Annie Potts, as Palo Alto high school teacher Louanne Johnson in Dangerous Minds, likes to greet her troublesome but lovable students by saying ”Good morning, my darling babies!” She says it with a snarl, to signal genuine affection tempered by genuine skepticism, and for this bracingly ambivalent attitude alone, the TV version of the Michelle Pfeiffer movie should be encouraged. Potts is terrific in her role, and so are the raft of young actors portraying her students, even if prime-time broadcast standards render their language absurdly prim.
Minds is squarely in the tradition of shows like Room 222 and Mr. Novak — i.e., school is cool, and a problem child can usually be fixed. Louanne’s nemesis, fellow teacher Bud Bartkus (Stanley Anderson), articulates the counterargument to attempts by teachers like her to redeem the difficult students: ”He is not a good kid,” Bartkus says of one, sneering, ”Oh, he’s been deprived, so he shouldn’t have to take responsibilities for his actions.” Dangerous Minds contains the usual amount of shudderingly mediocre teaching philosophy that infests real-life schools — Louanne asks, ”What is Lewis Carroll trying to say to us here?” rather than filling her bright-eyed empty vessels with knowledge about Carroll’s text — but its own subtext is that school, more important than being cool, is interesting. B-