Kristin Davis returns to TV in ‘Bad Teacher’

San Franscisco ChronicleApril 24, 2014 

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    ‘Bad Teacher’ debuts at 9:30 p.m. Thursday on WLTX-19 (CBS)

If there’s one thing the new CBS sitcom “Bad Teacher” proves, it’s that you can’t keep a bad thing down.

The sitcom is based on the 2011 film starring Cameron Diaz (also one of the sitcom’s producers) as a gold-digging teacher from hell.

The film followed the “bad” template set by “Bad Santa” and continued more recently by “Bad Grandpa,” but wasn’t as funny as it could have been. The sitcom is funnier than the film, perhaps because it’s working in a smaller time-frame but also because many of the performances are winning.

The set-up is that a buxom “trophy wife” named Meredith Davis (Ari Graynor) learns after her divorce from her rich, cheating husband that she’s not getting any of his money because of a pre-nup. Naturally, the news prompts her to get a job as a teacher in order to meet rich, single dads so she can continue the lifestyle to which she’s become accustomed.

She’s completely unqualified for the job, but is hired anyway after manipulatively sympathizing with principal Carl Gaines (David Alan Grier) about his recent divorce.

She makes a splash on her first day both in the hallways and in the teachers’ lounge, earning the immediate enmity of prim, by-the-book veteran history teacher Ginny (Kristin Davis), slavish admiration from frumpy biology teacher Irene (Sara Gilbert) and a reminder from gym teacher Joel (Ryan Hansen) that they went to high school together and that he may have been one of the few guys she didn’t hook up with.

At every turn, Meredith’s plan to land a hunky meal ticket is short-circuited by her inner warmth and concern for the underdog – particularly a friend’s stepdaughter, Lily (Sara Rodier), too smart to be treated with respect by the school “mean girls.”

Lily isn’t alone. She is among several girls who would be targeted by the popular set even if they weren’t members of the school safety patrol and forced to wear unflattering neon yellow safety vests.

The show has its funny moments, and the cast is pretty good, especially the younger actors. In addition to Rodier as a kind of flesh and blood Lisa Simpson, Grace Kaufman does a superb job as Bronwen, the daughter of a wealthy real estate mogul who wants to date Meredith but only if his daughter approves. She does not, to put it mildly.

Kristin Davis is quite good but under-utilized here. Ginny knows Meredith is a phony and that knowledge, not to mention the resentment she feels toward her, should provide more laughs than it does. There are a few moments that promise better interplay between the two characters in future episodes.

The show, created by Hilary Winston, is at its best when teacher really is “bad.” At those moments, it approaches a wicked, and wickedly funny, level of satire. As you might expect, though, every episode ends with a warm and fuzzy moment – well, as warm and fuzzy as the “Bad Teacher” can be.

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