Series creator Quinta Brunson shares one key difference between Abbott Elementary and The Office, making the ABC sitcom more like Parks and Rec.
Abbott Elementary creator Quinta Brunson explains the key difference between the show and the popular American sitcom The Office. ABC’s hit mockumentary-style series premiered in December 2021 and follows a group of teachers at a Philadelphia public school. Brunson stars as Janine Teagues, an eager and passionate second-grade teacher who leads her fellow teachers in their fight to give their students the best possible education. Abbott Elementary stars Tyler James Williams, Janelle James, Lisa Ann Walter, Chris Perfetti, and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Abbott Elementary was met with critical acclaim upon its release, becoming a breakout hit of the season. The series received praise for its ability to balance humor and class issues and for the cast’s performances. Abbott Elementary reveals real problems with the public school systems while focusing on the devoted teachers who work there. In April, ABC renewed the series for Abbott Elementary season 2.
Quinta Brunson recently did a Variety: Actors on Actors feature with Severance‘s Adam Scott to discuss her show Abbott Elementary. Because of Abbott Elementary’s mockumentary style and popularity, many viewers have compared it to The Office, but Brunson argued that there is a critical difference between the two shows. As Brunson put it, the characters in Abbott Elementary are very welcoming to their audience, while The Office‘s characters are not. Because of this, Brunson considers Abbott Elementary more similar to Parks and Recreation. Check out Brunson’s full explanation of the difference below:
“Weirdly, you know, Abbott gets compared to The Office a lot, but I would say it’s a little bit closer to Parks [and Recreation]. It is somewhere in the middle, and we knew that from the beginning. But I always thought in The Office the goal was not to invite. Nobody there except Michael was inviting, and his was done in lack of self-awareness. But in Parks everyone felt very inviting… I just thought more characters there were like, Yeah, welcome to our story. And I think I studied a lot of that for Janine”
Considering Abbott Elementary‘s setting, it makes sense for the characters to be more inviting than Dunder Mifflin’s employees. If Abbott’s teachers were as dour or uncompromising as Rainn Wilson’s Dwight on The Office, the underfunded school would seem depressing rather than humorous. In that sense, Brunson’s decision to adapt Parks and Recreation‘s friendlier tone to her characters may have given Abbott Elementary its magic spark.
Being compared to The Office and Parks and Recreation so frequently after only one season is quite a compliment for Abbott Elementary. When The Office first aired on NBC, it set the gold standard for mockumentary-style series. The hit show maintained its popularity for its nine-season run, although it dipped slightly after series lead Steve Carrell departed the show. Parks and Recreation achieved high marks for its seven seasons, but unlike Abbott Elementary, neither The Office nor Parks and Recreation garnered such a high critical response for their first seasons. Hopefully, Brunson and the rest of her team can continue the same success when Abbott Elementary season 2 premieres this fall.
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