Mini-review: Bad Teacher 1×1 (CBS)

Bad Teacher

In the US: Thursdays, 9.30/8.30c, CBS

You may remember the movie Bad Teacher. Or you may not. It starred Cameron Diaz as an incompetent, lazy teacher who is forced to return to the job she quit so she can save up enough money for a boob job, so she can marry someone rich. It had some funny moments, most of them involving Justin Timberlake or Diaz being as politically incorrect, foul-mouthed and generally bad a teacher as possible – before her inevitable moral readjustment by the end.

Ring any bells? Probably. It was neither the best nor the worst comedy movie ever made but it was reasonably adequate.

But given the kinds of things that did make it funny, why did CBS think that adapting it for network TV was ever going to work? The quick and simple answer is women. More and more women have started watching CBS, particularly its sitcoms, so CBS thought it could consolidate this by producing sitcoms especially for the ladies. It gave us Mom for the Fall and given the paucity of female-centred properties to adapt, now we have Bad Teacher, starring mostly people you’ve never heard of in the main roles, quite famous people in the supporting parts.

Largely, the TV show is the same as the movie, except Diaz’s replacement, Ari Graynor, is already getting divorced. Having hired the same lawyer as her husband, she’s broke so decides to become a teacher at her old high school so that she can meet single, rich dads and marry one of them. There’s no rich Justin Timberlake teacher for her to pursue so far, but we do have Ryan Hansen replacing Jason Segel as Graynor’s former High School one-night-stand, current gym teacher and potential future boyfriend.

In the supporting cast, though, not only we do have Sara Gilbert from Roseanne as the nerdy teacher pal Graynor hangs around with, we also have Sex and the City‘s Kristin Davis as the goody two-shoes rival played by Lucy Punch in the original and David Alan Grier (In Loving Color) as the principal.

Being CBS, of course, the series is a whole lot tamer than the movie, with Gaynor largely just being shallow in her efforts to get a husband, rather than being truly mercenary. Indeed, by the end, we already had signs of her moral improvement, as she protects her best friend’s daughter and nerdy pals from the school’s mean girls. Indeed, there is a dreadful sucking vacuum where all the funny lines used to be, since CBS hasn’t deemed it important to replace them with anything – just the mere fact she’s a bad, manipulative – and sexy – teacher should be enough to have us rolling in the aisles, apparently.

Unfortunately, as a result, Bad Teacher is a painful viewing experience, filled with ham acting, almost no funny lines or situations, and the trademark CBS comedy misanthropy. It was almost impossible to make it to the end of the utterly predictable first episode and while there were perhaps one or two moments where it looked like it wasn’t a complete waste of time or intended to make all women look irredeemably bad in as many different ways as possible, those were so rare, they might as well have been made from unicorn’s tears.

Here’s a trailer, just in case you want to check it out. You’ll note that at one point, another of CBS’s trademarks – anti-Asian racism – has been carefully edited out. See if you can spot where.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.