A.P. Bio - Thursdays at 9:30PM ET/PT on NBC
Premieres Thursday, February 1, 2018 at 9:30PM ET/PT
When disgraced Harvard philosophy scholar Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton) loses out on his dream job, he is forced to return to Toledo, Ohio, and work as a high school AP Bio teachers. Jack makes it absolutely clear he will not be teaching any biology. Realizing he has a room full of honor roll students at his disposal, Jack decides instead to use the kids for his own benefit.
Glenn Howerton as Jack Griffin
Patton Oswalt as Principal Durbin
Tom Bennett as Myles
Tucker Alibrizzi as Colin
Allisyn Ashley Arm as Heather
Glenn Howerton (Jack) is best known for his role as Dennis Reynolds on the long-running FX hit comedy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He has also appeared in recurring roles on The Mindy Project and Fargo.
Patton Oswalt (Principal Durbin) is a comedic actor, known for his role as Spencer on The King of Queens and Remy in the Pixar film Ratatouille. He is also a popular stand-up comedian and has guest starred on many shows, including Parks and Recreation, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Veep.
Tom Bennett (Myles) is a British actor who has appeared in many British television shows, including The Hunt for Tony Blair, Red Cap, The Worst Week of My Life, My Hero, Life Begins, The Booze Cruise II, Foyle's War, Midsomer Murders and EastEnders, playing Steve Clarke.
Tucker Alibrizzi (Colin) is a young comedic actor, known for his role on shows such as Big Time Rush and Good Luck Charlie, as well as in films such as Bridesmaids and I Am Number Four.
Allisin Ashley Arm (Heather) is an American actress known for her main role as Zora Lancaster on Sonny with a Chance and in Disney Channel's sketch comedy series So Random!
"Pilot" (Airs Thursday, February 1 at 9:30PM ET)
Jack Griffin is the newest AP Bio teacher in Toldeo, Ohio, but he makes it clear he will not be teaching any biology – instead, Jack decides instead to use the kids to enact revenge on his rival and take the job that is rightfully his, much to the chagrin of his principal, who is attempting to balance Jack and the school while maintaining his "nice guy" composure.
AP Bio is a weird show. It feels like it wants to be a cable comedy along the lines of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, disregarding things such as plot, character development and empathy and employing a go-for-broke dark humor where everything is a target for laughs. Of course, anyone who watches It's Always Sunny (or You're the Worst or Broad City or any similarly-veined cable comedy) knows that these shows don’t actually disregard plot or character development or even empathy – they just deploy them in less traditional, in-your-face ways. It's Always Sunny may be about a group of sociopaths, but it depicts them in ways that are interesting and most importantly, funny. AP Bio, unfortunately, didn’t seem to realize that was a requirement.
One might look at AP Bio and assume that it will follow the "cold-hearted jerk winds up being inspired by a group of lovable misfits" progression – I saw a lot of Community comparisons when the trailer was released last spring. However, AP Bio makes it clear early on that it has little interesting in transforming its truly deplorable lead character – in the first 5 minutes of the pilot, he tells his students, "I will not be learning from you." That's fine! A truly rotten lead character in a comedy series could be a great source of laughs. But AP Bio doesn't seem to have any direction for its lead character other than "he's a jerk." There are plenty of jerks depicted on TV. "Jerk" is not an interesting character trait in and of itself, and through-out the four episodes released to critics, Griffin never seems to become anything other than "jerk."
On top of it all, AP Bio is just downright mean. It feels like a leftover from 2000s-era sitcoms, when network TV was desperately trying to recreate Seinfeld and did so by churning out a handful of dark, cynical comedies where nothing ever seemed to go right for anyone. Most of these shows were terrible, but some went on to be classics – I'd probably say The Office and 30 Rock had some of this vibe, but those shows succeeded by creating interesting worlds of characters that felt like human beings, and the cynicism of those shows worlds were crafted in a way that was funny and felt like a commentary on their own premises. AP Bio just feels mean for the sake of being mean. It has a great cast, some funny lines, and all of the makings of a good show, but underneath its glossy surface, there's not much there. Hopefully, it can take a cue from some of the excellent comedies on the network it airs on such as The Good Place and Superstore and craft an identity of its own, otherwise it's going to stick out like quite a sore thumb on an excellent line-up.
AP Bio isn't a total waste of time – Glenn Howerton does good work with a fairly uninspiring lead character, and there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Unfortunately, the show suffers from being too mean-spirited and operating without much of a purpose. There's nothing about Jack Griffin or anyone on AP Bio that feels unique or lived in – they're just hollow joke machines, churning out jokes that are sometimes funny but not frequently enough to excuse just how little there it the show. There is potential here, so hopefully the creative team can re-evaluate some of the series’ flaws and make better use of its talented cast.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):
Discuss the show after you watch it on Thursday, February 1, 2018 at 9:30PM ET/PT on our message board.
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