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Herc Loves Mike O’Brien’s Mean & Hilarious New NBC Sitcom AP BIO!!

I am – Hercules!!

An unusually inspired and precise comedy about a Harvard-educated philosophy professor named Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton, also a player on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) determined to destroy the life of a far more successful former colleague, “AP Bio” is like so many NBC sitcoms the brainchild of a former “Saturday Night Live” writer, in this case Mike O’Brien (Michael Patrick O’Brien (II) if you’re using IMDb).

Like the late, lamented “Community,” it forces an alpha male into a low-stakes school environment for which he initially harbors little more than contempt. Also like “Community,” it boasts what I’ll call a stellar silly-to-funny ratio, using sublimely ridiculous behavior to elicit loud laughter here in Casa Hercules.

The show seems to owe a lot to “Community,” but also to Mike White’s movie “School of Rock,” which saw Jack Black’s guitar-hero character conscripting preteen students into schemes school authorities would be unlikely to condone.

In “AP Bio” Griffin’s hapless school-authority foil is played by ubertalented and ubiquitous comedian Patton Oswalt, whose management style is not terribly useful in dealing with his narcissistic new instructor, who seems to care little about retaining his job teaching advanced-placement biology.

Griffin is even more hilariously awful than Eleanor Shellstrop, the central mean-girl character in NBC’s equally excellent “The Good Place.” Shellstrop eventually evolved into a nicer person as “Good” soldiered on, and my saddening suspicion is the wonderfully vile Griffin will eventually do the same.

The series premieres tonight, then disappears for a month while NBC airs winter Olympics, returning on March 1. In the meantime, the first three episodes will be posted at nbc.

USA Today says:

... The series has a sardonic, almost cruel sense of humor, which may appeal to some, but its lighthearted moments are better. A guest appearance by Niecy Nash in the second episode, as a rep for the teachers' union, is a highlight, playing up the absurdity of Jack's situation. …

The New York Times says:

... in promo-sized bites, some of the caustic cynicism of “A.P. Bio” might seem refreshing in contrast to more wholesome network comedies. In episode form, though, it’s tiring; in the four installments made available for review, the scattershot misery is ironically adolescent. …

Entertainment Weekly says:

... at times too straight-forward … Grade: B …

The Cleveland Plain Dealer says:

if "A.P. Bio" lives up to the amazing potential displayed in the early going, it will quickly advance to first place among this season's new network comedies. It's certainly starting out as the star pupil of the freshman class. ... The Thursday lineup should be a good fit, since it's already the home of sophomore hit "The Good Place," another edgy, refreshingly original comedy that manages to be, at the same time, endearing and dark, insightful and outrageous.…

The Lincoln Journal Star says:

... while Howerton is the star, it’s really the supporting players, especially the nerdy kids, who make this one kind of fun. …

The Boston Globe says:

... Howerton is well-cast as the self-centered, scheming guy who always seems to land on his feet. And he is surrounded by a supporting cast with potential, including Mary Sohn, Lyric Lewis, and Jean Villepique as fellow teachers and a class of adorable geeks. … the show also includes winning guest stars, including Niecy Nash and Taran Killam in episode two and, amusingly, Lisa Loeb in episode three. …

The Boston Herald says:

... When the funniest things about a comedy are the cameos, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Or in the case of NBC’s new sitcom “A.P. Bio,” back to the chalkboard. …

9:30 p.m. Thursday. NBC.

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