As hard as it is for any TV show to start on a strong note, it’s doubly hard for comedies, which depend so much on cast and writers’ room chemistry to truly click into gear. You wouldn’t know it, though, from watching the first few episodes of “Abbot Elementary,” ABC’s new sitcom that manages to feel fully formed from the get go. From comedian Quinta Brunson, “Abbott Elementary” makes quick work of introducing its setting (an underfunded Philly school), characters (the frustrated teachers trying to make it work), and the intangible sense of history and possibility that keep any show compelling beyond its logline.
Brunson stars as Janine, an eternally optimistic second grade teacher who refuses to accept the uninspiring status quo without trying to improve it. This makes her something of a nuisance to veteran teachers like Barbara and Melissa — played by the formidable duo of Sheryl Lee Ralph and Lisa Ann Walter — who have been at this too long to hope for much better than what they’ve got. Rounding out the core cast are Chris Perfetti as the school’s resident tryhard Jacob, William Stanford Davis as the checked out janitor, Janelle James as the new self-involved principal, and the very charming Tyler James Williams as new substitute teacher Gregory. Each character is immediately distinct unto themselves; together, the cast makes it easy to believe these characters have worked alongside each other for far longer than we’ve known them.