TV Review: Class is Back in Session with ‘AP Bio’

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While “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is still on the air, it’s stars have begun to spread their wings. One of these stars is Glenn Howerton, who finally gets his chance to shine away from Sweet Dee and the gang. Howerton anchors the new NBC series “AP Bio,” from SNL alum Mike O’Brien. The series follows a former Harvard Philosophy professor, Jack, whose “break year” is requiring him to stay in Toledo, Ohio. He’s a sad, upset, and vindictive man, who only wants to get back at his Miles (Tom Bennett). However, the new town attempts to welcome him in, especially Principle Ralph (Patton Oswalt). The resulting comedy is an above average network series that ultimately succeeds to live up to the premise.

While Howerton is upset at the world, he’s nicely juxtaposed by a cast of younger actors playing high school students. Aparna Brielle leads the group as Sarika Sarkur, the overachieving student in the front row. She’s got pretty strong chemistry with Howerton, and two play well off each other. The other students, including Jacob McCarthy, all do a serviceable job that continues to drive the comedy of the show.

In many ways, “AP Bio” feels like a less-inventive “Community,” but still delivers strong results on an episode to episode basis. It’s traditional in a lot of ways, and almost feels like “School of Rock” made it’s way to network television. Howerton’s apathetic nature towards the world around him shows shades of Denis, but it stands on its own. He’s more than charismatic enough to lead the way, and he helps elevate almost every scene he’s in.

It’s also exciting to see Oswalt back on screen in a substantial role. He’s very funny as the down on his luck principle, trying to do his best to improve his school. His positivity is exciting, and his obliviousness towards Howerton’s negativity makes their back and forth hilarious. As the two continue to work together, they could develop some really strong chemistry that helps the show take a leap.

All of this is positive for the most part. However, the familiarity also shows the cracks in the foundation of the show. “AP Bio” could try to break the mold a bit more, and doing so could really help it rise. It’s on the same network as “The Good Place,” as well as the former home of “Community.” If the show attempts to take some risks moving forward, the joke for joke capital it builds should make it one of the funnier shows on network TV.

Overall, “AP Bio” is a show that is well worth your time. It’s a very funny series that is easily comparable to “Fresh Off the Boat” or “The Goldbergs.” That said, it’s limited in its ceiling simply because we’ve seen more creative shows in the same mold. If it chooses to get a little weird, or if it continues to develop its own little world, “AP Bio” might be one of the funnier shows on TV.

What did you think of “AP Bio?” Let us hear in the comments below!

“AP Bio” airs on Thursdays nights on NBC. You can catch up on Hulu.

GRADE: (★★★)