Today, I note a rare bum note in an episode of the otherwise flawless sitcom, Abbott Elementary.
This is Disgrace Distract and Bother Me, a feature where I just point out minor things that annoy me in pop culture. Basically, think of it like the lowest level of criticism, then Remember to Forget is the middle, where it’s like, “Okay, this is bad, but not, like, offensively bad” and finally, Things That Turned Out Bad is for, “This is seriously messed up.”
Honestly, if this was a lesser show, I wouldn’t even really have much of a reaction to this, but Abbott Elementary is no typical show, it is an excellent show that has yet to let me down. I’m not saying that every episode is AMAZING or anything like that (although many episodes are), but in general, they have never let me down with a plotline. Everything makes sense. It all follows logically.
However, I didn’t feel that that happened with the most recent episode, “Juice,” which had one of its main plots be the struggles that Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter) deals with her new aide, Ashley (Keyla Monterroso Mejia). As a character in theory, Ashley makes perfect sense. She’s a sweet, enthusiastic young aide who is also terrible at her job. The school already has Ava (Janelle James) as the terrible principal that they all have to deal with, and that’s fine, as it is a clever commentary on bureaucracy, but having an idiot SUBORNINATE just didn’t land.
Jacob (Chris Perfetti) convinces Melissa that she has to learn how to relate to Ashley more, so Melissa bonds a little bit with the aide, and this will ostensibly make the aide easier to work with.
That’s all well and good, but the issue is that the show never addressed how HORRIBLE Ashley is at her job. Last season, when Janine’s horrible college friend came to the school as the new volunteer art teacher and destroyed a pile of Peter Rabbit books to make a piece of art, the show knew that we couldn’t just let her off without being told off. And yet here, Ashley has had NO consequences for being ACTIVELY terrible at her job, just a lecture to MELISSA about how she should try to relate to Ashley more if she wants Ashley to do her job. It’s absurd!
If the show wanted to suggest that Ashley’s methods, while unusual, were actually getting the job done, fair enough, but they clearly DIDN’T say that – she wasn’t doing any teaching at ALL. She was actively making things HARDER for Melissa to teach. And we just got, “Try to relate to Ashley and maybe she’ll do her job…maybe.”
If the lesson of the show was that teacher aides are often terrible, and you have to make do with what you through whatever means necessary, that would be totally fine, but that didn’t come up at all. Instead, it was purely that Melissa needs to communicate better with a terrible worker who wasn’t doing her job. I was stunned to see such a result from a show that I respect way too much to expect plots like this. It was a big disappointment.