Fresh off a historic night at the Emmys, Abbott Elementary begins a new school year on ABC. While the comedy’s first season took place primarily within the walls of the underfunded Philadelphia elementary school, Season 2 expands its scope to showcase the teachers’ home lives and flesh out their backstories. As creator and star Quinta Brunson explained during a recent Summer TCA Press Tour panel, “The home is a great place to learn more about a character.” What is Abbott if not a character study in the form of a network sitcom?
Spotlighting the characters’ lives outside of school opens up countless possibilities, some of which were hinted at in Season 1, and others that are entirely new to the series. With new opportunities for character growth and running gags, there’s nowhere to go but up for the mockumentary, but these are the extracurricular activities we’d most like to see in Abbott Elementary Season 2:
After breaking up with her longtime boyfriend Tariq (Zack Fox) in the Season 1 finale, Janine enters the school year single and determined to leave her love life at home. Brunson has suggested Janine and Gregory’s will-they/won’t-they romance will be a slow burn, so it’s likely she’ll begin to date as she attempts to sync up with her fellow teacher. A Hinge meet-up — her profile proudly states that she “geeks out on new school supplies” — is fertile ground for Abbott Elementary to explore: What is Janine like on a first date? How does she behave around non-educators? How does she establish an identity for herself outside of teaching?
Plus, you know the school district’s documentarians would never miss an opportunity to film Janine being awkward as hell.
Of all the Abbott Elementary teachers, Barbara is most deserving of an Architectural Digest Home Tour. Barbara is an understated, put together woman, but it’s not hard to imagine a few “Faith” signs, a shrine to her daughter Taylor (Iyana Halley), and photos of her many church-related activities scattered about. God, family, and community are the cornerstones of Barbara’s identity, but seeing what she chooses to highlight about her personal life and how she presents those things to a wider audience offers a new window into a character who so rarely puts herself first.
“I’ve got like four or five things that I actually like, and I just stick to those.”
Every episode of Abbott begins with a minute-long cold open, and returning to Gregory’s bizarre eating habits feels like the perfect way to jump into the action. Throughout Season 1, he’s seen eating the blandest foods imaginable, including a boiled chicken sandwich, and a man as regimented as Gregory — Friday is a “cheat day” because he works out, but doesn’t do cardio — would never just throw something together in the early mornings before school. Fans deserve to see his Sunday night meal prep routine and follow along as he fills five small Tupperwares with tofu (“It’s actually better without salt”), boiled cauliflower, and whatever other tan-colored foods he can find.
If you think Jacob is exhausting to be around at work, just wait until you see him at his monthly book club meeting. Jacob didn’t have time to read this month’s book, but he did just read Ibram X. Kendi’s “Antiracist Baby,” and wouldn’t it make more sense to talk about that, instead? As always, Jacob means well, but it’s easy to envision a scenario in which he puts his foot in his mouth, and then uses the teachers’ lounge as a venue to complain about the book club ladies freezing him out.
Melissa “I Have a Guy For Everything” Schemmenti functioned as comic relief for much of Abbott’s first season, but there’s plenty of room to explore her fascinating family life in Season 2. The second-grade teacher always mentions her many cousins — Episode 2 features a running gag about a branzino she’s preparing to show up her cousin Annette — but we’ve yet to meet any of them. Maybe Melissa takes a page out of Michael Scott’s book and hosts a dinner party where her coworkers finally meet her family, a group that, if Melissa is any indication, are bound to be a colorful bunch.
Abbott Elementary laid the seeds of Ava’s backstory in the standout Season 1 episode “Step Class.” When Ava goes missing before a step team performance, Janine accuses her of abandoning the kids. It’s then Janine learns that Ava has been taking care of her elderly grandmother, and as a result, her responsibilities at school have taken a back seat.
Ava showed a fair amount of growth throughout Season 1, but expanding upon her relationship with her grandmother feels natural, particularly as her emotional investment in the school and its teachers deepens.
Mr. Johnson appeared sporadically throughout Season 1, but now that William Stanford Davis has been upped to series regular, expect to see much more of him. Viewers don’t know much about the janitor and sometimes substitute teacher, save for the fact that he’s been at Abbott for years and picked up a few magic tricks along the way. Venturing home with him seems like the ideal way to learn how Mr. Johnson got this job, why it means so much to him, and how he’s adapted to the many changes implemented by the school district.
Abbott Elementary Season 2 premieres Wednesday, September 21 at 9:00 PM ET on ABC. New episodes air every Wednesday.
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Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.