Gratitude for Recurrence

Warning: This article discusses key events from the Season 3 opener of Abbott Elementary.

Returning to the West Philadelphia district feels incredible. After an extended break, as a result of strikes by both writers and actors last summer, the much-loved ABC show, Abbott Elementary, finally returned for its new season, airing every Wednesday at 9 pm EST/PST. The show, known for its charm and palpable joy, has been greatly missed. In the cold winter months, when news is often disheartening, revisiting the under-resourced hallways of the fictional Abbott Elementary, created and led by Quinta Brunson, provides much-needed comfort, but without the added “guilty pleasure”.

In the Season 3 premiere, we saw substantial changes at Abbott Elementary. Brunson’s character, Janine, is offered a fellowship with the school district, meaning she will not be teaching for the coming year. After the “will they/won’t they” romantic uncertainty with Gregory Eddie (played by Tyler James Williams), their relationship ended in Season 2 and it seems they remain separated, even as Gregory awkwardly rejects Janine’s overtures. Barbara, played by Sheryl Lee Ralph, starts to believe the new trustees in the school district can make a positive impact. Laid-back principal Ava (Janelle James) briefly attempts to be a strict executive, while Melissa (Lisa Ann Walters) breaks up with her boyfriend after he pressures her into marriage. Janine’s new district co-worker might turn out to be a new romantic partner.

The consistency of a sitcom like Abbott Elementary is its charm. Building upon the same reliable humor found in classics such as The Office and Parks and Recreation, Abbott Elementary has found a rhythm in its character-driven humor, something that has been maintained over its first two seasons. As seen in the return episode of Season 3, the new season will continue in the same vein, celebrating both the ordinary (such as Gregory and Janine’s clumsy romantic life) and the unique (numerous Philadelphia references, and cameo appearances from Philadelphia Eagles players Jalen Hurts, Jason Kelce, and Brandon Graham).

With three seasons completed, the show’s writers and viewers are now familiar with the characters, allowing humor to flow quickly and spontaneously. For instance, when Hurts, the Eagles’ quarterback, mistakes Janine for a child participating in career day, it is a continuation of a recurring joke about her youthful appearance and short stature. Similarly, when Gregory reveals a random love for bitter radishes, it is a reminder that his character is an oddball who does not care for pizza (although we still adore him).

Despite loyal viewers continuing to enjoy older shows like The Office and Friends, these days we rarely see new sitcoms achieving instant classic status, either on terrestrial or streaming services. Abbott Elementary is truly distinctive, as evidenced by its recent successful haul at the Emmy Awards. The show is a rarity in 2024.

With every episode visiting the school, I am thankful for the chance to spend time in this quirky, enjoyable setting.

Related content: Emotional Emmy speech and risky decisions for Quinta Brunson in Abbott Elementary, Season 3.

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