Earlier this week Rolling Stone published an article, “Abbott Elementary Is Leading a Network Sitcom Comeback” and while I’m not sure about whether or not this really is an actual comeback for network sitcoms in general, it is true that since Abbott Elementary premiered just over a month ago on ABC as a mid-season debut, just before the holiday season no less (traditionally not considered a boom time for TV), and building on good old fashioned word-of-mouth, it’s become one of the most popular and beloved shows of the moment.
Abbott Elementary is about a group of predominantly Black teachers at an under-funded public school in Philadelphia with a predominantly Black student body so it’s a show about work that’s also a commentary on class and it’s a tribute to educators and it’s funny, really, really funny and smart. Oh and, on top of all that, it seemed to just materialise, fully formed, like without the bumpiness that can happen in the first few episodes of a new series that has to establish what it is, where they are, and who they are. The world of Abbott Elementary distinguished itself immediately, the chemistry between these characters is already there from the moment we meet them. Everything about it feels fresh and familiar at the same time, almost as though they’ve already been on for a couple of seasons and yet every episode still has the bloom of discovery, kinda like Quinta Brunson herself.
Quinta is the creator and star of Abbott Elementary, and what a year it’s been for her. It was just last February that ABC greenlit the pilot. Three months later they signed off on the series. What’s super interesting is that Quinta got her start on Instagram, attracting a digital audience with her Girl Who Has Never Been on a Nice Date series. So she’s a new media creative who is now the star of a hit show on legacy media, on a conventional broadcast network. Which means that more and more pathways to success are opening up for Black female creatives.
Consider the crossover here between Quinta and two of her predecessors. In 2005 Shonda Rhimes’s Grey’s Anatomy also premiered on ABC as a mid-season entry. Shonda has now taken her talents to Netflix and is the highest-paid showrunner in the business. While Quinta went viral on Instagram in 2015-ish, five years earlier Issa Rae launched Awkward Black Girl on YouTube and then went the premium subscription route, producing her own show, Insecure, at HBO. Issa is also one of the executive producers of A Black Lady Sketch Show featuring Quinta in season one. Quinta is now executive producing her own work on network television, which for years, maybe decades, lagged behind on development and attracting new talent – but look what’s happened as they finally invest in self-start creatives? ABC can now boast about Abbott Elementary, a series that works for families, advertisers, and the critics on Twitter.
As for Quinta? This is the ascent. Abbott Elementary’s only been on the air for a month, and the momentum is only just picking up. We’re not even at the midpoint, we are still waaaaay off from the peak for this show. She’s only 32 years old. There are big, big things ahead.
Here’s Quinta arriving at Jimmy Kimmel Live! the other day.
Yours in gossip,