Why ‘Abbott Elementary’ Hit the Brakes on Janine and Gregory

Series creator Quinta Brunson explains wanting to shake up the typical sitcom romance timeline in Season 3 of the ABC comedy

"Abbott Elementary" Season 3
"Abbott Elementary" Season 3 (ABC)

Abbott Elementary” Season 3 is breaking some hearts so far.

ABC’s award-winning sitcom hit has been hinting at a romance between Janine (Quinta Brunson) and Gregory (Tyler James Williams) since their very first meet-cute in Season 1. So when the duo shared a kiss during the Season 2 episode “Teacher’s Conference,” audiences rejoiced and thought they might finally be entering the “will” phase of their “will they/won’t they” relationship.

But “Abbott Elementary” hit the brakes on their romance after Janine realized she wasn’t ready for a relationship. And they did it again at the start of Season 3. In a moment caught on Ava’s (Janelle James) candid camera, Janine tried to rekindle their romance, but Gregory shut it down, saying he put a “period” on that in his mind.

Now, four episodes in, “Abbot” creatives seem content to let that dynamic breathe in its current, cooled-down state for a little while. And there are a few reasons why they wanted to shake up the typical sitcom romance timeline, as series creator and star Quinta Brunson told the press during the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

“I like to take into account that we’ve seen versions of this trope before,” Brunson said during a TCA set visit in February. “I really like to look at TV as constantly reinventing the wheel. So, I thought we had the opportunity to reinvent by just moving that kiss up. People knew that something was going to happen.

“I think the fun of young 20-somethings is really that stuff like that happens all the time. People kiss each other, they have sex with each other. And then all of a sudden they’re cool again, or not cool again, or friends again and they have to be in the same social circle,” Brunson said. “Their life doesn’t just magically turn into something where they never see each other anymore.”

Finally, Brunson explained, it was an “interesting vehicle” for the individual characters of Gregory and Janine, who have their own narratives to play out, no matter how badly fans want to consider them a lockstep duo.

“It was easy to slow it back down because they are coworkers who care about their jobs, at the end of the day,” she continued. “And we always look at them as two separate individuals. We know, for the audience, they tend to look at them as a “will they/won’t they,” but it’s Janine’s path and Gregory’s path and sometimes those paths cross, but they are individuals.”

Brunson’s comments echo what co-showrunner Justin Halpern told TheWrap last year, toward the end of the Season 2 run after Janine and Gregory’s PECSA conference hookup.

“We don’t look at it as, ‘When are we going to get these two together or not get them together?’,” Halpern said. “We look at it as, ‘Hey, let’s really pay attention to the characters and grow the characters,’ so that when we make whatever decision we make, you as an audience believe it and feel like it’s real. These are people in their 20s, like, that s—‘s messy.”

For now, it sounds like the “will” or “won’t” of Janine and Gregory’s would-be romance is very much still up in the air, and with the strike-shortened Season 3 tapping out earlier than usual, those answers might be further down the road. Fortunately, “Abbott Elementary” has already been renewed for Season 4.

“Abbott Elementary” airs Wednesdays on ABC, next day on Hulu.

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