Teachers need learnin'

There are some respectable names at the start of the new sitcom Teachers. Creator Matt Tarses has writing credits primarily on two shows: Scrubs and Sports Night. Them’s good stuff. And the director is James Burrows, who has been the key director on some long-running and respected hits (and some merely long-running), and has often been brought in to direct the first few episodes of a new show to help the cast build a chemistry.

Between them, they managed to turn out an amazingly crappy launch. It’s all sitcom shortcuts that don’t feel like anything real. The central character is a teacher who runs with a pack of slacker teachers… but, in the most trite cliche scene possible, we are shown he is secretly a teacher who really cares and can touch the hearts of his students (he gets the reluctant reader to believe that Hamlet is really about his life, and thus inspires him to go read it.)

The other characters is the guy we’re supposed to sneer at because he takes his job seriously, plus the slacker male teachers. And then there are the two potential love interests for the central character – the hot blonde teacher-who-is-English (I don’t recall if she’s an “English teacher”, if you see what I mean) who is serious-minded and who our “hero” has lusted after for a while, and the hot brunette who is more of a wild gal. And there is our main man, pulled between them like he was Archie Andrews, split between the hot blond serious-minded Betty and the hot brunette Veronica.

None of this feels real. Much of it feels like it’s supposed to be humorously over-the-top, but they don’t achieve the “humorously” part of that (in contrast to, say, Scrubs, which does the humorous part quite well.) It may be possible to make bad teachers more funny than tragic on an ongoing basis, but these guys can’t even get laughs at the start.

I did laugh once during the episode, at a reference to a “banana factory”. And the brunette does indeed have nice breasts, which I only note because they seem to make it the central attribute of her character so I admit that they got something to work.

And this hurts Scrubs. They are paired together for an hour, while the other key things they’re up against (the attention-getting The Cell, the new Sons & Daughters, the great acting of House, and about to move into that slot, the best thing on TV, Veronica Mars) are all an hour long. So people may choose not to watch Scrubs because there will be nothing to watch afterward.

Ah well. This will likely be a quick death, and go unmourned. But then, I keep thinking good TV will win out. Sometimes it does, but not predictably so.

Published in: on March 29, 2006 at 9:54 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Veronica Mars about to move into that slot? I hadn’t heard this. When does this start? Also, didn’t VM air in that slot last year? And now they’re moving it back? Have you noticed that I’m asking a lot of questions? šŸ™‚

    Re Teachers I would have checked it out had I known of it. Usually my local paper will run a (p)review of a new show the same day it debuts. But not in this case, so I didn’t notice that it was on and wouldn’t have known anything about it if I did. Had there been a review that mentioned James Burrows directing and Sarah Alexander starring (not sure if she’s the star) I definitely would have been interested to try it out. Sarah Alexander played Susan What’s-her-name on the original British version of Coupling for 4 seasons. (It’s done now, but it was still much more successful than the Americanized version).

  2. I should also point out that I taped tonight’s VM, but have not watched it yet so if that’s where/when they announced the time slot change, then that’s why I haven’t heard it yet. I know they showed a rerun of last wednesday’s episode in the 9 PM Tuesday slot this week…

  3. OK, answering my own question… I went to TitanTV to check my listings and next Tuesday at 9PM is a rerun of tonight’s episode, but the following Tuesday is listed as a new episode so I guess that’s when it officially shifts. Guess I should thought to check there before posting commenting in the first place. Sorry ’bout that.

  4. Okay, it turns that I’ve been watching Scrubs for years and thinking it was a show from *Jay* Tarses. Sigh.

  5. Nah, the great Jay hasn’t been nearly so productive of late; Matt’s his son.

    Jay had a few clunkers amidst his great work (where are the Molly Dodd DVDs already?!?), so let’s hope Matt moves on from this one to something wonderful.

  6. Oddly, I caught Molly Dodd on a small cable network my provider carried for a little while. I was a tad puzzled, since it was called “The Good Life” network which suggested a conservative lean… and then I realized they were censoring the dialogue (most notably they aired the ep where a homeless woman calls Molly a bitch, which they blanked out making it very confusing).

    They also aired Homefront, which I did appreciate of them.

  7. Yeah, we had GoodLife here for a while; they dumped Molly before they disappeared. Weird network. As you note, a conservative bent, but more in a “remember the good ol’ wars where we could be sure we were doing right” kind of way than a hard politics way… but in either sense, Molly Dodd didn’t fit in, being a show of modern and liberal sensibilities. But it was good TV, and it was likely cheap, not having run anywhere for a fair while.
    But the low-rent network had the cheapest, cheapest ads of any network I can recall, making the local UHF stations look like class joints. The one that used to get me were these ads aimed at women for “personal sensitivity gel” or somesuch term… they were selling lube, what looked to be one-use pillows of lube, for like $5 a pillow.

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