TV Land’s “Teachers” ground their antics at Fillmore Elementary School in reality

Classes are back in session at Chicagoland’s Fillmore Elementary School, where Ms. Cannon (Caitlin Barlow), Ms. Bennigan (Katie O’Brien), Ms. Snap (Katy Colloton), Ms. Feldman (Cate Freedman), Ms. Watson (Kate Lambert) and Mrs. Adler (Kathryn Renee Thomas) are fulfilling their duties, sort of, as teachers in TV Land’s Teachers.

The second half of season two premiered this week.

Before that, I visited the writers offices for Teachers on the Sunset Radford lot to speak with two of the stars, Colloton and O’Brien. They took a quick break from breaking down season three plot lines with their co-stars and showrunner Ian Roberts to sit down with me and explain what’s new in their world, on and off screen. They might not often get a chance to spy on Shondaland (production offices for Scandal and How To Get Away with Murder sit across the driveway from their building) or see what Angelina Jolie might be eating at the cafe. And despite already prepping their third season, they still don’t feel like Hollywood stars. At least not compared to everyone else. “We’re always the people at any event who hit up the buffet. I feel like at all network or industry events, that no one eats the food, but the six of us are the ones who are like: ‘Free food? Let’s hit it up!’” Colloton told me.

If anything is different or more emphasized this season, it’s the ladies’ attention to details.

“This season, we want to make sure that teachers love the show, and teachers can relate to it. It’s a comedy for everyone, but we want teachers to watch and go, oh my gosh, this happens,” Colloton said. “And we got a great response from teachers in the first season. Some of our teacher-specific plots really blew up, and the videos got a ton of hits and attention. Which told us we’re on the right track, so this season we wanted to make sure these are six characters that are quirky and weird and it’s an exploration of them. But they are teachers, and we want to make sure we’re still staying true to that world of what it’s like and what teachers have to go through, but in a heightened, more bizarre way.”

Just not as bizarre or bonkers as, say, HBO’s Vice Principals.

“We go bonkers a little, but we try to ground it in some bit of reality,” Colloton said.

“We have a good barometer,” O’Brien said, “Caitlin Barlow used to be a teacher. We really want to explore what teachers go through, but also we want to show what young women in their late 20s go through. But Caitlin Barlow is our litmus test. If we ever pitch something, and she says ‘that would never happen in a million years,’ then I think we won’t do it. Sometimes we’ll still do it, but typically it’s always grounded in what teachers really experience.”

Colloton adds, though: “A lot of the teachers who write in. I just got a message this week. The stories they tell are so crazy that you’re like, we would have shot that down and thought that could never happen.”

What’s the craziest thing they’ve filmed that’s based in truth so far?

“Kid in a ceiling,” O’Brien said. “That is a true story. That was an episode in season one where one of Ms. Feldman’s students crawls up into the ceiling and won’t come down. Our showrunner, Ian Roberts, used to be a substitute teacher a long time ago and had this story where he was teaching this class and noticed everybody gathered toward the back of the class, and he was like, ‘What’s going on?’”

They also shared some tidbits on upcoming plot lines this season, including an unexpected love interest for Ms. Watson, and an asbestos situation in Mrs. Adler’s trailer that leads to some fun physical comedy.

Colloton said they wondered if realistically, school would keep kids in the classes with asbestos. “We had two teachers visit set and say ‘Oh yeah, not only would we keep kids in school, when I was teaching there was a guy with a jackhammer going at our wall as asbestos was flying out. It was for sure in the air and landing on the students.’ Oh my gosh, ours is not even that heightened! I guess it is crazy.”

When not dodging asbestos, the teachers also will try to steer clear of a serial pooper.

“All teachers say that every year, there’s a kid that won’t stop pooping in random places. And that’s pretty weird. And we definitely have a plot about that,” Colloton said.

But their consensus favorite episode comes with two twists.

“We shot an entire episode in the style of the 1940s and it’s in black and white and it’s really cool, and telling the story in real time,” O’Brien said.

If you feel like you’re too far behind by not yet watching Teachers, don’t worry about keeping up.

“If you’ve never seen the show before, you don’t have to start with season one, episode one,” O’Brien said. “I think the show’s designed that at any point, you could drop in.”

Teachers airs new episodes Tuesday nights on TV Land.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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