Schooled pilot review: Lainey take center stage in fun Goldbergs spinoff


The Goldbergs 90s-set spinoff Schooled finds Lainey working at William Penn to pay her bills. But could teaching actually be her big break?

It’s 1990-something, and Lainey Lewis (AJ Michalka) is a struggling musician, desperate to make ends meet. But can the too cool for school troublemaker of the 80s now hack it as William Penn Academy’s new music teacher? Well, her first words to a student on her first day are “Shut up, nerd.” But maybe Lainey’s rebellious side will actually make her exactly the kind of teacher her students need on Schooled.

Adventures in Adulting

As fans of The Goldbergs saw in tonight’s midseason premiere and as Lainey explains in Schooled‘s pilot, she and Barry (Troy Gentile) won’t be getting married (… at least not in the 80s). But, don’t worry, Lainey is still close with the Goldbergs.

Knowing that John Glascott (Tim Meadows), who is now principal of William Penn, would be hesitant to hire a rebellious former student with zero teaching experience, Lainey brings in the big guns. That’s right, Beverly Goldberg (Wendi McLendon-Covey) makes a cameo as Lainey’s reference, promising to visit Jon every day until he gives Lainey the job.

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Naturally, John subsequently hires Lainey on the spot. But he sets a tough task for her first day: teaching doo-wop to teenagers. One student, Felicia (Rachel Crow), proves to be particularly unenthused and tries to bail. Unfortunately for her, Lainey “invented” the “I have to go to the nurse’s office” excuse. When Felicia continues talking back, Lainey gets so worked up that she threatens to ban Felicia “from all schools for life,” unaware that Felicia is John’s niece.

Crow’s Felicia is a hold-over from Schooled‘s failed 2017 pilot, which later aired as a special, “The Goldbergs: 1990s Something.” Crow pretty much plays the same character, but this time around, she has a more prominent role, funnier lines and an entertaining rapport with Michalka, who was not in the original pilot.

That pilot starred Nia Long as Lucy, Felicia mom’s and Jon’s sister. Long was unable to return when ABC gave the season order due to her role on NCIS: Los Angeles.

Finding her inner teacher

Lainey fails to realize that Felicia is her — a talented singer who’s struggling with her parents’ breakup — until John clues her. Lainey is thrilled and goes to find Felicia so they can “vibe about divorce.” Felicia, of course, doesn’t want to befriend her teacher, though, and Lainey hilariously resorts to blackmail to get Felicia to participate in class.

Then, she has a better idea: give the kids what they want — grunge! — and finally starts connecting with them. However, John puts his foot down about sticking with doo-wop after of one the students gets injured while “moshing.” Lainey, who had seen the job as just a way to pay bills before her big break, reluctantly backs down when John reminds her that he’s the only person taking a chance on her and giving her that big break.

However, after a heart-to-heart with Coach Rick Mellor (Bryan Callen), who reveals that teaching hadn’t always been his dream career, Lainey realizes that she needs to trust her instinct in order to be successful.

Schooled avoids the easy trap of making Lainey come across as incompetent even when she fails. As the end of the episode proves, her instincts are good. She stirs up chaos but gets results too. She’s exactly the kind of teacher you expect Lainey to be and better for it.

She defies John and has her kids put on a rock concert, but she earns his respect for inspiring passion in her students. Lainey also reaches a truce with Felicia. She’ll be the “annoying [aka supportive] teacher” who Felicia secretly looks up to.

Credit: ABC

Teamwork makes the dream work

Coach Mellor, “looking weirdly exactly the same,” has an obstacle of his own to overcome: the 90s. He hasn’t changed but the world has. “Short shorts are no longer cool,” and Michael Jordan is king.

Jordan has inspired William Penn’s star basketball player Matty (real-life NFL player Matt Ryan) to think he’s too good to share the ball with his classmates. Mellor tries to demonstrate the importance of teamwork by having the “showboat” play against all the other kids at once.

The move backfires, of course, when Matty wins soundly anyway and announces that he’s transferring to Germantown Academy. (I’m from the Philly area, so I can attest to that being a sick burn. GA, as we call it, has a killer athletic department and is the archrival of Penn Charter, which is what we call William Penn in real life.)

As with Lainey, it is Mellor’s passion that ultimately saves the day. He challenges Matty to an increasingly ridiculous game HORSE, which ends with him failing epically to dunk but makes Matty realizes how dedicated Mellor is to helping him.

Mellor acknowledges that Matty is good enough to go pro someday, but he insists that Matty will need to be a good team player in order to be successful. Matty realizes the error of his ways and stays at William Penn. The episode ends with Mellor wearing long shorts (!) and encouraging Matty to also try out for the school football team, a nod his real-life future career.

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Bottom line: The pilot successfully establishes Schooled as its own entity but delivers the witty dialogue and crazy antics that The Goldbergs is known for. Lainey has long been a fan-favorite, and Michalka proves that she has the charisma and stamina to now take center stage.

What did you think of Schooled? Will you be tuning in next week? Let us know in the comments section.