Friday, June 21, 2019

REVIEW: 'Mr. Iglesias' - Gabe Fights to Protect His Students from an Unjust System in 'Some Children Left Behind'

Netflix's Mr. Iglesias - Episode 1.01 "Some Children Left Behind"

On the last day of class before summer break, Gabe learns several of his students are being transferred out of Woodrow Wilson High School.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Netflix's Mr. Iglesias.

"Some Children Left Behind" was written by Kevin Hench and directed by Andy Ackerman

Right off the bat, it's odd that a comedy about the impact a teacher can have on his young students opens on the last day of the school year. It basically comes with the threat that an apparent majority of his students won't actually be returning in the fall because the administration no longer wants them. Now, there is never really any question regarding the fates of these students. This premiere establishes their broad personalities and the dynamics they have with Gabe. If they were no longer important or if he moved over to teach the honors class, then this premiere would have been a significant waste of time. And yet, it may still present as such because it ultimately establishes that Gabe will have to give up his summer road trip in order to teach these students over the summer to improve their scores. Now, these students don't all have the same issues. Plus, history is unlikely to be the only subject that Gabe will have to help them with. One student is the best in his class but leaves during the afternoons because she has to work. Another student simply doesn't have the grades to keep the administration's overall scores up. It shows how cynical the entire system can be. It's built out of public education essentially competing for money based on how their students perform in standard areas that can be monitored and judged. It just creates the potential of some students being left behind as Gabe notes. He sees this counseled out policy as absolutely horrifying. He wants to take an interest in these kids' lives. He helps them grow as human beings. That was evident long before this threat to their future was created. But now, he is willing to carry that burden and even place his own future at the school in jeopardy because he sees these kids as valuable and worth educating. That just creates a reality in which the season moving forward is about summer school and whether the kids can actually improve their overall scores enough to convince the administration that this program won't be beneficial to anyone. And yet, that clashes with the subplot in which the history teachers are competing to see who will get to teach the honors class in the fall. It's a story meant to better flesh out the world of Gabe's colleagues. Those are some broad characters as well. In fact, Gabe is really the only one written with specificity in this opening hour. The two other teachers in his department are polar opposites. Abby is a fresh transplant from South Dakota who comes prepared for absolutely everything. Tony is still the slacker student who doesn't know how to put together a lesson plan or goals for the future. But Tony is the one given this promotion. That's outrageous considering the perfect candidate is right there. The principal's explanation isn't even that great. She sees Tony as deserving of a new opportunity in order to prove his worth. She wants to test him to see if he should continue being amongst the faculty. She has no such concerns about Abby, Gabe or Ray. But the summer school premise doesn't really give the fellow faculty members a ton of agency or importance at the moment. So, it still remains a little unclear how everyone will exactly factor into things moving forward this season. It places most of the priority on Gabe and his new class. Again, that could be a fascinating hook for this series. The show just has to put a little more effort into the humor to make it actually funny while still finding the right tone to actually address some serious issues that are apparent in this younger generation's lives.