Education

On truTV’s ‘Those Who Can’t,’ More Funny, but Raunchy, Teachers

By Mark Walsh — February 09, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Another week, another new situation comedy on cable about teachers, a show that once again emerged from a troupe of comedians.

Last month, the show “Teachers” debuted on the TV Land channel, featuring a group of female comics known as the Katydids in the roles of irreverent teachers at an elementary school.

This week, we will see the premiere of “Those Who Can’t” on the truTV channel. This is a show about an irreverent group of male teachers, played by the members of Denver comedy group the Grawlix, at a high school (where they are joined by the school’s female librarian as an equal member of their clique).

The name of the show derives from the famous George Bernard Shaw observation (In modern terms: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”) that isn’t exactly embraced by educators. Woody Allen amended the proverb in “Annie Hall” with the idea that “those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

As it happens, “Those Who Can’t” centers around a gym teacher, Andy Fairbell (Andrew Orvedahl); but also a Spanish teacher, Loren Payton (Adam Cayton-Holland); a history teacher, Billy Shoemaker (Ben Roy); and the school librarian, Abbey Logan (Maria Thayer). The three male actors are the members of the Grawlix troupe.

These teachers all appear to be in their late 20s or early 30s, with active social lives and inclinations to bend, if not break, the rules of their workplace.

That workplace is Reed Smoot High School, which is somewhere in Colorado but named for the early 20th Century U.S. senator from Utah who is perhaps best known for the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. (And that seems to be an homage to the 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and one of Ben Stein’s “Anyone?” classroom moments.) And if I heard right in the two episodes made available by truTV, Smoot High’s athletic teams are the Tariffs.

History teacher Shoemaker offers up anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti as working-class heroes who, if they were around today, would be leading the fight against anti-union initiatives in the states. (But Google says they were murderers, a student protests.)

Shoemaker leads an impromptu teachers strike in the second episode, but critically fails to get the approval of the head of the local teacher’s union, who is depicted as all-powerful.

Meanwhile, gym teacher Fairbell (who has had an unfortunate experience demonstrating the gym rope climb) and Spanish teacher Payton (who offers “virgin ... barely alcoholic ... margaritas” to his students) join Shoemaker in plotting against a student bully. They go to implausibly extreme, but comic, lengths.

Logan the librarian is busy erasing a particularly vulgar graffiti that finds its way into lots of school textbooks and library books.

Supervising the madness is bearded, granola-ish principal Geoffrey Quinn (Rory Scovel), who boasts that he is a Class 4 river guide and, “yes, I play mandolin in a bluegrass band.” His main punishment for his wayward teachers is to make them supervise detention.

Shows such as “Those Who Can’t” and “Teachers"—inspired by the successful movie “Bad Teacher"—don’t shy from using vulgar language, or talking in some detail about the sex lives of the teachers, and other raunchy moments.

I can’t help but think that many teachers will be horrified by these characters (and caricatures), but just as many will laugh and think that their profession is ripe for such humor.

“Those Who Can’t” was originally developed as a pilot for Amazon, which has become a source of cutting-edge television programming. The Grawlix members were devastated, according to a published report, when Amazon chose not to pick up the full run of the show.

But “Those Who Can’t” was grabbed by truTV as its first full-length scripted show. The edgy basic-cable channel evolved from Court TV. The show debuts Thursday, Feb. 10, at 10:30 p.m. Eastern/9:30 p.m. Central.

In December, truTV ordered a second, 13-episode season of “Those Who Can’t,” almost two months before the show even aired. With TV Land’s “Teachers” posting relatively strong ratings in its first month, it seems these “bad teachers” are going to be around for awhile.

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


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP