A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A.P. Bio is a sitcom about a disgraced Ivy League teacher resentfully slumming it as a high school biology teacher. The main character is a nihilist who openly admits that his two life goals are destroying his nemesis and having sex with as many people as possible; he tells his students to "shut your mouth" and not to expect to be taught anything. He also instructs them to write sexual "catfishing" messages to his rival, and explains that he always wears condoms even though you can't "feel as much" with them on. He gets drunk and gets arrested for urinating on a building and resisting arrest, and so on. Teachers including but not limited to Jack don't care much about their jobs. Vulgar language and cursing incudes "hell," "dammit," "ass," and "sucks." A bully pushes an emo-ish kid down and throws his backpack in a lake. Women and people of color have strong, major roles.
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What's the story?
At this time last year, Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton) was a respected Harvard philosophy professor with a future and self-confidence and a mom who lived in Ohio. But now? Griffin's been pushed out of his department, he's living in his dead mom's frumpy apartment, and he's teaching high school A.P. BIO in Toledo -- and doing a really crap job of it, to the eternal distress of well-meaning Principal Durbin (Patton Oswalt) and the honor students who hoped to actually, you know, learn some biology. Jack's on a collision course with disaster, and he doesn't care who he takes with him, as long as he destroys his snooty nemesis Miles (Tom Bennett) along the way.
Is it any good?
Rebel-teacher stories have been told so often on TV that it's really hard to escape all the clichés, so this show has to get credit for at least trying (and sometimes succeeding). "This won't be one of those things where I teach you, or I end up learning more from you than you learn from me," he crisply warns his students in the show's first episode, promising those who don't tell on him for not teaching an A+ in the class. But that's before a sassy-Greek-chorus-y trio of fellow teachers enlighten Jack in the teacher's lounge that he can pretty much assign his students any task he wants. Soon, he's using them for his own purposes: to torture Miles, to get him out of work, to get him assigned to "teacher jail" (an in-school suspension with pay).
Bottom line is this: Though A.P. Bio seems like a promising candidate to be a successor of beloved NBC primetime comedies like The Office, Parks and Recreation, Community, and 30 Rock, and a sharp crack occasionally brings it up to those levels, it's not as good as those shows. The storylines are too predictable, the characters too generic; it lacks the surprise zing of really great comedies. Howerton does his best, and is pretty good even delivering absolutely ridiculous lines; Patton Oswalt is as lovable as always. But unless you have a free spot in your schedule and a weakness for SNL-esque comedies, you may want to skip this class.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why comedies are so frequently set in workplaces: schools, hotels, backstage at TV shows. What types of plotlines does the school setting of A.P. Bio make possible? What are the dramatic or comedic possibilities?
Why do so many shows begin with a character who is new to something: a school in this case, an office, a team? What dramatic, comedic, or practical reasons would a writer have for that setup? Think about some of the shows you have watched. How are characters introduced to you, the viewer, as they are to the new person?
Are viewers supposed to like Jack? How can you tell? Is he a hero? An antihero? What's the difference?