'Bad Teacher' CBS TV series won't do educators any favors

Cameron Diaz's film 'Bad Teacher' is becoming a TV show at CBS, but the premise plays to every negative stereotype about educators and women.

Gemma LaMana/Columbia Pictures - Sony/AP
'Bad Teacher' stars Cameron Diaz (r.) and Jason Segel (l.).

CBS has decided to give educators a vote of no confidence by bringing "Bad Teacher" to TV as a series adaptation of the film that starred Cameron Diaz. The premise, which plays to every possible negative stereotype of educators and women, may make the grade with network executives, but it will set up middle- and high-school teachers for failure in the eyes of students who watch the show.

I spent a year as a teacher a while back, and I can say I was blessed to have left the job before "Bad Teacher" was released in 2011. Teaching middle- and high-school kids is like being an antelope trying to teach ravenous lion cubs – it’s a whole lot easier when someone outside the classroom isn’t roasting antelope and venting the exhaust into the lion’s den.

That last thought is the rough equivalent to what I believe middle- and high-school educators will have to cope with once "Bad Teacher" is on the small screens in homes and on laptops and smart phones in the hands of students.

CBS announced May 15 it had ordered the comedy, based on the film which starred Diaz. She played Elizabeth Halsey, an ignorant, sexed-up, scheming middle-school teacher who gets dumped by her wealthy boyfriend and rebounds by sinking her claws into a handsome substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake).

In the CBS version (no air date set yet), Ari Graynor will star as "an always inappropriate, fearless and unapologetic former trophy wife who masquerades as a teacher in order to find a new man after her wealthy husband leaves her penniless," according to Yahoo News.

How did CBS get from "I love Lucy" to "let’s hate teacher"? Of course, the world is changing and so are tastes in comedy and other programming, but CBS has a legacy that it’s putting down for the count with decisions like "Bad Teacher." Maybe they just need to remember who they are?

Dear CBS: You taught us so many good lessons. You gave us:

·         Captain Kangaroo (1955–1984)

·         The Honeymooners (1955–56, 1971)

·         The Carol Burnett Show (1967–1978)

·         Gunsmoke (1955–1975)

·   The Cosby Show (1996–2000)

·         My Three Sons (1965–72)

·         The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–77)

·          M*A*S*H (1972–83)

·         The Nanny (1993–99)

·         Blue's Clues (2002–2006)

Now the "Twilight Zone" you intend to put us in is a place where bad is good and the bad guys always win.

"Bad Teacher" is on the low end of the comedic evolutionary timeline. The lessons learned are that being a narcissistic, sadistic, incompetent teacher is cool; bullying is funny and being all those negative stereotypes will pay off with true love from a good man who can look past all your character flaws because he’s too focused on lust and your pretty face.

In the movie, Diaz’s character makes bullying “funny” as she smashes the “chubby” kid in the face with a dodge ball because he failed to answer her question. In another scene, a male teacher is seduced and blackmailed with nude photos of himself taken as he lay face down on a school copier.

I’m taking a moment to inventory my notes and see what, if anything, I missed. Oh, wait, and the film also teaches us that competent teachers are socially inept, overweight, clueless, and timid.

“America’s teachers earn our respect every day, doing some of this country’s toughest and most important work,” according to the US Department of Education’s website. I agree, which is why I don’t think we need a major network making that respect hard to come by, thus derailing efforts to get that important work done with our kids.

While middle schoolers may have missed "Bad Teacher" when it was in theaters because of its R rating and parental intervention, as a television show on a network it will be unavoidable. I can already see all the unending cheap shots at teachers in the teasers that will run during all the other shows we do approve of teens watching.

It’s really not a stretch at all to the conclusion that kids will lose the respect they have for teachers and at that point our children are going to get left behind because they will be too busy mocking teachers to learn anything from them.

CBS executives should stop believing that making their bottom line means choosing comedies that are bottom dwellers.

They should take a commercial break and watch the hilarious new Audi commercial, a refreshingly witty Old Spock Battles New Spock romp. See it here.

Audi’s spot stars Leonard Nimoy (the original Mr. Spock of Star Trek TV fame) and Zachary Quinto (new Mr. Spock of the next next next generation films). The two Spocks play chess via iPad and smack-talk each other, with Leonard Nimoy singing the "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" and later taking Quinto out with a Vulcan neck pinch in order to win a bet.

As a mom, I don’t recommend it for my nine-year old because there’s a bleeped-out swear word and it’s not nice to Vulcan neck-pinch people, plus betting is wrong. However, my 14-, 18-, and 19-year-olds thought it was really funny, know not to use the word they lip read from Nimoy, and have been feigning the neck-pinch-win as a spoof for a week.  

Maybe CBS needs a visit from Mary Tyler Moore, who once said, “The kinds of shows that seem to work now, the comedy shows, are those which require very little attention. They're superficial and I like articulate comedy.” 

Actually, perhaps the CBS executives are just unable to say “no” to this kind of show for fear of losing viewers. In that case, again, I would go to Ms. Moore’s character, Mary Richards, and a dialogue exchange that occurred on her show:

Mary Richards: "Well, it's hard for me to say no."

Ted Baxter: "Say, Mary..."

Mary Richards: "NO!"

See how easy that was? The best thing about it is that it’s still funny and no teachers or kids were harmed in the making of those lines.

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