Friday Fragments

Playing a hunch here. For those who work in teaching-intensive institutions, what’s the last interview step for full-time faculty candidates at your institution?

The Girl wrote this on a questionnaire. I am inordinately proud.

“The ability to study both the art and the artist appeals to me as a human and a human-watcher, a producer and consumer of media, a writer and a reader.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

If you haven’t seen Abbott Elementary, it’s worth the watch. It’s a comedy set in a public elementary school in Philadelphia, but that doesn’t really capture it. It’s warm, sweet, smart and funny.

Fans of The Office will recognize a lot in it. The visual style is close, as is the comic pacing. For the first couple of episodes, I was distracted by the character parallels: Janine in the Pam role, Gregory in the Jim role, Mrs. Howard in the Angela role, Jacob in the Kelly role and Ava in the Michael role. Races and sexes may have flipped, but the roles are recognizable. Luckily, the characters grow specific quickly enough that they become themselves within a couple of episodes.

And the setting is different enough to matter. Part of the joke in The Office is that nobody really cares about the business; the boss himself doesn’t always seem to get it. They clown around to insert meaning into what would otherwise be meaningless days. In Abbott Elementary, though, most (except for the principal) understand what they’re doing and care about it; the humor is a way to endure the indignities involved in trying to do the right thing without the resources it should take. The show takes structural racism as an annoying fact of life and sides with the people trying to work around it. Melissa’s way of doing the right thing sometimes involves doing the wrong thing, often in funny and semilegal ways (“I know a guy”), but she means well.

The Office is mostly from Jim’s point of view, but Abbott is really Janine’s story. Quinta Brunson plays Janine so convincingly that she just seems real. I have known Janines, and so have you. The Janines of the world aren’t perfect, but they keep trying to make the world better. It’s hard not to root for them.

Highly recommended.

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Thursday, February 10, 2022
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