Abbott Elementary, which just concluded its first season, was created by Quinta Brunson who also stars as idealistic teacher Janine Teague working at underfunded Philadelphia public school Abbott Elementary. Janine remains dedicated, but her well-meaning efforts to provide for her students often lead to comic shenanigans.
Janine also causes problems for other teachers, especially veteran Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph) who encourages her to accept their lot. Principal Ava (Janelle James), meanwhile, is mostly oblivious as she spends more time on social media than in the office. Gregory (Tyler James Williams) initially comes to Abbott as a substitute, but eventually finds his place there, accepting the full-time job. Jacob (Chris Perfetti) tries a little too hard to fit in with the other teachers, and Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) isn’t above calling in favors from her shady neighborhood friends.
At Abbott, just getting rugs for the classrooms can be a big win. Some of the challenges teachers face include students who come from troubled homes and sleep in school, rowdy grade schoolers, and viral videos of kids running atop desks.
With a 97% Tomatometer score from 38 critics and a 91% Audience Score from over 450 viewers, this is one TV show that earned its A and scored a renewal from ABC for a second season. This is one time we can’t wait for school to restart, but that still leaves a whole summer without this heartwarming comedy, so use the time to catch up on shows that share some of Abbott’s charm.
Here’s another teacher tale for you. Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton) is no Janine Teague, however; he’s a bad role model after he got fired from Harvard and is now teaching high school biology. Shenanigans ensue for four seasons such as using his students to get back at rivals and ruining holidays like Katie Holmes Day. Patton Oswalt is the pushover principal and teachers get up to more comedy in the teachers lounge. With an 88% Fresh rating, A.P. Bio also makes the grade.
Where to Watch: Peacock, 4 seasons
This OWN drama is another take on young people growing up in underserved communities. Fourteen-year-old high school student David (Akili McDowell) lives in the projects with his single mother (Alana Arenas) and his brother (Cayden K. Williams), and together they try to find a way to escape poverty. Counselor Dr. Woods-Trap (Phylicia Rashad) tries to help out too. Season 2 showed David as an adult (Kwame Patterson) but flashes back to his sophomore year, and season 3 is coming in August. Until then, you can catch up on the first two seasons, the first of which is Certified Fresh.
Where to Watch: HBO Max, 2 seasons
The original Wonder Years captured the nostalgia of childhood growing up in the 1960s. This season’s revival brings back that spirit, but from the perspective of a Black family. News and issues of the era like the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. have profound impact, but young Dean’s (Elisha Williams) personal journey, like trying to hit a home run and talk to girls, is the heart of the show. His parents (Dule Hill and Saycon Sengbloh) try to raise healthy kids while world events weigh on the family. This edition is just getting started on ABC, so expect more seasons to come. Its first season is Certified Fresh.
Dwayne Johnson only spends a little time in school on this show, but this comic retelling of his life story is full of heart for the whole family. Johnson narrates the show, which follows him as a kid (Adrian Groulx), in high school (Bradley Constant), and at college (Uli Latukefu). The show is also a love letter to Johnson’s father, the late pro wrestling legend Rocky Johnson (played by Joseph Lee Anderson in the series); the superstar wrestlers of the era; as well as the matriarchs of the Johnson family (Stacey Leilua, Ana Tuisila). It takes a village of wrestling icons in Young Rock, now in its second season, and you can laugh and love with them all.
Kenan Thompson proved his comedic skills on SNL and going back to his Nickelodeon days. In his self-titled show, Thompson pulls at the heartstrings too. He plays a recent widower raising his daughters (Dani and Dannah Lane) as a single father. His brother (Chris Redd) steps in to help out and provide some laughs too. Kenan’s father-in-law (Don Johnson) also hangs around to lend a hand. Raising two kids can be emotional and unpredictable, but the family love is evident no matter how hard life gets.
The Proud Family was a groundbreaking animated series for its portrayal of issues facing Black families. The Disney channel series incorporated Black vernacular in the scripts and showed teenager Penny Proud (Kyla Pratt) being both respectful of and rebellious against her parents (Tommy Davidson and Paula Jai Parker) while socializing with a diverse group of friends. It ran for five years on Disney, and now they’re back with The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder revival, which is currently Fresh with a 100% Tomatometer score.
Where to Watch: Disney+, original and new series
This show, co-created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, focuses on a teenager’s high school experience. That teenager is Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), struggling with a single mother (Poorna Jagannathan) after her father (Sendhil Ramamurthy) died suddenly. Between the cultural expectations of her Indian family and the universal angst of emerging sexuality and popularity, Never Have I Ever captures the humor and heartbreak of growing up. Niecy Nash plays a helpful school guidance counselor in whom Devi can confide. In a twist, John McEnroe narrates Devi’s life story. The first two seasons are Certified Fresh and two more are coming to Netflix.
Where to Watch: Netflix, 2 seasons
Kenya Barris’s sitcom about a middle-class Black family represents the sometimes comical struggle of modern day Black families to stay connected to their culture when they live and work in integrated suburbia. The series comes to an end this week, so the entire series will be viewable soon. You can watch the Johnson kids grow up over eight seasons, as parents Dre (Anthony Anderson) and Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) teach them life lessons, while they get as frustrated as any parent. Plus it spawned two spin-offs, grown-ish about college life and mixed-ish about growing up in a mixed family in the ’80s.
Where Abbott Elementary finds heartfelt drama and comedy in school, Scrubs found it in a hospital. The zany comedy could be way wackier than a typical sitcom, but when they lost a patient it could be as dramatic as M*A*S*H. Episode “My Screwup,” guest starring Brendan Fraser, is one of the most powerful examples. Doctors J.D. Dorian (Zach Braff) and Chris Turk (Donald Faison) were a total bromance, and Turk eventually married nurse Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes). Dr. Elliott Reid (Sarah Chalke) was also in their class, while veterans Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) and Kelso (Ken Jenkins) kept the new interns in their place, even when they became residents. Even the janitor (Neil Flynn) had some wisdom to share. On the bubble for most of its life, Scrubs lasted a whopping nine seasons, moving from NBC to ABC for the final two.