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The resounding success of ‘Abbott Elementary’ should pave the way for more Black shows

The resounding success of ‘Abbott Elementary’ should pave the way for more Black shows

The resounding success of ‘Abbott Elementary’ should pave the way for more Black shows
March 23
12:00 2022

Since making its debut on ABC last December, sitcom “Abbott Elementary” has been one of the most-watched television programs in recent memory. Written by and starring popular comic/ writer Quinta Brunson, the series follows a group of well-intentioned teachers trying to make the most of the resources provided by one of the worst school districts in the country.

Set in Philadelphia, “Abbott Elementary” illustrates how difficult and wild the scholastic journey for a public school educator or student can be, especially for those located in the inner city.

Based on her own grade-school experiences and inspired by Brunson’s real-life teacher Ms. Abbott, the hit sitcom feels incredibly authentic and really paints a picture of how hectic life can be for an educator. 

Everything from trying to work with a shamefully low district budget, to encouraging and tutoring students struggling with the curriculum is covered and the show is loaded with feel-good moments — which no doubt contributed to the sitcom becoming such a quick fan favorite.

Recently, the comedy series became the first television show to quadruple its ratings since its original air date. The second episode, titled “Light Bulb,” was viewed over 9 million times, highlighting how popular the series has become in just a few months. Additionally, the episode surpassed the mark for ABC’s highest comedy ratings, which was previously set by the Modern Family finale in April 2020.

The reason the show has been so well received likely stems from its painfully honest nature and ability to make light of the very real issues that plague the American school system. Through “Abbott Elementary,” the audience is given an inside look at how hilariously stressful the life of a public school educator can be.

Filmed similarly to the award-winning sitcom “The Office,” “Abbott Elementary ” includes the use of zoom-ins and confessionals to help give insight into what the characters are thinking and feeling and to move the plot along. Another reason the series is so successful, though, is that it carries a predominantly Black cast, a feat that is incredibly rare in modern television. 

The workplace comedy does a great job of featuring the more humorous side of the Black community as well, which is something that has been severely lacking in Hollywood in recent years. Typically, shows or films with predominantly Black casts are focused on trauma, drama, or overcoming some sort of obstacle. Although “Abbott Elementary” does include moments of overcoming, its main focus is to keep things fun and light. 

It does a great job of humanizing the Black characters featured in the show, ensuring that they are characterized by far more than the obstacles that they have had to overcome. Viewing a show with a Black cast that not only thrives, but does so without portraying Black trauma and pain is incredibly refreshing and something the television industry needs more of.

Hopefully, “Abbott Elementary” is renewed for additional seasons and grows to new heights. More importantly, though, I hope that the hit sitcom paves the way for more shows with predominantly Black casts.

The television industry has historically been reluctant to green-light shows created by or featuring Black people. For years, television production companies have trotted out series after series with casts that feature little to no Black people. 

This cycle of whitewashed casts is incredibly played out and has left the Black community feeling largely unwanted and unwelcomed in Hollywood. Hopefully, the resounding success of “Abbott Elementary” can convince the industry decision-makers to be more open and jumpstart a new era of television, one that is far more inclusive to Black creators and their ideas. 

Featured Illustration By J. Robynn Aviles

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Jalyn Smoot

Jalyn Smoot

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