Local comedian and writer Quinta Brunson scores a hit with her Philly Public School satire, airing on ABC.
Maybe I had forgotten its premiere what with, you know, NYE2022 and Omicron. But there I was, face to face the other night, with 6ABC’s news god Jim Gardner talking to me from my television before 11 pm. What the what? In “do not adjust your screen” parlance, what had happened was that the legendary, longtime Action News’ anchorman – soon to retire – had made a cameo in the pilot episode of ABC’s “Abbott Elementary”, a fresh comedy set locally in a Philadelphia public school, and from the mind of local comedian and writer Quinta Brunson.
The West Philadelphia native is one of the stars and creators of the Instagram series Girl Who Has Never Been on a Nice Date. She also took part in the first season of the HBO Max Comedy series “A Black Lady Sketch Show”. Quinta Brunson built her first major network show around her local scholastic experiences within the Philly charter high school system and Temple University.
Rather than crafting a silly, but straight-laced sitcom adventure, Brunson has made “Abbott Elementary” (at least, so far within its first two episodes) into something of a mockumentary – like The Office in a classroom setting, and with a few serious lessons to be learned about this country’s educational system when it comes to underserved populations.
The nice local touch, beyond its realistic touch (Brunson’s mother taught within the Philly school system for decades) and having Jim Gardener in its pilot, is that “Abbott Elementary” also co-stars Sheryl Lee Ralph, an actor who has famously been married to Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes for nearly 20 years.
So far, the “Abbott Elementary” storyline is focused between the earnest Janice (Brunson’s character, when she is not busy as the show’s head writer and executive producer) and Ralph’s Barbara, a teaching vet (possibly in tribute to Brunson’s mom) who is not particularly into new technology or 21st century teaching methodology. So far, the show is cute and definitely worth checking out beyond its local color and shade.
Considering that Quinta Brunson’s old neighborhood will soon also be represented on the little streaming screen by Will Smith’s revisionist drama, “Bel Air”, West Philly is television’s new go-to dreamland.