series like The Office, Superstore and Brooklyn Nine-Nine all featured an eclectic cast of characters who worked together and pointed out the fallacies of working a nine-to-five job. Abbott Elementary has some things in common with Parks & Recreation, but it has developed its own unique identity.

Janine Teagues is Abbott Elementary‘s main protagonist — a second-grade teacher dealing with the bureaucracy of public education. While the situations Janine and her colleagues get into are hilarious and amusing, they reflect real issues within America’s public schools. From racism to nutrition in school lunches, Abbott Elementary highlights the joys and hardships of working in the school system by using humor.

Abbott Elementary delivers a combination of social commentary and comedy. The show doesn’t pretend the system will inherently work; it focuses on the ways that the public school system has failed teachers in providing accommodations, learning tools and supplies. When the system does work for the characters, it’s only because of support from principal Ava Coleman or their own community. Season 2, Episode 1, “Development Day” chronicles Barbara Howard trying to find a suitable desk for a student who uses a wheelchair. The school district is less than helpful, but Janine’s love interest Gregory Eddie steps up and finds one.

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Abbott Elementary Is a More Relatable Sitcom

Abbott Elementary is also extremely relatable to audiences of all ages. Series creator and star Quinta Brunson is a hilarious comedy writer who has had her finger on the pulse for the past several years, having gotten her start on social media. She has an understanding of what the younger generation is interested in, allowing her to accurately display what Janine’s students are into while showing the way she’s just a little out of touch. But anyone can find something to latch onto with the series, since many viewers went to public school growing up.

Abbott Elementary has quickly risen through the ranks of sitcoms, despite only being in its second season. The series won two Primetime Emmy Awards in a highly competitive year — Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for Quinta Brunson and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Sheryl Lee Ralph. With continuously hilarious episodes and quotable moments, but also sharp commentary and comedy anyone can relate to, the series will continue its early success.

Abbott Elementary airs Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. on ABC and streams on Hulu.

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