I had high hopes for Bad Teacher, an adaptation of the perfectly okay 2011 Cameron Diaz movie, because of its star Ari Graynor. She was such an original mess – blowsy and sloppy and cool all at the same time – in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and the new CBS show that premieres on Thursday seemed like the perfect vehicle for her talents. And while she is well-suited to the role, the show is not yet worthy of her – or her fine supporting cast’s – talents.
Graynor plays Meredith Davis, a Jessica Rabbit of a rich divorcee who is hungry for a new sugar daddy. When she’s tipped off to all the sports car-driving divorced dads in the pick-up line at her school, Meredith fakes her way into a job teaching social studies. This of course is all ridiculous but one goes with it because Graynor is such good, absurd company and the misfit kids who form a tribe around her at her new job are winningly weird and unprecocious in a way TV children so rarely are.
But the problems of the show strike me as two-fold. Bad Teacher has the luck of amazing supporting players. Veronica Mars’ Ryan Hansen, who plays the wry gym teacher we already know Meredith should be with if she could just get dollar signs out of her lacquered eyes, fares the best. He’s all heart and whistle and knowing smile. But Sex and the City’s Kristin Davis, here as an uptight teacher and Meredith’s nemesis, is grossly under-utilized. And the writers need to ground Sara Gilbert’s needy teacher. As is, she’s too pathetic to be anything more than a grating punchline.
The real challenge of the show though will be to give it an actual surprising arc. In three episodes, the narrative is the same. Meredith is a gold-digger, but when push comes to shove she chooses her students’ welfare over her ambition to become someone’s new wife. That is a pat resolution in a movie but not enough to sustain a series. B-