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'Schooled' Doesn't Apply Itself
January 9, 2019  | By David Hinckley
 

It’s probably too late for Disney to un-buy the ABC television network. But if we had a time machine and that purchase could be undone, Schooled might have been a better sitcom.

Schooled, which premieres Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC, revolves around a woman who was the valedictorian of screw-ups in her high school days and now has returned to the same school several years later as a teacher.

AJ Michalka (top) plays Lainey Lewis, who left William Penn Academy with dreams of becoming a rock star. Instead, after several years playing kids’ birthday parties and singing backup harmonies for commercials, she ended up with only a scary level of credit card debt.

Prompted by her parents to get a real job, she applied to be a music teacher at William Penn, and landed the gig despite having no experience and, frankly, not a lot of qualification.

If the name William Penn Academy sounds vaguely familiar, it’s the name of the school in ABC’s hit series The Goldbergs. Schooled is a spinoff from The Goldbergs. Adam Goldberg is producing Schooled, and apparently convinced ABC to go ahead with it after the network first decided not to.

Set in the 1990s, Schooled has a premise we can work with. Teachers returning to their old school has been a successful gambit before, witness Matthew Morrison on Glee, and a new-wave teacher shaking up a staid music program – well, do the words Jack Black and School of Rock mean anything to you?

Lainey goes into her new gig with the right attitude. She’s still the kid who was looking for every angle to break the rules and avoid all the work. So when she faces a current student with the same game plan, Felicia Winston (Rachel Crow), Lainey can stay one move ahead.

That doesn’t mean Lainey always wins. It does give her an entry point that just might buy her enough time so she can learn how to actually become a teacher.

Naturally she immediately takes on a de facto family at William Penn. That includes Principal Glasscott (Tim Meadows, top) and Coach Mellor (Bryan Callen, top), who remembers Lainey as the delinquent she was.

This is the early point at which Glee, to name one random recent high school show, wisely introduced a pattern of sporadic ongoing tension.

Lainey and coach Mellor will of course become colleagues as they share experiences and dramas. They need points of conflict, however, and while we undoubtedly will get some of those as the show rolls along, Schooled feels compelled in the first episode to reassure us there will also be heartwarming bonding.

That’s in addition to several terribly sweet light-bulb moments, when characters realize everything will improve if they just let themselves look at their work and mission in a generous, more open light.

Schooled also feels compelled, up front, to shower overt praise on teachers and the profession of teaching.

That praise is, of course, deserved and something we should all keep in mind in our real lives.

But Schooled isn’t a documentary. It’s a sitcom. It needs to find humor in real life, which doesn’t mean just setup jokes about rookie teachers who show up the first day wearing two different-colored shoes.

It’s fine if Schooled wants to incorporate big chunks of sentimental. That’s worked for The Goldbergs. It’s also fine if Schooled wants to lead us to a happy ending. When it feels like the happy ending has been dropped into the first episode, however, the whole thing needs a little less Disney.

 
 
 
 
 
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