After careening into the sign bearing Whitlock High School’s name and pulling a crowbar out of the trunk to silence someone who saw the crash, Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton) introduces himself to his students.
“My name’s Jack Griffin,” says the exiled former Harvard scholar to his A.P. Biology class in Toledo, Ohio, “and I don’t want to be here.”
NBC’s A.P. Bio premiered on Feb. 1, with the first three episodes available to stream right after that. The comedy plays like a version of School of Rock with Dennis Reynolds of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as the protagonist in lieu of a morally redeemable Dewey Finn. Foiled by the meek Principal Durbin (Patton Oswalt) and achievement-seeking students, Griffin is Howerton’s latest rendition of a high-functioning sociopath.
It’s nearly impossible to distinguish Griffin from Reynolds, the self-obsessed yet underachieving bar owner that Howerton first played almost 13 years ago (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given the success of It’s Always Sunny). Both characters are convinced they are owed everything from a society to which they’ve given nothing.
Griffin’s very public motive is to completely and utterly destroy the life of his former colleague Miles Leonard, a successful philosopher who lives a life that Griffin is convinced should be his own. After he instructs the class to create fake online personas they will use to catfish Leonard, frail and quiet Heather (Allisyn Ashley Arm) shares her work.
“Hey boy, you’re smooth like butter dripping off chocolate,” says Heather as Principal Durbin walks into the room. “Gonna lick you up and down. Drip, slurp, yum.”
Though not perfect, A.P. Bio succeeds due to little hilariously awkward encounters like the aforementioned moment of a principal walking into a classroom only to hear a student reading her own erotica. Griffin’s monologue to his students in the second episode is Shakespearean.
“I accidentally backed over a possum, specifically his lower half,” says Griffin to his visibly disgusted students. “He was flat from about here down, and he was shouting, a lot.”
The cast of students is predictable — the comic book nerd, dark loner, misunderstood bully, clueless youth and uptight valedictorian are all instantly visible in each shot of the classroom. Their de facto leader is Sarika (Aparna Brielle), essentially an older version of Miranda Cosgrove’s Summer Hathaway.
“I gotta say, Sarika, you know I’m impressed,” says Griffin after finding out of a plot against him. “Sometimes I forget that even though you’re all dumber than me, there’s still some value to your little brains.”
Though made to a classroom of students in Toledo, Ohio, the comment seems equally fit for a pub in Philadelphia. But for A.P. Bio to succeed with the longevity of Howerton’s last gig, the show will have to establish itself as more than Sunny‘s first unofficial spinoff.
2.5 / 4 Shells