Spin-offs rarely work and hardly ever live up to the expectations set by the series the characters originate from. But when they work well, they are an undeniably satisfying way to keep the characters you love in your living rooms beyond the typical lifecycle of a series. ABC is no stranger to successful spin-offs with The Conners, The Bachelorette, Dancing with the Stars Jr., and Grown-ish (on Freeform) all currently running on Disney-owned networks.
Schooled is a surprising offshoot of The Goldbergs, jumping forward a decade to “1990-something.” While Adam, Barry, Erica, Beverly, and Murray aren’t recurring characters, the series does take place in the halls of William Penn Charter School. This brings many of the fun teachers from The Goldbergs front and center, along with Barry’s future ex-girlfriend Lainey (AJ Michalka) who takes over Adam’s role as narrator. Coach Mellore (Bryan Callen), Mr. Glascott (Tim Meadows), and Earl Ball (Stephen Tobolowski) all become her colleagues and supervisors.
The pilot finds Lainey down on her luck with her struggling music career and out of desperation, back in the halls of her old high school begging to fill the open choir teacher position, despite being grossly unqualified. Now a peer to the same teachers she gave hell during her teenage years, Lainey gets a taste of her own medicine as her new peers adapt to the trends and attitudes of a whole new decade.
While the premise and marketing suggest that this workplace comedy is all centered around Lainey, the truth is that it’s really an ensemble piece, just like The Goldbergs. The debut episode’s title, “Like Mike,” comes from the secondary plot line surrounding Coach Mellore taking issue with his star basketball player’s selfish attitude, which he gets from his idol Michael Jordan. Mr. Glascott is also settling into his promotion as principle, getting used to leading his former colleagues (and a former student).
While the location and cast are familiar to fans of The Goldbergs, the premise is drastically different. This is not a family comedy and since hardly any of it takes place outside the school, it feels more like a workplace comedy than anything else. A few of the students become key plot drivers in the pilot and in some ways it reminded me of the early years of Glee when whole episodes were centered around Will Schuester.
Is it funny? Yes, although not as funny as any episode of The Goldbergs. The pilot is packed with potential and all of the leads are more than capable of holding the weight of a series. It’s nice to see AJ Michalka finally step into an adult role and the emotional weight of the series rests on her character’s transformation from a rule-breaking teenager to an inspiring educator.
If you’re a fan of The Goldbergs, you should give Schooled a chance. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you might see a few extra familiar faces in the pilot. Given time, I think Schooled could grow into something special for ABC that can last beyond the inevitable end of The Goldbergs.
I give Schooled 3 out of 5 culottes, I think.
Schooled premieres Wednesday, January 9th, at 8:30 pm, right after The Goldbergs.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.