A.P. Bio (2018-2021) TV Series Review
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
SEASON 4 of Michael O'Brien's comedic school satire has concluded, and since the series premiere in 2018, A.P. Bio has received critical acclaim and developed a cult following after the show was in jeopardy of being cancelled in 2020. As a result, this latest season could sound the final bell for the comedy, but has this season, as well as the preceding three, came together to earn itself a passing or failing grade.
Former philosophy professor Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton) has dreams of teaching at Harvard University, but events in his past and present have continually halted his chances of achieving prosperity, turning him into a deshelled, bitter teacher. Griffin, reluctantly, accepts a high school teaching job in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, where he aims to get revenge on those who've wronged him; a goal he intends to achieve with assistance from his AP Biology students such as teacher's pet Sarika (Aparna Brielle), blatant outcast Victor (Jacob Houston) and his clear favourite Heather (Allisyn Snyder).
Howerton has excelled in portraying egotistical, emotionless characters in the past, with his most famous being Dennis in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and while Jack Griffin doesn't hold a candle to the latter, his performance in A.P. Bio is still entertaining due to how indisputable his personality contrasts both the faculty and students of Whitlock High. Jack's biggest contrast is easily Principal Ralph Durbin (Patton Oswalt), a gleeful soul who initially fails at befriending his newest staff member, but because of his unrelenting positivity, he ruptures Jack's cold heart and becomes his best friend by Season 3. Howerton and Oswalt play off one another remarkably, resulting in a cheesy, odd-couple dynamic between the two as they continually bicker, and in some of the show's greatest episodes, have meaningful interactions about their respective insecurities such as Durbin's relationship status or Griffin's sour family history.
Like any good comedy, writing is a key factor for success, and while the former SNL writer doesn't always hit his mark, O'Brien understands when subtlety or absurdity is necessary for laughs. Jokes often land during interactions between Jack and his students as these scenes will make full use of his 16-person class, resulting in a variety of jokes that compile the different personalities of each student. From Sarika's endless pursuit of perfection and belittling of Jack, to Dan Decker's (Spence Moore II) journey from hating to loving AP Biology, each student brings their A-game to create a perpetual source of humour for each episode to utilise.
Comedy is always a pleasantry, but drama is the perfect way to balance the endless humour and develop certain characters in order to create opportunities for even more jokes. While not every character is afforded meaningful progression, the ones that do feel important, with the best development, fittingly, being Jack Griffin. The philosophy professor returns to Toledo in Season 1 with distain in his soul, putting his student's grades on the backfoot in favour of his childish vindication schemes. Throughout the first season, Griffin further interacts with his students and faculty as he learns of the struggles they're going through, realising that his selfish goals are unimportant compared to theirs, resulting in him aiding his newfound friends.
Season 2 and 3 focus more on Jack's search for a partner when he meets Lynette (Elizabeth Alderfer); a like-minded teacher who soon becomes his on-off again girlfriend before they reconcile during Season 3's heart-warming finale, an episode which remains one of the show's best due to its consistently-funny and purposeful writing. However, this finale now feels meaningless due to the poor mistakes made in Season 4's debut episode as Jack's prospering relationship with Lynette falls to shambles following a minor squabble which came out of left field and felt incredibly unnatural due to the struggles the pair have perceived through in previous episodes. Season 4 maintains a steady pace following the rapid introduction and disappearance of Jack's father (Bruce Campbell) before capping off with a bang in the final episode which follows the progression of each cast member throughout the series as Jack's seemingly-insignificant search for a pen becomes meaningful as the origins of the marker are revealed in a touching sentiment that relates to his past and present.
The future of A.P. Bio is uncertain at this stage, but if these past four seasons form the show's legacy, then I am very pleased with the time I've had with it. Glenn Howerton shines as the M.V.P, bringing emotion and humour to the role of Jack Griffin through his sheer charisma and wonderful writing courtesy of Michael O'Brien. Certain elements of the show may not always work, including tone inconsistency and lack of development for certain fan favourite characters such as Lynette and the staffroom trio of Stef (Lyric Lewis), Mary (Mary Sohn) and Michelle (Jean Villepique), but A.P. Bio more than makes up for these weak points with charm and nuance. If you're a fan of untraditional school comedies and don't mind a bit of cheesy humour on the side, A.P. Bio is an easy recommendation which, hopefully, gets renewed for Season 5.