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SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details from the Season 3 premiere of Abbott Elementary.
Class is finally back in session!
Abbott Elementary returned to ABC Wednesday, kicking off Season 3 a bit later than expected due to last year’s lengthy work stoppages during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.
Since Season 2 aligned with the traditional school year, it was initially expected that Season 3 would follow the same format. However, since the writers were on strike until September, and the actors stayed on the picket lines until November, production couldn’t begin until much later in the year. As a result, Season 3 of Abbott will be 14 episodes, following just the events in the latter half of the school year.
“It was a giant discussion at the start. Last year we really went by the school schedule. When we were airing was when we wanted the show to be taking place, and we hit Halloween and Christmas and everything like that. So this year, it felt like it would have been very odd to say the first day of school was February 7,” explained executive producer Justin Halpern. “But we also wanted to get those new first day of school vibes and see what was happening with the show. So we were like ‘Alright, let’s see if we can do both.’”
It’s a unique challenge that most returning series starting later in the broadcast season wouldn’t necessarily have to face, requiring the writers to explain in the premiere episode why viewers were just now tuning in, mid-way through the school year.
Naturally, being on strike for 148 days prompted the writers to consider that perhaps the teachers at Willard R. Abbott Elementary School had been on strike, too.
“That was, for obvious reasons, on the forefront of our minds, but then we thought it was a little bit too meta,” EP Patrick Schumaker told Deadline.
Added Halpern: “Also, having just gone through a five-month strike, we were like, ‘I don’t think I also want to write about that.’”
In the end, the writers settled on the idea that the school year hadn’t stopped at all. Instead, the cameras just hadn’t been around, because the documentary crew had their camera equipment stolen, and it had taken them five months to save up enough money to buy new equipment.
“I think the notion of the camera equipment getting stolen felt too delicious to pass up, and it also felt like it’s something that very few mockumentaries could get away with but felt kind of in our world,” Schumacker said.
It also gave the writers enough agency to still “address the leftover residual feelings that were there at the end of Season 2, but also be able to jump forward and use that to our advantage,” Halpern explained.
Thankfully, this means the premiere episode could advance the story while also meaningfully addressing where things left off at the end of Season 2, especially between Janine and Gregory, who kissed before Janine decided to keep Gregory in the friend zone.
In order to make the premiere as satisfying as possible, Schumacker joked, “the whiteboard in the writers room looked like Kevin Feige giving an MCU presentation, trying to like track all of the timelines and everything. I think at a certain point even we were worried that it wasn’t going to translate, but I think in execution, it’s pretty clear.”
Deadline also spoke with Halpern and Schumacker about bringing viewers up to speed on that relationship, as well as the iconic Season 3 premiere guest stars, and more. Read that story here.
Abbott Elementary airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.