Is it possible for television show that breathe new life into a premise that's already been done before on the big screen? That's part of the challenge for CBS' new show "Bad Teacher," which had one deceptive young woman taking a job in order to find a rich husband but found meaning in her work. Sure, the show's premise has been done before, but it's lighter tone made it worth watching again on the small screen.
"Bad Teacher" followed the recently divorced Meredith Davis (Ari Graynor) who was forced to move into her friend's guest house after she was left with nothing due to an ironclad pre-nup from her now ex-husband. By accident, she found her second chance when she dropped her friend's stepdaughter Lily (Sara Rodier) off at her middle school. Meredith had a great idea when she noticed all of the single fathers dropping their kids of at school and decided that she was going to get a job as a teacher in order to secure herself a rich husband. Unfortunately, she wasn't truly qualified to teach anyone. Meredith ended up stealing parts of someone else's resume and used it as her own to impress the school's recently divorced Principal Carl (David Alan Grier). She also pretended to identify with the man's pain as a way to get away with just about anything, such as creating a career day in her classroom to meet her students' single fathers by asking them pointed questions about their net worth. Unfortunately, Meredith had a rival in fellow teacher Ginny (Kristin Davis) who took her job way too seriously and wanted to get Meredith out of the way at all costs. Luckily, Meredith had allies in fellow teachers (Sara Gilbert and Ryan Hansen) who could prove to be very helpful to her if she let them help her. Will Meredith find herself a rich husband or a career that proved to be more meaningful than she originally intended?
In terms of questions, the show's biggest one was whether the series had the staying power to make it past the first season when most television shows based on movies have failed in the past. On the surface, the show might seem like a bad idea, but the series premiere proved that appearances might be deceiving. The premiere managed to prove that the show could have some strong promise if the show balanced elements of the movie with its own fresh stories. Despite the original movie's often bawdy tone, there was something sweet that lurked just beneath the surface. The series has managed to expand upon that by having the often cold hearted Meredith bond with a group of misfit middle school children by showing them how to stand up to mean girl bullies. The premiere's most memorable scene involved Meredith and her student friends strutting into the school cafeteria as they evicted the bullies from their lunch table with enough bravado to make everyone believe their confidence. It was also a touching scene, because Graynor's Meredith somehow gave up going on a date with a rich single father to help her students. The show's supporting cast provided some rather humorous moments, but the real standouts were Rodier and Grier who provided some emotionally comedic context for the usually vapid Meredith. Unfortunately, the show's early casualties were Gilbert and Davis who had limited roles that didn't go beyond either following Meredith around or antagonizing her in the process. Let's hope that future episodes will give them more to do when the time is right.
As for breakout performances, Graynor and Hansen led the pack as their mismatched characters had a lot more in common than they both cared to admit. Graynor seemed perfect to play the very live wire Meredith who was destined to cause trouble no matter what she did. She usually played lively supporting characters that were designed to stir the pot and keep a particular storyline going. It was nice to see the always hilarious Graynor take center stage for a change and drive a series for the first time. Hopefully, the show will have the staying power to last past the first season because Graynor proved to be a television star in the making. Graynor's Meredith excelled best when she went against the grain, such as flirting with a group of single fathers and standing up her teaching rival by covering up a potential mistake with the right amount of bravado. She also had chemistry with most of her cast members, especially Rodier and Hansen as they had a strong rapport that could turn into something more. Graynor and Hansen had a playfully sparring relationship that led to a brief hook-up at the end of the premiere, which will likely be elaborated on in next week's episode. Fingers crossed that the show won't rush into pairing Hansen and Graynor's characters just yet, because it could derail the series before it gets off the ground.
"Bad Teacher" premiered on April 24th and airs Thursdays at 9:30 PM on CBS.
Verdict: Graynor's charming performance put a new spin on what could've been a show with a DOA premise from the very beginning. Hopefully, she will continue to work her magic as the season progressed given the right time slot and opportunity.
TV Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)