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'A.P. Bio' Is an Experiment in Comedy That Fails
February 1, 2018  | By David Hinckley

A good TV sitcom doesn’t require the breadth and nuance of King Lear. It does require a little more than we get in A.P. Bio.

A.P. Bio, which previews Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC (and premieres on March 1), is a new sitcom from producers Lorne Michaels, Mike O’Brien, and Seth Meyers, and if you think that means it’s saturated with Saturday Night Live DNA, hey, good guess.

That includes sharp dialogue, cool pop culture details and an idea that probably would work better as a short burst than sustained drama.

Glenn Howerton (top, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) stars as Jack Griffin, a philosophy professor with a Harvard pedigree who takes it for granted he’s the smartest guy in any room.

But he ran into a little trouble en route to the A-list college professor hall of fame, and now he finds himself spending a year teaching advanced placement biology at Whitlock High School back in his hometown of Toledo.

He’s leagues above the school, and Toledo, and he doesn’t hesitate to let everyone know it. Jack doesn’t have a lot of filters, a trait that makes him as special as every other self-absorbed sitcom character.

He walks into class the first day carrying a crowbar, which he tosses onto the desk before announcing he doesn’t care about biology or the students, so he has no intention of teaching either it or them.

Instead, he’s going to spend the year crafting an elaborate revenge plot against Miles (Tom Bennett), a seemingly milquetoast character who got the philosophy job Jack knows should be his own.

Jack does, however, discover a use for his students: as an army of draftees in his war against Miles. Soon he has them lobbing cybershells as a preliminary attack to start softening up Miles’s perimeter.

The idea that a class full of motivated advancement placement-level nerds would accept this development may stretch credibility a touch. The idea that the clueless principal Durban (Patton Oswalt, right) would accept it might stretch it a little further.

The idea that the faculty and the whole school see nothing alarming about Jack? Well, okay, it’s time to pull out the old “lighten up, it’s a sitcom” defense.

The A.P. class, who will become the show’s nuclear family, includes some promising candidates. There’s Devin (Jacob McCarthy, above, with Howerton and Oswalt), who’s Goth without the color black and also is a victim of bullying. There’s smart and well-groomed Sarika (Aparna Brielle), who finds Jack appalling.

Others are sure to blossom as the show rolls along, and you don’t have to be an advanced placement student to guess Jack is going to gradually discover some of his dormant or suppressed humanity through his interaction with the students.

So there’s that to look forward to. And there’s whatever happens with Miles. And there’s whatever backstory Miles brings to the game. And there’s an explanation of why Jack didn’t get the philosophy gig.

There’s probably some growth for the kids, too.

It’s a little too much for an SNL skit. That doesn’t mean it’s enough for a series. Too often the viewer may find his or her mind wandering to peripheral questions like how easily we can imagine Meyers himself playing Jack Griffin.

A.P. Bio is closer to detention than the honor roll.

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