CBS’s Bad Teacher is adapted from the incredibly raunchy (pot smoking, binge drinking, dry humping) 2011 movie that starred Cameron Diaz as the world’s worst educator. But it won’t be the raunchiest show on television — it won’t even be the raunchiest show on the network.
“I certainly cannot compete for the dirtiest joke award on CBS,” executive producer Hilary Winston, who first wrote on the first two seasons of Community, told BuzzFeed. “That’s a tough contest to enter into … You can’t have the teacher smoking a bong in front of the kids, so a big thing from the very beginning was grounding the show in reality, otherwise nothing would actually work.”
In the end, the movie simply served as inspiration for the TV incarnation, which is why Winston decided to start from scratch with her story. “In the film, she was already a bad teacher, but you need to start at the beginning of the story with television, and I loved the idea of this fish out of water coming into a school for the first time with the kind of attitude Cameron Diaz’s character has in the movie.”
Enter Ari Graynor (Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, For a Good Time, Call…) as Meredith Davis, a former trophy wife who lost her husband, her money, and herself, so she steals someone else’s identity and becomes a teacher at a ritzy elementary school in order to land a rich single father.
“It would be easy to see this character as vapid because she’s just looking for this rich husband,” Winston said. “But we start to peel back those layers of the onion and that’s why there was no one else for this part but Ari: She’s smart, powerful, sexy, and funny — but not accidentally funny, which is so important.”
In addition to making Meredith Davis a more three-dimensional character, Winston needed to flesh out the faculty. “Our show really is about going inside the teacher’s lounge,” she said. “When you’re a kid, you don’t think of teachers as real people, so I loved the idea of exposing their real lives.”
That teacher’s lounge is filled with characters like Joel, (Ryan Hansen) Meredith’s former classmate turned gym teacher; Irene (Sara Gilbert), an introverted teacher who’s overly excited at the possibility of making a friend; Ginny (Kristin Davis), the uptight faculty president who resents Meredith; and Principal Carl Gaines (David Alan Grier), the head of this motley crew.
“I loved those archetypes, but what I really wanted to take from the movie was the idea of seeing the private personas of these public people,” Winston said. “What’s great about Meredith is whether she’s being honest or vapid or self-centered, she’s 100% honest and committed to whatever she’s doing at that second. She never hides any of her motives, which makes her really fun to watch because you never know what you’re going to get.”