Few new comedies this year have had the kind of positive buzz as “Abbott Elementary” has. The ABC sitcom, about a group of teachers working tirelessly at an underfunded elementary school in Philadelphia, has broken through amid the glut of derivative new network shows. The earnest ambitions of its characters, particularly those of Janine (Quinta Brunson), the show’s protagonist, create a rooting factor as they struggle with meager supplies and an incompetent principal (Janelle James). The show is resonating strongly with audiences, which may lead to the show earning more than just great reviews and a loyal audience.
“Abbott Elementary” has the potential to do what very few network shows have done in recent years: earn recognition from the Emmys. Series from the big four networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) have gradually slipped out of the Emmy conversation with the boom of cable and streaming. Over the past four years, only three shows have even cracked the comedy or drama series lineups: “Black-ish” (ABC), “The Good Place” (NBC) and “This Is Us” (NBC). With more adventurous programming on cable and streaming services, it is no surprise that the TV academy finds itself drawn to networks outside of the more restrictive broadcast stations.
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Yet, as “Abbott Elementary” continues to become a word-of-mouth hit, it might just be the show this year to defy those predilections. The series strikes a delicate balance as it delivers on classic sitcom tropes, from its colorful cast of characters to the will-they-won’t-they dynamic between Janine and Gregory (Tyler James Williams), while also providing a fresh perspective we haven’t seen that much on TV. Lack of proper funding continues to be one of the major ongoing issues within the education system, and Brunson, who also created the show, doesn’t shy away from depicting the everyday issues that arise for teachers all over the country, though always with a light touch.
While we are still four months out from Emmy nominations, “Abbott Elementary” is emerging as a real contender. The sitcom is currently in eighth place in early Gold Derby odds for a Best Comedy Series nomination. With eight slots in that top category, this would indeed make it the lone network show nominated, assuming the predicted top seven also get in. For the acting categories, Brunson is fifth in Best Comedy Actress, while James, as Principal Ava Coleman, and her fellow scene-stealing standout Sheryl Lee Ralph, as Barbara Howard, are stealth contenders in the supporting actress race. As more eyeballs inevitably get on “Abbott Elementary” in the weeks to come, it is possible that the show’s Emmy trajectory could rise to new heights.
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