Decade-happy ABC has done it again, taking an ’80s sitcom and making a spinoff set in the 1990s.
The result is “Schooled,” a new comedy premiering Wednesday created by Adam F. Goldberg. He is the creator of “The Goldbergs,” for which he adapted his own upbringing in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, a suburb located about 14 miles north of Philadelphia.
Now in “Schooled,” he has made a sitcom based loosely on his old prep school, known commonly around Philadelphia as Penn Charter, but formally known as the William Penn Charter School.
Located within the city of Philadelphia, it is a very old prep school, founded in 1689 while its namesake was still alive.
In “Schooled,” the name has been changed to William Penn Academy, which is fictional. In the premiere episode, a real prep school across town, Germantown Academy, is identified as the fictional William Penn Academy's rival.
In real life, GA and PC are considered rival prep schools. Where “Schooled” is concerned, the lines between fact and fiction are somewhat blurred, more or less.
“Schooled” is the second sitcom on the ABC lineup that depends on its target audience's affection, familiarity and nostalgia for the 1990s, the decade of the O.J. Simpson trials (both criminal and civil) and the scandalous presidency of Bill Clinton. ABC's other ’90s show is “Fresh Off the Boat.”
So now, the network has the final decades of the 20th century pretty well-covered with “The Kids Are Alright” (the 1970s), “The Goldbergs” (’80s) and the two aforementioned sitcoms set in the 1990s.
In contemplating a sitcom based on the students and faculty of the Penn Charter school, the TV Blog had admittedly low expectations.
Way back in the decade of “The Kids Are Alright” (the ’70s, in case you have already forgotten), your faithful TV blogger, a native of the Philadelphia suburbs himself, had some encounters with Penn Charter athletes that, though hazy, are not fond memories.
Nevertheless, despite this latent and decidedly unfair prejudice, this sitcom called “Schooled” came as a very pleasant surprise.
Among the characters it shares with “The Goldbergs” are a varsity boys sports coach played by Brian Callen, and the school principal played by Tim Meadows.The show revolves chiefly around a young woman named Lainey Lewis, an alumna of fictional William Penn Academy, who, desperate for employment, returns to the school to teach music.
Her connection to “The Goldbergs” has something to do with her once dating the central character in “The Goldbergs,” Adam Goldberg (a fictional version of the creator).
A big surprise about “Schooled” is that it does not rely on the snark in which so many sitcoms traffic today and which their creators seem to wear as a badge of honor.
On the contrary, “Schooled” worked for me because its teachers’ hearts were in the right place; the show has just the right proportion of heart-warmth and comedy.
This is achieved principally by the show's three primary characters, led by AJ Michalka as Lainey. The Callen character, Coach Mellor, is actually based on a real guy -- a real Coach Mellor who has been at the real Penn Charter school for 40 years or so. (PC's most famous athlete-alumnus is Matt Ryan, quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons).
As for the Tim Meadows character, he revives for the TV Blog our own memories from the 1990s when Tim lived down the hall from us in our New York apartment building.
In case he reads this, which is doubtful, let me please end with this: We are very proud of you, Tim. May “Schooled” have a long and prosperous run for you.
“Schooled” premieres Wednesday night (January 9) at 8:30 Eastern on ABC.