'Bad Teacher' gets a passing grade

Ari Graynor as Meredith Davis in the new CBS TV series, Bad Teacher. (Handout Photo)

Ari Graynor as Meredith Davis in the new CBS TV series, Bad Teacher. (Handout Photo)

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:23 PM ET

I still laugh when I recall Chris Rock's rant about movie titles when he was hosting the Academy Awards in 2005.

"Black movies don't have real names," Rock complained comically. "They get names like Barbershop. That's not a name. That's just a location. Barbershop, Cookout, Car Wash. You know Laundromat's coming soon. And after that, Cheque-Cashing Place."

So when the Cameron Diaz movie Bad Teacher came out in 2011, I thought to myself, “It isn't even a black or white thing any more, and it isn't just locations, it's now basic descriptions of what the film is about.” Bad Teacher? Subtlety be damned. That pretty much was the story.

And now Bad Teacher has been resurrected in TV-series form, debuting Thursday, April 24 on CBS and Global. I have to admit, given the title and the mediocrity of the movie, I wasn't expecting much.

I will say this for the TV version of Bad Teacher, though. It has a very deep cast. There are a lot of funny people here with quality resumes.

Ari Graynor (Fringe) stars as Meredith Davis, a seemingly uber-shallow ex-trophy wife who is left broke following her divorce. Temporarily staying with friends, Meredith is tasked to pick up her friends' daughter Lily, played by Sara Rodier, at school, where Meredith immediately is intrigued by the number of rich divorced dads in the vicinity.

Meredith comes up with a plan to get a job teaching at the school, where she will sniff out a new rich husband as quickly as possible and then get the hell out of there. But, of course, once she gets to know Lily and the rest of the outcast kids, Meredith doesn't turn out to be quite as shallow as she thinks she is, or wants to be.

David Alan Grier (In Living Color) plays Principal Carl Gaines, and if you're a teacher who is having trouble finding a job, you only could wish this guy were in charge wherever you're applying. Meredith gets in at Richard M. Nixon Middle School pretty damn fast.

Kristin Davis (Sex in the City) plays a tightly wound teacher named Ginny, who naturally becomes Meredith's nemesis. Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars) plays a gym teacher named Joel who knew Meredith before she married rich. And Sara Gilbert (Roseanne, The Talk) plays a nerdy teacher named Irene who is excited by the prospect of becoming friends with someone as cool as Meredith.

The setup is fairly blunt, but there are some amusing small touches. For example, in a brief glimpse inside Meredith's class at one point, all she's doing is playing the kids an episode of Breaking Bad.

Is Bad Teacher really a TV series? Heck, I don't know. There barely was enough plot for a movie. This new foray is kind of half Mr. D, half a pre-teen version of Super Fun Night.

But having seen three episodes of Bad Teacher, the depth of the cast at least kept me paying attention in class. And as Principal Gaines says, we all know how hard it is to keep students interested in this “fast-paced, flip-phone, DVD world.”

Twitter: @billharris_tv

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

 


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