Abbott Elementary’s Third Season Tanked, But Fans Are Sticking By The Sitcom


Highlights

  • Abbott Elementary offers a fresh yet familiar take on the struggles of public school teachers, gaining rave reviews for its realistic portrayal.
  • Season three faced challenges due to the WGA strike, resulting in a shorter episode count and changes to the storytelling format.
  • Fans still appreciate the show’s unique blend of idiosyncratic and accessible storytelling, making it a beloved sitcom despite season three criticisms.


Abbott Elementary is the show people didn’t know they needed until it started airing. The quirky mockumentary follows the day-to-day life of an underfunded public school in West Philadelphia. At the center are a chirpy and anxiously positively-thinking teacher, Janine Teagues (played by show creator and comedian Quinta Brunson), her diverse colleagues, and an inept principal. The issues and solutions to problems the teachers face give people a reason to reflect on the realities of the education system.

Naturally, Abbott Elementary became a hit and fans wanted to know more about the sitcom. The show also won several awards for the first two seasons. However, not many fans love season three as they did the first two seasons.

Some fans attribute season three’s weak plot as a casualty due to the WGA strike. The strike was incorporated into the story but left Abbott Elementary with a time jump that may have affected viewer engagement. Ultimately, however, viewers still seem to love the show enough to keep it on the air.


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Fans Think Writers’ Strike Caused Abbott Elementary Season Three’s Weak Plot

The writing lull in season three was due to the WGA strike shortening the creative process before production

The writers’ strike in Hollywood started in May and continued through September 2023. Most productions were halted and that included preparations for coming seasons. To accommodate the delayed shooting of season three, Abbott Elementary decided to skip many things and got right into the central arc, using flashbacks to tell the story.

Abbott Elementary cast
via Rotten Tomatoes

Since Abbott Elementary follows the school calendar year, it decided to start the season from the current time of airing (February), not to go back to the start of the year (September). This move — in part due to the strike — affected season three, and fans discussed how the decision impacted season three of Abbott Elementary.


“Yes, the writing and production of this season were significantly impacted by the strike. They had to figure out ways to write around their plan to align the seasons with the school calendar year,” a fan wrote.

“It wasn’t written during the strike. It was written very quickly after the strike,” another fan noted, which explained the omission of many steps and developing the season’s arc.

Some fans were convinced that the season was waiting for something big to happen, but nothing kept happening.

“Honestly, I feel like I’m waiting for some sort of progression that I feel like isn’t happening,” a fan stated, implying that season three did not have the overarching story that seasons one and two had.”

“I think the problem is there’s no “big” storyline that weaves through the episodes. Everything is solved in a 30-minute episode,” another fan said.


The lack of an overarching plot like the previous episodes, especially when it came to Janine Teagues’ (played by the talented Quinta Brunson) “situationship” with Gregory (played by Tyler James Williams), since (spoiler) it looked like they had closed that chapter at the beginning of season three, may have caused a slow response from viewers.

Another fan stated the quality drop in the story could be because it may not be enjoyable without being binge-watched. “I think this happens where people get into a show partway through or between seasons when they can binge it, and then when faced with the slow drip of a weekly release, it doesn’t hit the same.”

Spoiler:
Season three of
Abbott Elementary
started with some of the biggest changes so far. The first is Janine Teagues moving offices to the district and out of the classroom. She gets to go back to the school halls once or twice a week, but not as often. Therefore, her being the catalyst for most of the plot movement in the school is missing. Not that the other characters are not pulling their weight.

Brunson’s efficacious character is missed, but the story moves on. And with season two having the biggest character developments for most of the cast, we saw them play out with the latest season. However, it took a while to get used to.


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WGA Strike Affected Abbott Elementary And Its Episode Count

Abbott Elementary had to compromise on content due to the school calendar format they had already set up

The WGA strike put a break in many studio productions. Abbott Elementary included. The writers’ room for the show was supposed to open on May 1, 2023, the day before the WGA strike started.

Abbott Elementary cast standing outside by bus stop
Via: ABC

With production due to the writers’ and actors’ strikes — taking half the year with it — adjustments were made to Abbot Elementary’s season three. The first to be compromised was the episode count, with season three only getting 14 episodes, eight episodes less than the second season. The season also focuses on events in the latter half of the school calendar year, omitting the first half.


“It was a giant discussion at the start. Last year we really went by the school schedule. When we were airing was when we wanted the show to be taking place, and we hit Halloween and Christmas and everything like that. So this year, it felt like it would have been very odd to say the first day of school was February 7,” Executive Producer, Justin Halpern, revealed.

“But we also wanted to get those new first-day-of-school vibes and see what was happening with the show. So we were like ‘Alright, let’s see if we can do both.'”

Many ideas on how to start the season were raised, an obvious being the teachers also going on strike. However, that would have been ‘on the nose.’ And what people would most likely be staying away from is more strikes.

“That was, for obvious reasons, at the forefront of our minds, but then we thought it was a little bit too meta,” Executive Producer Patrick Schumaker told Deadline.

“Also, having just gone through a five-month strike, we were like, ‘I don’t think I also want to write about that,'” Halpern added.


In the end, the writers settled on the idea that the school year hadn’t stopped at all. Instead, the cameras just hadn’t been around. The documentary crew had their camera equipment stolen, and it had taken them five months to save up enough money to buy new equipment. This is also a running tale of underfunding present in the sitcom.

“I think the notion of the camera equipment getting stolen felt too delicious to pass up, and it also felt like it’s something that very few mockumentaries could get away with but felt kind of in our world,” Schumacker said.

Abbott Elementary Is Loved For Its Fresh But Familiar Story

Abbott Elementary gets rave reviews for its realistic portrayal of the everyday struggles of public school teachers

Abbott got great reviews when it started for being different, and yet similar. With a mockumentary format close to other sitcoms like The Office, Abbott Elementary distinguished itself early on. With a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes, the sitcom has proven that show creator Quinta Brunson knew exactly what story she wanted to tell.


The cast of Abbott Elementary.jpeg
Instar

Brunson received much praise for hacking the sitcom genre and bringing success with a story about ordinary teachers. Her style of storytelling is what made Abbott Elementary a beloved show.

That’s because she offers something different. “From the beginning, the show had a distinctive mix: it was idiosyncratic but accessible, familiar but fresh, warm but not sweaty. Its success was seen as a sign of hope for an old-school model of TV,” The New Yorker wrote. Meanwhile, Brunson revealed she gets her inspiration from the quirky shows she watched growing up.

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Additionally, what makes Abbott Elementary work, according to some fans, is the close realism the sitcom provides. It doesn’t go out of its way to present on-the-nose jokes that may make caricatures of real situations teachers in public schools face. Rather, it uses comedy to portray the bleak realities of these situations, taking a lighter approach to solving them.


That’s why some fans love the sitcom. “The plot lines are realistic; almost too blandly realistic. It’s relatable but not funny,” a fan stated.

Many have shared this sentiment, pointing out that it provides entertainment without exactly coping with previous mockumentary formats of older sitcoms. It may be familiar, but it is still comedy gold.

Regardless of what people think, Abbott Elementary is definitely ticking all the right boxes of a great sitcom, joining other greats.



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