The cast boasts names like Sherri Shepherd (30 Rock, The View), Oscar Nuñez (The Office), Richard Gant, Jacob Vargas (Selena, Luke Cage) and Maggie Geha. Along with Iglesias, the adults split the stage every episode with younger faces that Nickelodeon and Disney Channel audiences might recognize, creating a decent mix of talent for the whole family to enjoy.
From the opening scene, multigenerational entertainment stands out as the focus of the show: Mr. Iglesiasfeels like the 90s comedies that a family would sit down to watch after dinner, offering something for the kids to laugh at while layering on jokes that are either a little more advanced or dealing with “adult” themes for parents.
Set in Long Beach, the series focuses on its title character and his ongoing efforts to help his students, many of whom have been considered underperforming by the school system. Gabe Iglesias, the title character, is one of three teachers that make up the history department at Wilson High School (a direct nod to Gabriel Iglesias’ real-life alma mater, Woodrow Wilson Classical High School), and in the first episode, Mr. Iglesias must stand up to defend his students when they are notified that they’re being counseled out of high school — a gentle term for expelled.
Principal Paula Madison (brought to life by the hilarious Shepherd) has big dreams to see Wilson ranked among the district’s top schools, which will ultimately result in more funding for the school. Unfortunately, this means that Wilson High has to make top scores both academically and in attendance, which is where many of Iglesias’ students are failing. It doesn’t help that Carlos (Nuñez, who encapsulates the essential sitcom bad guy), her assistant, is pushing this agenda further for the sake of his real estate portfolio.
After working out a deal with Principal Madison to raise his kids’ scores throughout summer, it’s up to Iglesias to sort through and help resolve the problems that are holding his students back. Walter (Tucker Abrizzi) completely lacks interest in school, stating that he’s never wanted it, and it doesn’t want him; Lorenzo (Coy Stewart) is more caught up in conspiracy theories and distractions than his schoolwork; diligent Marisol (Cree Cicchino) would be the very model of a perfect student, if she wasn’t working three jobs to help support her family, and thus missing classes; Grace (Gloria Aung) is a brilliant hacker whose social anxiety and greater interest in computers is keeping her from advancing. She uses a computer to communicate with all of her teachers and peers, except for Iglesias. All of these students are given their notices, and after a less than enthusiastic response to his rallying, all of them agree to take summer school under Iglesias’ guidance.
While the interactions between Iglesias and his co-workers stand on their own as fairly funny and interesting, it is probably Mr. Iglesias’ interactions with his students that makes the show what it is and keeps the focus on what it’s really about: how one good teacher can change the life of a struggling student. Iglesias and his colleagues aren’t without their own challenges, but it is the way that his character adjusts and balances such impactful care for his students that makes this sitcom stand out among Netflix’s multicam releases. Watching this comedy through the eyes of a teacher’s daughter, I saw many shades of my own father’s teaching style, and while sitcoms are generally supposed to be funny and lighthearted, knowing how important a positive mentor can be is what made Mr. Iglesias memorable to this viewer.
It likely helps that the cast seems to genuinely get along and play off one another well. Young actors are often still learning their craft, but there’s a distinct difference in comedy when potential mentors exist right on the bill next to them. There’s an obvious repertoire that shows through even in the first episode, bringing out fun and likable performances from the younger cast members. Particular standouts include both of the girls, Grace and Marisol, who struggle with very real situations while maintaining a realistic charm.
If the first episode is an indicator, the rest of the season is likely to prove both charming and hilarious until the very end.