Review: ‘Teachers’ misbehaves (in a sunny way) on TV Land

Los Angeles Times Television Critic

In approaching “Teachers,” an amiably misbehaving new sitcom premiering Wednesday on TV Land, it’s best to first rid yourself of the notion that it’s in any way representative of the titular profession or even much of a satire on it. The question it seems to raise, rather, is what sort of setting might six women in their 20s plausibly inhabit that would allow them equal screen time and opportunities to interact in any number of combinations. The answer: Make them elementary school teachers.

It’s a question that was worked out before this Web-born series moved to old-fashioned television, bringing with it bits and pieces of the original for adaptive reuse. (Alison Brie, of “Community,” is an executive producer; the show runners are Ian Roberts and Jay Martel, who previously ran “Key & Peele.”) The TV version amplifies the characters, played now as then by members of the Chicago-formed comedy group the Katydids, but more colorfully drawn and clearly delineated here, with full-blown sitcom premises and story lines to swim around in: The superintendent is paying a visit, and all needs to go well, and won’t; the new girlfriend of someone’s ex-boyfriend joins the staff; an anti-bullying program leads to a rash of bullying.

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It’s best to keep in mind, too, that this is not your slightly older relative’s TV Land; the network, whose original program first took shape around the ranks of Too Old for Network Prime Time Players, has younger viewers in its sights. Not that Wendy and Betty and Valerie and Jane couldn’t get racy on “Hot in Cleveland,” but the degree of explicitness and the amount of sexual and anatomical humor on offer here is closer to what Katydids peers put out on “Broad City” and “Inside Amy Schumer.” As if in recognition of this, the show — whose youngest players will have to wait seven or eight years to be allowed to watch — airs at 11 p.m.

That the talk, much of which cannot be reproduced here, may reflect actual conversations on real-world teachers’ lounges may be true, but is also beside the point. To the extent that the humor depends on the setting, it’s in the way that the teachers, who are collectively and to varying degrees needy, confused, cautiously hopeful, self-obsessed, sad, lonely and angry, inflict their own darkness on their students.

“Sometimes Prince Charming wants to date other people,” teacher Caroline (Kate Lambert) tells her class, “and just because you leave a shoe in his apartment doesn’t mean you can show up whenever you want. Nobody lives happily ever after.”

“Is that supposed to be me?” preening teacher Chelsea (Katy Colloton) dismissively asks a student who has brought her a drawing of them together. “Where are my cheekbones? Let’s just consider this a rough draft.”

Rounding out this less than merry band are teachers Deb (Kathryn Renée Thomas), who volunteers at a suicide hotline “as a hobby”; the consciousness-conscious Cecilia (Caitlin Barlow), who uses “fractions to teach about the inequalities transgender people face”; Mary Louise (Katie O’Brien), traditional but fatally impressionable; and A.J. (Cate Freedman), for whom I have no ready description. (She is the oddball among oddballs, perhaps.) Tim Bagley is their principal, exasperated.

Some will feel right at home here right away; and some will be in bed by then. For the rest, it’s worth investing in a few episodes to get used to the milieu and the music; though the humor stays rough, the show feels sunnier as the company grows more familiar.




Where: TV Land and Nickelodeon

When: 11 p.m. Wednesday

Rating: TV-14-L (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with an advisory for coarse language)