Six years before he became world famous for starring in Game Of Thrones, Peter Dinklage made this tv comedy with Dale Foley and Busy Phillips where he plays a sardonic and sarcastic teacher. I really liked the pilot and Dinklage is an enormously engaging lead, but it has to be admitted that it’s not exactly doing anything that new or original and there are quite possibly over seven billion films which cover the same themes and ideas.
Dinklage plays Bob, a very reluctant teacher who has returned to work at his old high school, seemingly because his old friend Andrew (Dave Foley) is the principal and keeps on begging him to join him there. A slice of narration at the beginning tells us how much he regrets it, but you wouldn’t have to be psychic to guess that by the end of the episode he’s secretly enjoyed spending time back in high school.
To add a little frisson Busy Phillips plays another teacher, Maddie, who disapproves of Bob’s carefree manner and lack of respect for the teaching profession, so of course Bob flirts with her a lot and no doubt the two of them would have had a will they / won’t they kind of relationship if the show had been developed further. The kids are also a fairly large aspect of the show, with Bob teaching a class of very gifted students much to his dismay, so they’ve all read the books and know all of the answers, with Bob complaining to Andrew that “They finished the whole semester in one night”.
This leads to him teaching in a rather unconventional manner, at one point moaning about the kids’ wanting to answer questions as being like Nazis saluting him, and he jokes about them buying an A+ grade from him, which of course leads the kids to doing crazy things to earn some money so that they can do just that. This leads to the one joke which has aged very poorly where one student says “Donald Trump is an undisputed Genius” before explaining “In order to win on his show the girl’s team always uses sex” and so a student bares a little flesh and oh, that’s the second part which probably would have benefitted from being cut.
Despite his protestations Bob of course soon clicks with the students and offers them advice about how to avoid being bulled, while there’s a heavy-handed bit with a student with Asperger’s who ends up hugging Bob thanks to something he did. Which technically was appalling, as he sent her to wait at his apartment for the cable guy in exchange for an A+ grade, but because she experienced travelling on her own for the first time and didn’t screw up she’s happy, and all of a sudden a previously pissed off Andrew and Maddie forgive him.
Created by Donald Todd (Creator of Samantha Who? and a writer for hire on Alf, Misfits Of Science and This Is Us among many another shows over the decades), this was never going to set the world on fire, and though the jokes are decent enough and the characters enjoyable, it feels like a very mainstream affair and the philosophising at the end is a little cringeworthy. It has just enough funny moments that if it had been given a full series I’d have watched it, but I doubt it could have lasted more than a couple of years without becoming repetitive even despite the talented cast.