ABC’s breakout new comedy series Abbott Elementary is carrying the flag for broadcast television at the 2022 Emmy Awards as the only network show to land a nomination in the Outstanding Comedy or Drama Series categories. While many creators gravitate toward streaming these days, Abbott Elementary creator/executive producer Quinta Brunson is happy to be doing her show for broadcast.
“I think making network comedy is an art form,” she said during The Hamden Journal’s Contenders Television: The Nominees virtual awards-season event. “I think it takes a lot of skill to be able to create the kind of ad breaks that are built around commercials, to fit 22 minutes of funny and heart and joy into that format is not easy and its exciting for me.”
Brunson’s co-star Sheryl Lee Ralph shared a recent conversation she had with prolific TV producer Aaron Kaplan about Abbott Elementary in which he told her, “this little comedy of excellence is probably saving broadcast comedy, broadcast TV, because it’s just great and everybody loves it.”
Brunson and Ralph both received acting Emmy nominations for playing optimistic young teacher Janine Teagues and her veteran colleague Barbara Howard, respectively. Brunson also is nominated for writing the pilot and shares in the Outstanding Comedy Series nom for the show that documents the day-to-day events in a Philadelphia public school, focusing on the lives of the teachers and staff and the daily challenges they face.
When asked how she felt about Abbott Elementary’s representation of education, fellow Emmy-nominated cast member Janelle James, who plays inept principal Ava Coleman, said, “I’m happy to be a show that’s focused on teachers and shows how important they are. I always think that thats a no-brainer, but I guess people need to be reminded, so I’m glad that we’re putting those thoughts in their heads.”
Although very few clues were given out about the upcoming Season 2, Abbott Elementary‘s fourth acting nominee, Tyler James Williams, spoke about the complications the budding romance between his character, Gregory Eddie, and Brunson’s Janine, will be facing.
“We ended the season with this timing issue, where you have Janine breaking up with Tareek but then at the same time Gregory is starting a thing with Taylor, Barbara’s daughter, and hopefully we can keep playing with that, the real life of it all, the push and pull that sometimes things just don’t line up,” he said.
Ending on the ever-pressing issue of diversity and representation in TV, Brunson explained that the diversity in the cast wasn’t “just like sticking people… some people in some world to fill a diversity quota, but getting stories from other places so that we can, humanize people and connect people to each other and I’m happy that Abbott is able to do that.”
She then quickly switched the serious tone to humor, pointing out the rather unconventional types of representation she’d gotten praise for, from Gregory’s character’s hatred of pizza to Ava’s Doomsday preparation.
Check back Monday for the panel video.