Teachers: Originally broadcast from March 21, 2001 to December 22, 2004
It may be hard to imagine now, but before he was bashing in zombie skulls as Rick Grimes on AMC's The Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln was Simon Casey, the neurotic, boyish hero of Teachers. It's Lincoln's strong charisma that carries the show's first series - Simon is immature, lazy and often just plain idiotic, but you can't help but root for him as he bungles his way through romantic relationships and a career in education.
The supporting cast are equally superb, with special mention going to Raquel Cassidy (who currently stars in BBC Two's Lead Balloon) as Simon's sarcastic but caring friend Susan. The show's characters as a whole are what make it so entertaining and accessible - you don't have to be a teacher to relate to Teachers, and there's a real warmth in the central characters' relationships, best exemplified by their frequent trips to and exploits in the local pub.
Clearly, a bigger change was required, and series three brought it in spades. There are yet more cast changes - Susan, J.P. and Jenny (Nina Sosanya) all vanish without explanation, while the loutish Lindsay (Vicky Hall) joined the group - but more importantly, Teachers shifts in tone, eschewing the dramatic elements of the first two series for a broader style of comedy.
The masterstroke is shifting focus to two of the show's supporting characters - I.T. nerd Kurt (Navin Chowdhry) and P.E. teacher Brian (Adrian Bower). Some of the greatest moments of series three, and indeed of the show as a whole, spring from the pair's hilarious 'bromance'. And as an additional bonus, Andrew Lincoln even returns for a three-episode arc, with Simon briefly taking up a post as a substitute teacher and finally gaining a little piece of self-confidence. It seemed like nothing could go wrong for the revived Teachers...
But let's remember the good times. The first three series of Teachers still stand up as a fine example of the quirky comedy drama, and also boast a terrific '00s indie soundtrack, with songs from the Bluetones, Shed Seven, The Hives and the Libertines, plus the fantastic end-titles tune 'The Boy with the Arab Strap' by Belle & Sebastian. You can buy a DVD box-set of the first 31 episodes, skipping over the regrettable final run entirely, or just catch-up from the beginning on 4oD - we'd heartily recommend it.
Watch a classic Teachers clip below:
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