May 2, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Bad Teacher”


BAD TEACHER:  Thursday 9:30PM on CBS

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on BAD TEACHER:  As in the movie, Meredith (Ari Graynor in the Cameron Diaz role) is teaching grade school strictly as a way of meeting the rich fathers of her students, and otherwise devoting little effort to the job.  While she waits for Mr. Right Bank Account to come along, she copes with her fellow teachers:  meek Irene (Sarah Gilbert), bossy Ginny (Kristin Davis), and nice-guy gym teacher Joel (Ryan Hansen), as well as Principal Gaines (David Allen Grier), who’s not getting over a bad divorce.  Meanwhile, Lily (Sara Rodier), a student and the step-daughter of the friend Meredith is staying with post-divorce, acts as her Jiminy Cricket when she gets too selfish and narcissistic.

Episode 2:  Rather lazily, the second episode of Bad Teacher basically repeated the same storyline as the pilot.  The script by Supervising Producer Tim McAuliffe (directed by Peter Lauer) again had Meredith all set to go away for a weekend with one of the students’ well-off fathers (guest star Ken Marino), but then realize, after Lily had spoken some sense to her, that she should sacrifice her greed for the good of the girls (in this case, to attend his daughter’s band recital) and do the right thing at the last moment.  It’s not exactly a good sign that the writing staff is running out of narrative at this early stage, and it suggests how limited the premise is.  (About A Boy has a similar narcissist-starts-to-grow-up concept, but is doing a somewhat better job at widening out its ensemble and stories.)  The toothlessness of this version compared to the R-rated movie was also once again clear, as Meredith did little more that was objectionable in a teacher besides showing off her attributes at every opportunity.

The B story was worse:  Irene started computer dating, and when she was stood up and Joel was kind to her, she jumped to the conclusion that he’d been her anonymous correspondent (he wasn’t, but no harm was done).  And the C story was strictly grade F, as Principal Gaines felt unappreciated for his scut-work job of cleaning out the teacher and faculty lockers.

Bad Teacher has a good cast, and Ari Graynor has what it takes to be a sitcom star, but the material here is just slightly above wretched.  Without the ability to test the boundaries of bad taste that the movie did, Meredith is basically Max from 2 Broke Girls as a teacher, except without the rapport Kat Dennings has with her co-stars.

The show’s ratings were blah but not awful in last week’s debut (the same can be said of the even worse Friends With Better Lives that CBS has tossed onto Mondays), but it’s hard to believe the show will return unless the CBS comedy pilots are notably bad.  Bad Teacher is, at best, forgettable.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  Failing Grade

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."