‘A.P. Bio’ Is The Mean And Petty Comedy That Is A True 2018 Mood
A.P. Bio is the perfect show if you struggle to be happy for other people.
Welcome to ‘Should You Bother Watching’, Junkee’s column which helps to answer the streaming-age’s biggest question: is this show for me? In this one, we go back to school with A.P. Bio.
A.P. Bio is the perfect show if you struggle to be happy for other people and anything in general — a mood for 2018.
One of the rules Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David stated to their writers when creating Seinfeld was: no hugging and no learning. The mentality helped to create the perfect sitcom while messing with a television formula that was dominated by wacky best friends, odd couples and families.
Making despicable characters engaging and hilarious is a difficult balancing act, especially during the past few decades, where anti-heroes with a heart of gold dominate television: their methods are unconventional … but they get results.
Redemption, too, plays a big role in these shows with disgraced, egotistical characters getting humbled — think Community and East Bound and Down. We’re so far down this path that it’s the perfect time to tinker with a comedy series with a mean streak — an entire vibe for 2018 — so class is in session with A. P. Bio.
A Harvard philosophy professor, Jack Griffin (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glen Howerton), loses his dream gig to a colleague and best-selling author, Miles Leonard (Tom Bennett).
Jack is forced to return to his hometown to work as a replacement teacher at a high school where he makes it clear to the class, who are keen to learn, that he has no intention of teaching biology and will use the students to get revenge on Miles. The class will get top grades if they keep quiet about not learning biology and Jack gives them different tasks that range from trying to catfish Miles and applying for jobs at a local book store to dethrone Miles’ book as a ‘top pick’.
Don’t Open Your Books To Chapter One
Okay, we know A. P. Bio sounds similar to the plot of School of Rock but it’s a show that’s hyper aware of its premise and the Dead Poets Society style clichés associated with renegade teachers who inspire their students and vice-versa.
Created by Mike O’Brien, a former writer on Saturday Night Live, A. P. Bio smashes through sitcom niceties. Jack crashes his car through the school’s sign and then busts into the classroom to detail his plan in the opening seconds of the first episode.
— A.P. Bio (@NBCAPBio) October 17, 2018
Jack is an arsehole who is a mixture of Jeff Winger (Community) and Rick Sanchez (Rick & Morty) but he’s a shot of venom into a sanitised high school. Howerton is perfect as Jack, a smug intellectual whose sense of entitlement is astounding but he’s neurotic and misguided enough to be the butt of many jokes. Jack’s obsession with vengeance consumes the school as he manipulates people to get what he wants.
Soon, the principal (Patton Oswald) and staff (Paula Pell, Mary Sohn, Lyric Lewis and Jean Villepique) are implicated, and the students begin to react to Jack’s leadership in weird ways.
Jack’s massive ego makes him a righteous fool, as he fails to achieve his spiteful goals — whenever Jack is close to success someone derails his plan.
O’Brien’s comedic sensibilities are similar David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm: we’re not meant to feel sorry for Jack, but instead, revel in his misfortune.
Jack is burnt out and a bit of empathy comes from relating to his inability to be happy for anybody else. It can be a struggle to see others succeed, especially at a time when it feels like people in power in our society fail upwards. Bennett plays Miles as a jovial, academic doofus, so you get why Jack is livid and there are great jokes built around his rival’s continual success.
In the shadow of Miles, Jack’s rage becomes our rage, and it’s a fire that burns bright in 2018, which is why A. P. Bio is such a hilarious indulgence in blunt honesty and pettiness.
So, Should You Bother Watching A.P. Bio?
A. P. Bio may push you away a little if you don’t like spending time with nightmare people.
It’s a show with a similar tone to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Party Down, You’re the Worst and Girls. Jack’s opening rant in the first episode will make or break your decision to push on — even the opening credits blasts The Ramones’ ‘Listen To My Heart’ to reflect the “don’t care” attitude of the show.
Every nerd's nightmare: pic.twitter.com/5Go3Ar0sWi
— A.P. Bio (@NBCAPBio) November 7, 2018
If television is your safe space from jerks it’s understandable why you’d want to give this show a miss: plenty of them out of the streets.
If you decide to keep going with A. P. Bio, a fierce, comical show awaits that does soften a little toward the end of its first season.
And it will return: A. P. Bio got the go-ahead for a second season earlier this year and will return in 2019, so investing in these deplorable characters is worth it.
A.P. Bio is currently streaming on Stan.
Cameron Williams is a writer and film critic based in Melbourne who occasionally blabs about movies on ABC radio. He has a slight Twitter addiction: @MrCamW.