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'Bad Teacher' review: Series gets a failing grade

Ari Graynor as Meredith Davis and Sara Gilbert

Ari Graynor as Meredith Davis and Sara Gilbert as Irene in "Bad Teacher." Credit: CBS / Sonja Flemming

THE SHOW "Bad Teacher"

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Thursday night at 9:30 on CBS/2.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Meredith Davis (Ari Graynor) gets dumped by her rich husband, and -- absent a pre-nup -- must now find real work (and a replacement husband). A friend's nerdy daughter, Lily (Sara Rodier), unintentionally provides the spark of an idea: Get a job as a teacher, where she can meet another rich, unattached dad. She applies to a tony school whose principal, Carl Gaines (David Alan Grier), falls for the ruse. No one else does, even though Meredith still makes some friends, like fellow teacher, Irene (Sara Gilbert) and gym teacher Joel (Ryan Hansen), and one potential enemy, faculty president Ginny (Kristin Davis). It's based on the 2011 movie.

MY SAY The big-screen "Bad Teacher" worked -- or at least worked for a few million undiscriminating ticket-buying teens -- largely because of Cameron Diaz's Elizabeth Halsey. She was a reprobate with an unrestrained libido, the disposition of a prison guard and a pair of eyes that were hollowed, burned-out cores. Sure, she wanted a rich guy, but what she really wanted was a breast implant. Everything about her was comically overblown awfulness -- an exact reversal of all those romanticized, idealized teacher-heroes of the past half-century or so.

And this is what -- or who -- Graynor's Davis is up against. As the vampish man-devourer in high heels, Meredith snaps one-liners, nurses hangovers and fools absolutely no one (save Principal Gaines) about her lack of qualifications. She's not awful, just a transparent cliche. CBS and showrunner Hilary Winston figured that the way to turn a blue film with a reasonably appalling lead into a prime-time sitcom with a few smutty jokes and an appealing lead was as follows: Make her nice, and provide an uplifting kicker to the final act each week, whereby she actually helps the students instead of herself.

As expected, the transition from big screen to small doesn't exactly work. What this "Bad Teacher" really needed to do was outsmart the source material -- make this version more clever, or sharper, or funnier, or (above all) make it for adults. After all, no teens will ever fall for this flavorless, sanitized and timid retread.

BOTTOM LINE "Bad Sitcom"


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