CBS Cancels ‘Bad Teacher,’ the Sitcom

By Mark Walsh — May 16, 2014 3 min read
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So, there are so many directions we could go with this.

  • “The CBS situation comedy ‘Bad Teacher’ has been expelled.” No, too cliche.
  • “The show has been sent to the ‘rubber room’ for educators in investigation limbo.” Not really apt. The show didn’t strike a student or anything, and its fate is hardly up in the air.
  • How about something with a more modern perspective?: “‘Bad Teacher’ had poor value-added ratings, and its contract was non-renewed before it received tenure.”

That’s a little closer to reality. When you come to think about it, the television industry has value-added evaluation down cold. If a show doesn’t perform in the ratings, it’s not going to get tenure, er, renewed.

By now, you should realize that the sitcom version of “Bad Teacher,” an adaptation of the raunchy 2011 movie of the same name, has been canceled.

CBS Television canceled the show this past weekend, along with several others on its 2013-14 lineup, just days before it unveiled its schedule for next fall, at the TV industry “upfront” presentations for advertisers and TV critics in New York City.

There were apparently no detailed public explanations, but The Hollywood Reporter noted that “Bad Teacher,” which debuted only a month ago as a “midseason” replacement show, had “so-so ratings” for its premiere and a 35 percent drop in its second episode.

A similar drop in student achievement would be bad news for a teacher in the new era of value-added accountability.

The news will likely be welcomed by the national teachers’ unions, but I didn’t see any press statements to that effect, as when just a couple of weeks ago they cheered the cancellation of “Bad Teachers,” a short-lived documentary series on Investigation Discovery cable channel that highlighted educators involved in student sex scandals.

As I noted at the time, a few people seemed to confuse the two very different shows. Some Web commenters understood the difference, but suggested that both were an affront to hard-working teachers.

As for “Bad Teacher,” the CBS sitcom, my view after watching a few episodes was that it was too bad the show didn’t have more of a chance. I’m not kidding. Yes, it had an unrealistic premise for how the opportunist played by Ari Graynor got a teaching job at Richard M. Nixon Middle School. And it had a raunchy streak, though not nearly as bad as the movie.

But it did hold some promise for exposing some of the education world’s absurdities, just as NBC’s “The Office” took on the banal world of the corporate workplace.

“Bad Teacher” had the involvement of “The Office” producers Gene Stupnitski and Lee Eisenberg. The CBS show was also something of an outplacement project for some cast members of “The Office,” including Paul Lieberstein (Toby Flenderson), who was basically playing his same sad-sack character as a district teaching evaluator in last week’s “Bad Teacher,” and Brian Baumgartner (Kevin Malone), who had a cameo as a security guard. (At least, one presumes it was a cameo, and not his actual job post-"The Office.”)

Last night’s episode of “Bad Teacher,” was the funniest yet, about a field trip led by Graynor’s teacher (who, as ever, was really looking for a rich potential husband) to a tech company that is about to go public. (And it made me think of one of “The Office”'s funniest episodes, “Scott’s Tots,” about manager Michael Scott’s ill-fated college-scholarship promise to a grade-school class.)

So, “Bad Teacher” won’t be joining the pantheon of great TV shows about education, and will likely be soon forgotten. But the material is still there, in the modern education system, for a good situation comedy.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.