“Abbott Elementary” Mockumentary Official Trailer and Review | Entertainment

"Abbott Elementary" Mockumentary Official Trailer and Review | Entertainment

Official Trailer and Review of the Mockumentary “Abbott Elementary”

When The Office first aired (see, This Is Spinal Tap), mockumentary was not a new idea, but British and American versions of the show took the genre in a new direction—specifically, TV.  Since then, innovation has turned to imitation, and many have tried their hand at imitation-style sitcoms;  Shows like Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, or even Arrested Development.
The advent of reality TV initially marked the decline of scripted shows as a means of entertainment, but the imitation genre sitcoms were the solution.  As a method of filmmaking, it makes a lot of sense.  This allows for greater ease of writing, as characters can verbalize what they are thinking or feeling directly to the camera, drawing inspiration from reality TV talking heads, the format allows for cheaper productions because  Most episodes can be bottle episodes, and the camera can become a character, enabling himself to add commentary to scene within scene, using something as simple as a quick zoom.
Using the camera work, editing, and character-driven methods of Abbott Elementary’s mock predecessors, adding the endlessly earnest and amusing space of a South Philadelphia public school, and leaving behind the satirical humor, Quinta Bronson reimagines the mockumentary sitcom  made alive.  In a way that seems purposeful.

Cringe Humor – Abbott Elementary

The Office (US) was a kinder, gentler and less awkward adaptation of the show’s original version from the UK.  This was most evident in the characters Michael Scott (Steve Carell) versus David Brent (Ricky Gervais).  Where David is incredibly cringe-problematic, obnoxious and rude, Michael has an innocence about him that is still ignorant and problematic, but decidedly more human.  There are more than enough think pieces on The Office and how it won’t be made today given the politically correct social climate.  And that very well may be true.  Long, awkward silences, Jim Halpert’s (John Krasinski) browbeaten eyebrows, skewering reaction shots while commenting on the discomfort of being trapped by an incompetent and insensitive boss with little social awareness is insanely relatable.  But even American Office, well beyond the second season, shied away from the not-so-weird-you-look vibe of the original.
Parks and Recreation and Modern Family also tone down the cringe in their mockumentary-style sitcoms – preferring to be on this side of too uncomfortable to watch.  Instead, they leaned a bit more on cartoon characters and real-world response.  Abbott Elementary feels like a continuation in the direction of Parks & Rick and Modern Family—involving the silly (with a dash of cringe) without going overboard with the weirdness.  And it really works.  There are two characters who embody Michael Scott’s ignorance or the harmless voluptuousness of Parks and Rick’s Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari);  Social media influencer/school principal Ava Coleman (Janelle James) and “wake up” white boy teacher Jacob Hill (Chris Parfetti) who mean good but regularly get it so wrong.  They both bring out the more outspoken comedy and hint of discomfort that might deal with someone with a lack of self-awareness—but they don’t surpass the meanness brought on by the same kinds of characters in ridicule.  Past.

A Kinder Comedy – Abbott Elementary

One thing that suggests that The Office will never be able to make it today is that the new age of comedy is one that is based on stereotypes of marginalized people or “punching down”.  Things like sexual harassment are taken so seriously that watching The Office currently feels less relatable than a reminder of how far we’ve come in the last nearly twenty years.  Abbott Elementary accomplished this by being funny without crossing the line of meanness, and it’s a pleasure to watch.  All the previous iterations of the fake sitcom have had some problematic moments and material that hasn’t exactly aged well.  Whether it’s Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler)’s white-feminist brand of social consciousness, or a straight man playing a gay character like Modern Family’s Cam Tucker (Eric Stonestreet), or the office’s near-constant at the expense of more marginalized characters  Be it problematic jokes, there’s a lot to improve.  The Office tried to be as careful as possible when giving this material to less aspirational, and at least self-aware characters, but it didn’t always get through to some demographic of the audience who didn’t find that Michael wasn’t laughing with.  Should go but on.  Even with the way Parks and Rick treat Jerry Gergich (Jim O’Heer) and so on, The Office’s Toby Flenderson (Paul Lieberstein) turns their more benevolent characters into bullies.  It’s funny, of course, a scapegoat character’s irrational collective hatred (especially when he works for HR) feels like an inside joke with audiences, but Abbott Elementary himself is a crutch.  Inspires not to use meanness in the form.  The comedy mostly comes from the situation of a very conscientious second year teacher, Janine looking to do well at a workplace where the odds are stacked against her.

Location, Location, Location – Abbott Elementary

The school building itself plays a significant role in the attraction of Abbott Elementary.  The lights are always going out, teachers don’t have enough supplies, staff all come from different backgrounds and their teaching styles and personalities vary greatly, students are funny and wacky in a way only kids can  , and also add another layer of parent-child drama and comedy.  This does not mean that the ignorant and bisexual administrator who constantly makes the teacher’s job more difficult.  There is also an old mentor who has all the best and funny lines in every episode.  An inner-city school with limited resources can be a sad setting for a TV show or movie (and usually serves as a vehicle for a weary “white savior” trope), but Abbott Elementary makes it delightful.  makes.  It harks back to some of Parks and Recreation’s best moments when compulsive workhorse Leslie Knope would hold town hall meetings featuring a very disgruntled and oppositional Pawnee population.  The ridiculousness of caring too much when no one else cares enough is fertile ground for laughs.  The scenarios that Janine and other teachers have to work with pertain to teachers across the country.  These aren’t made-up problems, they really don’t even need to be exaggerated to have a comedic effect.  In fact, the realism of Abbott Elementary comes from Quinta Bronson’s mother’s experience as an elementary school teacher in Philadelphia.  Being at K-8 Abbott Elementary School provides many different levels and situations for humor from students and their interactions with teachers.

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Outside of the actual comedy of sitcoms, Abbott Elementary also offers a very honest glimpse into what teachers actually do — everything from work, pay, problems, emotional labor, and what feels important and relevant, especially right now.  This more serious (and more political) background plot is reminiscent of The Office chronicling Dunder Mifflin’s decline as a paper company that existed through the economic downturn and tried to survive through the country’s digitization, leading to  Their product has become obsolete.

A strong cast of characters – Abbott Elementary

One thing all these spoofs have in common is a strong cast of unique characters.  Leslie Knope cares so much it hurts, Michael Scott reminds his staff and audience to play more like children, Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle remind viewers to engage in self-care and luxury,  And all real romantic couples provide beautiful examples of love, companionship and partnership.  These shows are at the heart of the tight-knit outfit that makes them so successful and enjoyable to watch.  Following the characters, as they grow and change, become more fleshed out and fully realized what it takes to get to know them.  They feel like friends.  This is what got The Office so right and also fueled all the fake ridicule that followed.  Abbott Elementary is once again taking this to a whole new level.  After only six episodes, each character’s personality is evident and adds something special to the ensemble.
Veteran teacher Barbara Howard (Sherrill Lee Ralph) takes her job seriously, she is the best and most respected teacher in the school, but she is too proud and finds it difficult to ask for help.  Janine looks up to Barbara and wants to be like her, but hasn’t found her footing yet.  Janine’s honesty is her sweetest and most irritating (at least to her coworkers) quality.  He is the heart at the center of the show and the school.  Born and raised in South Philly, Melissa Schemamenti (Lisa Anne Walter) is ziti-baking, tough-talking, possibly comedic relief from the Mafia.  Whenever she is on-screen, she laughs.  And Gregory Eddie (Tyler James Williams) is Abbott’s answer to Jim Halpert.  As the newest staff member and a temporary substitute teacher at the time, he’s an outsider—he’s not yet accustomed to the awkwardness of this workplace.  Similar to Romeo, a resident of The Office, he’s grounded, he’s charming, effortlessly cool, he seems like a nice, normal guy, and he already seems to have a pretty sweet crush on Janine—there’s value in him.  Looking at it this way or not one really feels.  Not to mention the fact that they happen to have a great eye-contact-camera-like-something-really-ridiculous-face.  The budding romance, Janine’s growing self-confidence, Gregory’s opening up to taking care of the kids, the workplace, and his feelings for Janine, and seeing employees work together to solve problems and the mess made by their bubbling administrator  Cleaning up becomes more complicated for everyone.  Weekly Episodes.  It is easy to invest.

Documentary – Abbott Elementary

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but let’s be real, the quality is never the same as the original.  The shooting style of The Office really blew everyone’s senses.  This kind of storytelling innovation has become a trend on TV.  Parks and Recreation followed, and it was a great show, but the documentary-style purpose was lost.  Modern Family was likewise imitating the style without giving much thought to the purpose.  This is the biggest reason why these shows are less effective than The Office.  In its final season, The Office revealed the reason why a documentary film crew had been following the people of Dunder Mifflin, Scranton for the past nine years—they were actually making a documentary.  Postmodernism comes full-circle with the release of the documentary, responding to the reactions of the people who watch it, and each character giving their own commentary on watching the last decade of their lives that appears within the documentary itself.  There’s even a place -hey-they-now live Q&A in the finale episode after the release of The Doctor.  It was a complete story.  “Why” was answered.  The mockumentary genre was not used simply because it created easy storytelling, cheap sets, and because it was “in style” at the time (especially considering that The Office’s wild success was the reason it became all the rage.  in the first place).  It wasn’t a reaction to the past few years’ obsession with reality TV, the documentary was an important part of the story—absolutely present;  Planned, thoughtful and complete.
The documentary genre is never addressed in Parks and Rec and Modern Family.  Why are these ordinary people expressing their thoughts and feelings directly in the camera?  nobody knows.  Why is a camera crew chasing these people when they live their lives?  nobody knows.
Abbott Elementary doesn’t make this mistake.  From the first few minutes of the pilot episode, the characters comment on the film crew and reveal that a documentary is being made about the school.  Reference.  Accepting the documentary immediately adds a whole new layer to the mockumentary-style sitcom, and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds in future episodes and seasons of the show.

Source:  Britt Cannon, Collider, Direct News 99

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