Is AP Bio a Worthy Comedy Successor?
Ever since Netflix started purging my favorite shows (here we are, pouring one out to How I Met Your Mother, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and LOST), I've joined the dark side: Hulu. Yeah, it sort of seems like using Bing over Google and doesn't have any cool taglines like Hulu and Chill, but it's okay, because Hulu has provided me a new show that I can't yet binge but still enjoy: AP Bio.
The show is based in Toledo, Ohio, where Jack Griffin is somehow teaching AP Bio to a group of quite strange but endearing high schoolers after losing his dream job to his arch-nemesis. Part of the appeal of the show for me is casting Glenn Howerton. After his run on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia as a mastermind/borderline-sociopath that somehow still finds his way into viewers' hearts, Howerton plays the similar role of a bitter man with an undying superiority complex, but shows a different side in his sweet acclimation to the lack of city glitz and glam. The show so far has touched briefly on topics of bullying, student achievement stress, and single-motherhood, that I feel could have definitely been fleshed out more, but don't get enough credit for capturing the nuances of these topics.
I was partly shocked, consequently, after reading a rather scathing review of the show in The New York Times that criticized it as being tasteless. The critique focuses mainly on the low-caliber humor characterizing the show. But there's always some strange relatability to watching the antics of overachieving high school students, but when you mix that with caustic humor and misanthropy, you get the even better and incredibly amusing result that is AP Bio. It's not like the topic of rude teachers is foreign to any generation, nor is bullying. Being able to watch the realities unfold in the show presents us with realities we don't necessarily want to admit, especially to lay viewers.
But there are reasons besides the fact that I feel like I'm watching Dennis Reynolds gone Harvard that I like AP Bio so much. This show definitely takes a thoughtful and subtle critique on the egos of those in higher education and ever-prevent urban elitism. Parents simply don't care about Jack's lack of course material, the principal seeks to appease all the desires of this man who seems to really only have his credentials going for him. Why is this okay? Because he's from Harvard, as if that actually means anything at all. AP Bio gives a pretty grave reality check to those in Jack's shoes, unwilling to recognize the merits of the less educated or less privileged.
At the beginning of the show, Jack's behavior is undoubtedly problematic, but it's also changing as Jack begins to appreciate the colleagues he once saw as purely inferior and as he starts to inspire his students with his philosophical musings. The Times review seems to miss the point of the show; or maybe coming to terms with the shortcomings of urban elitism is a hard pill to swallow.
And I feel like it's definitely too soon to conclude what the show's actual content will be. Maybe you won't, NYT, but I'll keep watching.
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