By Ken Tucker
Updated March 15, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

Because she’s so familiar to us, it’s easy to underestimate an actress like Meredith Baxter, who stars in the new sitcom The Faculty. As Flynn Sullivan, vice principal of a TV-typical junior high school filled with smart-alecky students and wacky teachers, Baxter must find ways to get around the bureaucratic bumbling of a dimwit principal (Peter Michael Goetz) while trading cynical jokes with her pal and colleague Shelly (Constance Shulman). When Flynn complains that there are too many students, Shelly fires back, ”You see, when you vaccinate ’em, this is what happens.”

Baxter became a TV star as the wonderfully stiff-backed older daughter Nancy in Family (1976-80), headed up her own household in Family Ties, and has since secured longevity in various woman-in-distress TV movies. Her work, including her performance in The Faculty, is invariably characterized by a quiet strength tinged with just enough wryness to make her seem both hardheaded and likable. The Faculty isn’t very funny, but it’s comfortable; the moment I liked best was when a stressed-out Flynn snuck a smoke in the girls’ room. B-

The Faculty

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  • Robert Rodriguez