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The 1980s sitcom ‘Head of the Class’ gets a remake

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Alicia Adams isn’t just a teacher. She’s a cool teacher.

The premise of HBO Max’s “Head of the Class,” which is a reboot of the ABC staple that ran for five seasons in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, is just that simple: A group of smart students navigate high school and the world outside with the help of a slightly hip debate teacher who thinks she’s way cooler than she actually is.

“She was the kind of teacher that was my favorite teacher when I was in school. The teachers that made the most impact on me were the ones who treated me like an adult and didn’t baby me, who made me an equal,” Isabella Gomez, who plays the overeager educator, said.

“Alicia treating the kids like that and having this spunk and this natural rapport with them was so much fun.”

The kids, actual teenagers playing teenagers, are nerds. They deal with crushes, bullies, auditions, the normal stresses of childhood.

“They’re just being allowed to be kids and allowed to be awkward and allowed to be weird,” Gomez, 23, said. “Most of us don’t look like the ‘Riverdale’ cast when we’re sophomores in high school.”

For “Head of the Class” showrunners Amy Pocha and Seth Cohen, normalcy was the key.

“It was riding that fine line of making something that felt authentic and real without ever making it a ‘Very Special Episode’ or heavy-handed,” Cohen said. “We could touch on things in a way that people do; they don’t have to sit down and talk about it for 30 minutes.”

There’s drama, of course — a strict principal (Christa Miller), or the cool kids who film the nerds for their own sick social media fame — but like any good sitcom, each episode of “Head of the Class” sticks the landing with a happy ending.

As the season progresses, Alicia and her students grow together; part of the appeal, Gomez said, is that Alicia knows she’s not done learning yet, either. Some students are more eager than others. Some, like the headstrong Robyn, keep Alicia at arm’s length.

“As you watch the show, you’ll notice she’s going through a journey, not of self-discovery because she’s super secure in who she is, but learning that it’s OK to be vulnerable and that you’re allowed to show people how you feel,” 15-year-old Dior Goodjohn said of her character, Robyn.

 

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