Untitled Seth Myers/Mike O’Brien
fka AP Biology
Logline: A hilariously cynical Ivy League professor loses out on his dream job and goes to work as a high school biology teacher where he imposes his unorthodox teaching style and uses the kids to plot out revenge on those who wronged him.
Cast: Glenn Howerton, Patton Oswalt, Mary Sohn, Lyric Lewis, Aparna Birelle, Nick Peine
Creators: Mike O’Brien (W / EP), Seth Meyers (EP), Mike Showmaker (EP), Lorne Michaels (EP), Andrew Singer (EP)
Studios: Universal Television, Broadway Video
Teacher shows are having a bit of a moment. Both Those Who Can’t (truTV) and Teachers (TV Land) have scored a second season. Though I haven’t seen the former, I’m a big fan of the latter. On the flip side, Bad Teacher, the closest antecedent to this pilot, was a one-and-done at CBS in 2014. So we’ll see which path the pilot formerly known as AP Biology will take.
Jack Douglass is a philosopher forced into teaching AP Biology while living in his dead mom’s apartment. He lets us know this through an opening speech to his new class. Over the course of the pilot, we learn that this life predicament arose after he was denied tenure at Harvard and engaged in fisticuffs with an 80-something department chair. He now harbors a grudge with another ex-Harvard colleague that is a professor at Stanford, living the life Jack could/should be living. As is pretty much pre-ordained in a pilot like this, Jack almost loses his job, but pulls things together just in time to survive for at least another 12 episodes.
This pilot has some things going for it, and some things going against it. On the plus side, the dialogue is tailor made for Patton Oswalt. The comedian is basically an A-lister to comedy fans like me, and this feels like it could be his breakthrough, after playing a sidekick on King of Queens for years. There’s some good humor in his slightly askew philosophical ramblings, and his complete lack of interest in Biology is good for a laugh.
But there’s something that definitely separates this from Those Who Can’t and Teachers… this is basically a one-man show. Sure, there’s some good interplay between him and the principal, presumably to be played by It’s Always Sunny‘s Glenn Howerton, but the other teachers are barely introduced, let alone fleshed out. The students get a lot more time, and are pretty funny, but does a show like Head of the Class work in today’s tv environment?
My personal feeling is the philosophizing of a Patton Oswalt-type character, best seen in a great Parks and Rec cameo, is better in smaller doses, but it’s hard to deny the humor and perfect actor/material fit with this pilot. That, plus being produced by parent company Universal, might just be enough to give this pilot a passing grade.