NBC‘s latest comedy offering, “A.P. Bio,” takes the trope of a boorish new teacher at the school and flips the script on it a little bit. It’s an entertaining show with some witty writing that will manage to loop you in despite its hard-to-believe plotline. But will that be enough to sustain viewers?
Glenn Howerton (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) stars as Jack Griffin, a disgraced Harvard professor of philosophy who, in his year off, begins teaching Advanced Placement Biology at the Whitlock High School in Toledo, Ohio. Usually, television sitcoms take the entire first episode to give us a detailed explanation of the plot. “A. P. Bio” sums it up in pretty much two minutes. Jack makes it known that he isn’t here to actually teach anything related to biology. Instead, he will spend his time drawing out revenge plans for his nemesis who took his job, Miles Leonard, and hopefully, bang a lot of women. He makes it a simple enough choice for the kids: narc on him and fail the class or help him out and keep getting that A+. His usual greeting to the class? “Start shutting up.”
His behavior strikes the wrong chord with student leader Sarika Sarkar (Aparna Brielle). She is a take-charge grade-A student who is named after the Indian philosopher Prabhat Sarkar, something Jack notices and is impressed by. She’s always looking for ways to undermine his ridiculousness so that they actually get to study and rallies her classmates to do the same. Jack, on the other hand, doesn’t miss a single opportunity to take away the kids from their schoolwork by plotting against his nemesis. Whether it means they catfish him online or help him get rid of Miles’s bestselling book from the bookstore.
On the surface, “A. P. Bio” comes off as your regular sitcom that will recycle the jokes you’ve heard one too many times. However, by establishing to the viewers right at the beginning what this show is about, it gives itself the room to grow into something better and bigger. Yes, Jack is rude AF and it’s hard to like him but in his own twisted way, he helps his students with issues like bullying.
However, “A. P. Bio” has to work harder to achieve what its fellow NBC comedy shows have accomplished in the last couple of years. “The Good Place,” “Great News,” and “Superstore,” have successfully dug deep into the niche of wacky, funny gags and dialogues that don’t try too hard. “A. P. Bio” still has a long way to go on that front. Luckily, it has a solid backing because it comes from “Saturday Night Live” honchos Lorne Michaels, Seth Meyers, and Mike O’Brein so hopefully, it sticks around long enough for us to fall in love with Sarika and the show.
The casting is great. Howerton shines in his performance of that brash teacher. His oozes snobbery with every smirk and is proud of all the wrong stuff he does. Patton Oswalt is also charming in his role as the meek but good-hearted school principal. Even though its only 3 episodes in, they’ve racked up guest stars like Niecy Nash and Taran Killam.
Most importantly, Brielle is impressive in her first major role on TV. Prior to “A. P. Bio,” the actress had smaller roles on shows like “Grimm,” “The Librarians,” and “Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life.” Amongst the other students in the class, Sarika is definitely the highlight. I’m curious to see how “A. P. Bio” develops her character because no, we don’t want to see a one-dimensional Indian-American student who literally only cares for her grades.
“A. P. Bio”‘s first three episodes are available to stream on the NBC app and on Hulu. It will resume airing episodes on Thursday, March 1, at 9.30/8.30 c.