The cable channel TV Land, which quite some time ago expanded from its niche as a home for classic TV reruns, was reportedly looking to develop a workplace situation comedy featuring unknown female actors.
As it happened, a female improv comedy group known as the Katydids (the names of its members are all a variation of Kate and Caitlin, etc.) had performed a web series in which they played Midwestern elementary school teachers.
That series of one- to three-minute shorts, called Teachers, a Web Series, has led to “Teachers,” a weekly half-hour comedy series on TV Land. The third episode airs Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. Eastern/Pacific time.
I haven’t seen that much of the web series, though the 26 short episodes remain available online. But I have watched the first two episodes of TV Land’s series. Here is the early report card:
It’s funny. Really funny at times.
It’s a little bit raunchy. Kids the age of the students in the show probably shouldn’t be watching it.
And it needs some improvement.
The pilot episode, which aired earlier this month, establishes the six Katydids—Caitlin Barlow, Kate Colloton, Cate Freedman, Kate Lambert, Katie O’Brien, and Kathryn Renèe Thomas—as the teachers at Fillmore Elementary School in typical Suburbia, U.S.A.
The only regular adult male presence is the principal, played by Tim Bagley, a recognizable comic actor who has done his share of TV roles as an educator, having appeared on Fox’s “Glee” as well as the short-lived “Bad Teacher” series on CBS and “Mr. Robinson” on NBC.
Much of the TV Land show takes place in the teachers’ lounge, where the Katydids are free to discuss mature thoughts away from their young charges. But there are plenty of scenes in classrooms, with child actors giving deadpan responses to their teachers.. (And these aren’t twenty-somethings playing high school students—these are real youngsters.)
In one scene in the pilot, one of the Katydids (don’t ask me which one) tries to explain the school’s new anti-bullying campaign to her 3rd or 4th graders by inappropriately equating her experience with an ex-boyfriend as a form of bullying.
“A bully is someone who disregards your feelings, ignores your texts, and changes the password on your joint Netflix account two days after you break up,” the teacher says. “A bully can also take you to Nashville one weekend on his frequent flyer miles, treat you to bottomless mimosas, and then, on Monday, tell you it’s over.”
“What’s a mimosa?” a student asks. And ... scene.
The name the teachers come up with for the anti-bullying campaign is Stop Teasing and Bullying. Or, STAB.
Not everyone will like humor based on a topic like bullying. The second episode treaded safer ground with a sendup of school picture days.
In an interview with the Chicago Reader, an alternative newspaper in the city where the Katydids formed and did their web series, Katie O’Brien said, “I think our show—we’re just going to claim it—is the only show to ever be on television that is predominantly female. Our writers’ room was almost exclusively female.”
And Kate Lambert told the Reader’s Brianna Wellen that “TV Land has been so wonderful with preserving the nature of the webseries. They wanted us to stay true to the webseries and want us to go even further like, ‘Don’t restrain yourselves!’”
Believe me, the Katydids are not restraining themselves on “Teachers.” As the show goes forward, it will have to hit on the right comic mix of innocent child actors, the familiar themes and customs of the American elementary school, and the frankness of the fact that after the bell, these funny young teachers have adult problems and desires.
“Teachers” will either be short-lived, like “Bad Teacher” and “Mr. Robinson,” or become a hit and, maybe someday, air on the classic TV channel of the future.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.