[This post contains details from the Teachers episode that aired Jan. 13]
Teaching is tough. It requires putting — or, at the very least, attempting to put — your own issues aside to focus on the betterment of your students. And the teachers of Teachers are not good at that, especially when it comes to trying to prevent bullying in the show’s premiere episode. Not good at all.
This is a good and bad thing for the TV Land comedy, which is adapted from a webseries by the Katydids improv group: Good, because sometimes it works in the show’s favor, like when one misguided and lovably spacey teacher, AJ (Cate Freedman), educates her class about bullying by having them shout out insulting phrases. Bad, because sometimes it veers into overdone territory, reinforcing tired stereotypes like the teacher who just can’t get over her break-up and won’t stop talking to her students about it.
Pilots shouldn’t be expected to debut fully-formed, complicated, unique characters — but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t break the mold a bit to favor newer stories over stale clichés. But in Teachers, there’s the previously mentioned still-grieving ex-girlfriend, Caroline (Kate Lambert), and a traumatized former emo teen named Deb (Kathryn Renée Thomas), who dons a messy (like, it-looks-like-she-did-her-makeup-drunk-and-in-the-dark messy) smoky eye and can’t stop talking about her former bully (played by executive producer Alison Brie). Both are characters you’ve seen before. Both are characters you aren’t exactly dying to see again.
The show is weakest in moments when they completely lean into these cookie-cutter characters, like when Caroline tells her class that “a bully is someone who generally disregards your feelings, ignores your texts, and changes the password on your joint Netflix account two days after you break up” or when Deb gets to head a bullying group because, as she angrily exclaims, “I used to cut myself.” (Note: Self-harm rarely works as a punchline.)
Those moments don’t make up the entire half-hour though, and it’s more enjoyable than not. Mary-Louise’s (Katie O’Brien) suppressed-but-giddy reaction when a surprisingly hot dad comes in for a parent-teacher conference is pure, relatable gold, and Deb giving her new anti-bullying group a name that, when condensed to an acronym, spells out “stab” is hilarious in its inappropriateness. Turns out that young children enthusiastically chanting “stab” over and over again is quite amusing (and quite creepy — horror filmmakers, take note).
The pilot’s strongest scenes are ones like the aforementioned, uncomfortable and unexpected but with hints of thinly veiled delight. It helps that all of the stars are skilled comedians and solid actresses that make even the flatter jokes and played-out scenarios still come off as somewhat fresh. As the show goes on, it’s likely the jokes will get better and the characters will morph into more than formulaic paper dolls. But even if they don’t, at least they’re funny formulaic paper dolls. And for that, Teachers gets an A for effort.
Watch Teachers when it airs Wednesdays at 11 p.m. ET on TV Land. See a trailer for the show below.
We wrote a react for this episode, which means we’ll just be checking in occasionally, but if this is a show you’d like to read about each week, please let us know! You can email firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback and suggestions.