ICYMI: Marjolein Robertson on Teachers

Shetland storyteller, improviser and stand-up Marjolein Robertson teaches us a thing or two about early 2000s comedy-drama Teachers

Feature by Marjolein Robertson | 12 May 2021
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I have watched a lot of television. I'm boasting here but I have. Since a young age I watched television programmes from all around the world. I don't just watch it on the telly or computer screen either. I rewatch it in my brain. Almost the entire time.

So when asked to watch something for the first time and review it, I was genuinely at a loss. I crawled back into my brain and thought 'What have I not seen?’ What programme did I want to watch but wasn't allowed to ‘cos I was too young and there was too much sex, swearing, drinking and drugs? Of course, Channel 4's 2001 sitcom Teachers.

See, I used to watch post-watershed TV standing at the set with my finger on the button (if anyone can find our old remote the entire Robertson family, circa the 1990s, would be very grateful). I would stand there ready to turn the telly off if my folks walked in so they wouldn't catch me watching Eurotrash/Jam/tomorrow's weather. The only late night show I got to watch with them was their favourite current affairs programme Brass Eye. They would fall asleep on the couch, exhausted at the end of the day, waking up intermittently to see Chris Morris straight-faced speaking to the camera about drugs, STDs, and an elephant with its own trunk up its anus, then fall asleep again, happy I was paying attention to the issues of today.

The show Teachers though, that was one that I never got by them. Just too many rude words and sexy thoughts. And if I'm going to be concise with my review, (ha, too late), there are too many sexy thoughts, in that early 00s 'check out the tits on that, we're all trying to work out how to land that, aren't we toxic fellow lads' style. To cement how young these characters are, they decided to make them constantly quiz each other over 'who would you rather' and stare at arses like it's fine for young men to do that.

And that's it, that's my only bugbear with the show. I like to get the bad news out first. And yes I am aware this show is 20 years old so of course discussions around objectification and sexuality have moved on since. It’s also worth pointing out that many of their problematic behaviours and narrow thoughts start to fade as they grow as individuals. Character arcs. Television. 

Teachers is a fast-paced, off-the-wall sitcom, with characters’ inner thoughts played out before them with quick transitions akin to Spaced. I liked that it made me feel super nostalgic; taking me back to a world where TV was more experimental and women wore less make-up. I've been up to my eyeballs recently in the American Office and Parks and Recreation so it was nice to go somewhere earlier with absolutely no reliance on talking heads.

The show focuses on a group of 20-something teachers, fronted by Simon (pre-zombie Andrew Lincoln) as they struggle with their transition into adulthood whilst smoking copious cigarettes. Often the life lessons Simon experiences, he bounces off his class, reinforcing his own ideas or getting them to solve his problems. That's another strength in Teachers. It very much focuses on the staff yet it portrays that teacher-student relationship well. It reminds you of when you were 16 and realised your teachers (and their tears) were completely real.

For this article I thought I'd only watch the first couple of episodes... I'm now half way through series 2. I really like Teachers. Although I heard it gets bad after series 2 – some of the main characters leave and it loses its heart. So I’m going to do what I do best and turn it off before it spoils, like ending Titanic after Jack and Rose finally get it on in the car, before any iceberg. Instead I imagine them safely landing in New York, settling down and raising their daughter Phoebe Buffay. 

So I'll watch Teachers til the end of season 2, standing by the television set, finger on the button and thrilled that I finally got to watch what I wanted.

Follow Marjolein on Twitter @MarjoleinR and watch her on Twitch at twitch.tv/marjoleinrobertson