When it comes to viewers comparing her show to “The Office,” Abbott Elementary’s Quinta Brunson doesn’t really believe them. She believes that these are completely different shows, except for the fact that they are both workplace comedies. However, the comparisons were so strong that her co-star Tyler James Williams can no longer watch the NBC sitcom. But one thing that unites both sitcoms is their signature style — mockumentary. Now, amid the ongoing comparisons, Brunson has explained why the pseudo-documentary format was right for her show.
The creator of Abbott Elementary originally conceived the sitcom as an animated series, and then teamed up with the executive producer of The Office Randall Einhorn. But even before he was on board, the pseudo-documentary style of the series was always something that was in the mind of the creative. Brunson opened up for Deadline, during which she explained that school life makes sense to be filmed as a documentary:
Mockumentary has always been a part of the show. I knew mockumentary would be suitable for this story because I don’t think mockumentary should be used for no reason. I think there must be a reason. And I thought, what better way to tell about this school than through a documentary? I think documentaries are fascinating. What do different people give to the camera, who is trying to be in front of the camera and what is really going on? And I thought it was a great tool for these characters.
Studying the workplace in a pseudo-documentary format is interesting and gives a unique laugh that only a show made in this format can give. Characters such as Ava Coleman, Jacob Hill and Melissa Shementi were created for the format, given the chaotic nature of the chemistry of colleagues. The format and these unique personalities may have brought Abbott Elementary high ratings during the first season. However, it’s hard to deny that the ABC sitcom has the traits of “The Office,” as well as “Parks and Recreation,” “Studio 30” and “Renault 911” in its DNA.
As some may know, the comedy series was a tribute to Brunson’s sixth grade teacher, Miss Abbott. Another influence was her upbringing as the daughter of a schoolteacher. There have been several occasions when the actress has observed very surreal moments between her mother and her colleagues. One particular parent-teacher conference seems to have been the main factor that pushed her to create a pseudo-documentary focused on teachers:
It was also the moment when I saw my mom, the moment when I really got inspired for this idea. I was looking at my mom sitting at her desk and she was holding a parent-teacher meeting. And that was a year before she was going to retire. And I felt it. I felt like, “Wow, right now I feel like a pseudo-documentary style camera because I’m in this room, but I’m not involved in what’s going on, I’m just watching it.” But I am physically in this room, and I wanted the audience to feel the same. And I think it has a lot to do with how we feel about Abbott humor. It’s one thing to laugh at teachers, it’s another thing to laugh with them. And I feel that this pseudo-documentary style gives our audience the opportunity to laugh with them, they are part of the school.
So the comedienne created the show she wanted to watch, and the experience she describes in the show is very similar to real life. I mean, anyone who has been to a parent-teacher meeting probably knows the frank or funny moments that can happen in the classroom, especially when children participate in them. I’m still wondering what exactly happened during that meeting that made a potential producer think that such a show could work.
Obviously, using these sharp observations for the show worked for the actress-writer, as Abbott Elementary received several Emmy Award nominations in 2022 after the first season. Thus, the ABC sitcom has an advantage over “The Office”, as this show was met with lackluster responses during the first season. Currently, Quinta Brunson and Co. are working on the 2nd season, which will be even bigger than the first, thanks to a full order for 22 episodes. One would hope that as the show goes on, it will continue to go its own way and move away from any comparisons to the legendary NBC show.
The premiere of the second season of Abbott Elementary will take place on September 21 at the coveted 21:00. time interval Eastern time. If you want to catch up before the premiere of the second season, purchase a Hulu subscription to watch the entire first season.