CBS follows its relatively rare trip into single-camera comedy, “The Crazy Ones,” with the appealing “Bad Teacher,” buoyed by stage actress Ari Graynor’s head-turning performance (regardless of the show’s success) as the title character, a newly divorced trophy wife who takes a job in a middle school, looking to meet rich, divorced dads. Adapted from the 2011 vehicle for Cameron Diaz, the series suffers from being a trifle repetitive in the episodes previewed, but Graynor’s dilettante is consistently good company, even if the show’s prospects of striking the Nielsen mother lode look iffy.
Faced with an iron-clad prenup, Meredith stumbles onto the idea of using the school as her springboard to a live-in meal-ticket when she agrees to pick up a friend’s daughter. Faster than you can say “luxury cars,” she’s won over the emotionally needy principal (David Alan Grier) and befriended a nerdy teacher (Sara Gilbert) who is desperate for a friend, even if that means letting Meredith take advantage of her. Meredith also butts heads with fellow teacher Ginny (Kristin Davis), essentially the queen bee before her arrival.
Adapted by Hilary Winston from the movie, the show quickly falls into a predictable pattern, where Meredith is forced to put her caviar dreams on hold by a troubling do-gooder impulse, which involves taking under her wing a group of picked-on safety-patrol girls. At some point, the title might have to be amended to “Teacher With Bad Impulses and High Heels, but a Good Heart.”
Still, taken on its own terms, the series is pretty amusing, with Meredith arranging a career day so she can check out what kind of jobs the available dads have — and asking a lot of inappropriate questions. While it’s hardly the most enlightened view of romance or social climbing, Meredith is so cheerfully transparent about her shallowness that it’s kind of hard not to root for her to achieve her gold-digging aims. Just maybe not too soon.
or all that, this “Teacher” has enrolled in CBS’ Thursday lineup at an uncertain time, with “The Big Bang Theory” anchoring a lineup that often makes the long-running show look like Gulliver among the Lilliputians. “Bad Teacher” doesn’t seem likely to reverse that trend, and may look a bit out of place as virtually the sole single-camera practitioner amid the network’s sea of multicamera comedies.
Nevertheless, strictly in terms of creative merit, “Bad Teacher” earns better than passing grades — and whatever its future, heralds Graynor’s arrival as a likely overachiever.