'A.P. Bio' Season 3 Review: Class is Back in Session, Weirder and Funnier Than Ever
In just two short 13-episode seasons, the NBC comedy series A.P. Bio was already showing promising signs of evolution. The series started out focusing on disgraced Harvard philosophy professor Jack Griffin (Glenn Howerton), who missed out on his dream job and was forced to return to his hometown of Toledo, Ohio and work as an advanced placement biology high school teacher. But instead of teaching his gifted, oddball students, he uses them to get revenge on the rival who took his job.
The second season found Jack getting a little more caught up in the small town antics of Whitlock High School. Though he was still focused on schemes that would benefit his career and get him back out of Toledo, he was constantly distracted by getting revenge on those who wronged him, no matter how petty the offense. The show lost a lot of the sociopathic edge of the first season, but it opened the door for some more bizarre comedy from the supporting cast and even Jack himself.
Now the third season of A.P. Bio, coming to NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock next week, takes that approach to the next level. Not only does the new season dig even more into the ensemble of students, teachers and administrators, but it delivers some of the show’s weirdest episodes yet, bringing it to a satisfyingly hilarious, almost 30 Rock-level of absurdity.
The second season of A.P. Bio concluded with the set-up for a potentially major hurdle for Jack Griffin’s continued negligence and refusal to educate his class. Principal Durbin (Patton Oswalt) allowed the school’s secretary Helen (Paula Pell) to go back to school and get her diploma. That included her enrollment in Jack’s class, threatening to expose all his shenanigans. But this is a comedy series we’re talking about, so the threat doesn’t last long, and we quickly shift back into what the show does best: preposterous and petty revenge. But the formula gets shaken up here and there as the season goes along.
There are still the standard episodes that stick to Jack’s penchant for striking back at those who inconvenience him. The season premiere finds Jack miffed when a vintage popcorn popper he ordered to fulfill a nostalgic tradition from his childhood turns out to be nothing more than a dollhouse accessory. So he decides to use his new student Helen to take down the dollhouse store owner who ruined his Tuesday night viewings of Jake and the Fatman with his casual girlfriend Lynette (Elizabeth Alderfer, who isn’t around nearly as much as I’d like, but we’ll get to that later).
Elsewhere in the season, there are episodes which serve to further Jack’s career, such as when he’s hired by a publisher to ghostwrite the novel of a famous author played by guest star Jon Lovitz, all so Jack can eventually get his own novel published. Meanwhile, another episode finds Jack staying after hours at school to record a lecture that might land him a new university job, and his anal retentiveness sparks a slow descent into madness, bolstered by the fumes of rat poison fumigation that create an episode in the vein of The Shining.
But even with those commonplace elements of the show, this season feels like it has a little more heart, slowly softening Jack’s defensive shell that he uses to keep people at a distance. Sure, he’s still mostly dismissive of the students played by Aparna Brielle, Allisyn Snyder, Miguel Chavez, Spence Moore, Nick Peine, Jacob Houston, Eddie Leavey, Jacob Manown, and Sari Arambulo – unless they’ve got good ideas to help him out. But this season finds Jack occasionally taking a vested interest in his students’ well-being, even when it doesn’t benefit himself. One such episode takes us into the underground wrestling matches of a local church, featuring a fantastically silly tangent with guest star Ron Funches. Like I said, this season gets weirder across the board.
What’s great about season 3 is that there’s more of a focus on the quirky and strange students in Jack’s class. We follow them in B-stories that take us away from Jack’s main story for a bit, and they’re more abundant than they ever were in the previous seasons of the show. It should not be understated how outstanding the ensemble cast of students is in A.P. Bio. Jacob Houston and Miguel Chavez make for the most wonderfully weird best friends as Victor and Eduardo; Eddie Leavey shines as the firmly flamboyant Anthony; Nick Peine makes for the perfect punching bag for Jack; and Allisyn Snyder continues to steal so many scenes as the quirky, nasally, coke bottle-bespectacled Heather, who is fiercely dedicated to helping Jack and carries an inexplicable air of confidence that is always funny.
The additional side stories also give much meatier roles to fellow upbeat and offbeat teachers played by Mary Sohn, Lyric Lewis, and Jean Villepique. Along with Patton Oswalt and Paula Pell, they especially shine in a formula-shattering episode that begins with a 10-minute run of “Previously on A.P. Bio” flashbacks to moments that were never actually part of the first two seasons, making for an intentionally disjointed and fast-moving episode that is one of the most innovative of the entire series. This episode in particular seems to lean into the fact that the show has shifted over to Peacock and may possibly be picking up new viewers who haven’t seen the first two seasons.
However, one thing the jump to Peacock hasn’t changed much is the level of adult material throughout the series. Even though A.P. Bio is on a streaming service now without any network restrictions, they don’t suddenly start spewing profanity all over the place or being overly raunchy. Despite a reference later in the season to the students suddenly swearing a bit more, the only extra vulgarities you’ll hear are a few “shits” here and there. Otherwise, there’s still some bleeping of a couple other choice swear words. But honestly, A.P. Bio doesn’t need to be uncensored to be funny, and the first two seasons already proved that.
If there’s one big complaint that I have about the third season of A.P. Bio, it’s that Jack’s love interest, Lynette, isn’t nearly as prominent here as she was in the second season. I don’t know if that’s because she wasn’t available due to another project or what, but she’s sorely missed and needs a bigger role on the show. Lynette appears a little more frequently towards the end of the season, but it’s still just not enough. Maybe the writers haven’t figured out how to use her effectively as Jack’s story continues, or maybe they’re just slowly waiting to develop their relationship as time goes on. But she needs to play a bigger role.
Otherwise, one other small issue is that the season three finale doesn’t quite feel like a worthy end to the eight episode run. It’s a riff on How the Grinch Stole Christmas where the holiday that Jack is trying to ruin is Katie Holmes Day, a holiday celebrating the Dawson’s Creek star who hails from Toledo, Ohio. While it admittedly does contain one of the most heartfelt moments that Jack has had in the entire series, the episode as a whole just doesn’t feel like a season finale. Perhaps there’s a chance that we’ll get a second half of a third season ordered by Peacock? If not, this third season is still a spectacular continuation of the series that fans will love, and I really hope audiences find it on Peacock so we can get at least a couple more seasons. This really feels like the funniest show on television you’re probably not watching.
A.P. Bio is executive produced by Mike O’Brien and Seth Meyers, and the entire third season arrives on Peacock next week on September 3, 2020.
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