Schooled: Why A Lainey and Erica Spinoff May Have Helped ABC Move Into The Future

ABC announced Schooled was cancelled yesterday to shock and dismay for fans.  Perhaps the greatest culprit for the show not succeeding was not only being outsourced by Sony, but ABC missed the window of opportunity to spin off The Goldbergs while it was a ratings juggernaut from 2014-18 (read about that HERE).  Creating a spinoff about the tribulations of high school in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania was indeed entertaining but didn't hold the youthful energy The Goldbergs had.  Unlike the majority of ABC's sitcoms featuring a crazy mother, loopy father and a house full of kids, the kids on the Goldbergs held the energy in the beginning and the parents came second.  Seasons 1-3 crackled as they featured preteen Adam (Sean Giambrone) muddling quirky life in middle school, middle child Barry (Troy Gentile) struggling to find his name with his awkward quirks, and eldest sister Erica and her best friend Lainey (Hayley Orrantia, AJ Michalka) looking forward to the future and college.

This quartet created the best defined younger ensembles ABC had to offer.  While they worked well in unison, ABC stood to gain more ground by splitting the ladies off into their own sitcom.  The Goldbergs' greatest plot flaw was tirelessly aging down Erica to meet plot needs, disintegrating the beautiful dichotomy of her confident yet vulnerable delivery.  It is speculated she was only aged down (a third time) in Season 4 only to accommodate a lukewarm sendup to The Breakfast Club.  Had ABC launched a spinoff (which could have used "Schooled" as a title, or more fittingly Life After School).  Orrantia and Michalka had established chemistry as believable friends Lainey and Erica and could have taken their magic to the action of a dorm (similar to Blackish spinning off Zoe into Grownish).

A sitcom based on the college woes of students would have been a welcome update to the network's fading sitcom block.  Adding an ultra compatible lead-in show could have fostered some solid formative years for a show and created ample opportunities for crossover events.  ABC has needed an update to its comedies for some time and should have vested in developing hangout, workplace or other subgenres to its sitcoms.  Imagine Lainey and Erica tackling the everyday issues of college life, which is not profiled in gritty detail.  College students living away from home are forced to deal with paying bills, anticipating meals, balancing freedom with more responsibility, having temptations with drugs, alcohol, sex and other worldly adult things.  All while trying to make the grade.  

All of these topics could have been explored with guest appearances from the cast sprinkled in.  Paging Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey) having to learn to butt out and not make weekly trips to clean and stock their mini-fridge with chicken parmesan and pasta.  Add Albert (George Segal) whom Erica quietly calls desperate for a loan, or Barry trying his hardest to regain Lainey's love as she has moved on to dating older women.  Sam Lerner, who has underwhelmingly delivered on The Goldbergs as Geoff, may have fit an ideal meal ticket for a primary character on a spinoff.  An ideal setup would be cool cat Erica torn between dating an exciting older man while noticing her passion for Geoff.  That kind of plotting would have served the niche for folks who enjoyed these stories on Beverly Hills, 90210 in earlier years.

All of these possibilities would have crafted an ideal story which could have carried a sitcom for 6+ years.  Unlike the writing room, college students do spend 6-7 years if they are "finding themselves," flunking out or tackling a master's degree.  Michalka and Orrantia would have enjoyed a wider showcase to explore stories without the larger-than-life ensemble of The Goldbergs stealing air time, and viewers could have reminisced and relived the college experience.  A dorm setting is entertaining and can double as a hangout or work comedy, something ABC has not mastered in some time.  A platform like this would have been suitable to tackle more social issues such as bulimia, drug use, sex and other matters college students face.  The Goldbergs rarely touches down on issues, so what a better companion to handle serious ground for 80's issues in place of retread movie sendups.  After all, the 80's had plenty to worry about such as Cold War, AIDS, Drinking and Driving, LGBT issues and other problems like any era.

This window of opportunity was lost long ago.  ABC nixed the initial spinoff of Schooled, the Goldbergs took a detour in writing leaving the earlier seasons sparkling and later seasons tired, and the ratings magic is gone.  Television as a whole has changed in programming and how the business is run.  An outsourced show such as Goldbergs in 2013 was economically more viable, where in 2020 is an added expense.  Where showrunners and networks could take a lesson is identifying opportunities like this when a show is on fire in the ratings.  And showrunners best present a solid proposal to a network when considering a spinoff.

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