This image is from the official trailer for “Head of the Class,” distributed by HBO Max

Studies can sometimes get in the way and before you realize it, the fun has passed you by. “Head of the Class” helps us to understand that being GPA-obsessed can ruin the time of your youth.

The new HBO Max original sitcom is a revival of the 1986 show of the same name, and has Gen Z written all over it with references to cancel culture, Twitch-streaming and “Karens.” The sitcom follows an honors debate class consisting of a group of five friends at Meadows Creek High School, who are different in their own way but have one thing in common: There’s no time for playtime.

After the old debate teacher has a midlife crisis and decides to leave his education career to be a snowboarder, he is replaced by the young Alicia Gomez (Isabella Gomez, “One Day at a Time”), who is coincidentally the opposite of your usual teacher with her free-spirited personality. Throughout the series, Miles Mendelson (Adrian Matthew Escalona) shyest of them all, Luke Burrows (Gavin Lewis, “Little Fires Everywhere”), a future United Nations Representative in the making, Robyn Rook (Dior Goodjohn, “The Unicorn”) the edgy gamer girl, Makayla Washington (Jolie Hoang-Rappaport, “The Big Show Show”) who’s pretentious in a good way and the cool boy Terrell Smith (Brandon Severs, “Diary of a Future President”) are stuck choosing between their studies and extracurricular activities. With the help of Ms. Gomez, the students learn the merit of not dedicating so much time to the classroom. 

Because the show’s plot is super straightforward, it presents itself as a school-based sitcom. However, the clarity can also be a powerful focal point to expose the danger of failing to balance workload and downtime. 

Education helps our overall growth but an excess of it can interfere with our social growth. In the pilot, when popular kid Ryan (Thomas Kuc, “Game Shakers”) sends invites to a party, Terrell explains how he will have to miss out on it due to finishing a physics lab. Even though he’d rather go to the party, he’s torn since it is his duty to focus on school for future college purposes. 

Studies show that teenagers struggle to find time to enjoy activities outside of school due to their hectic schedules. The pressure amongst parents and teachers for students to focus all of their time on school as a number one priority is astronomical. It’s especially refreshing for the series to include Ms. Gomez’s power to influence the students to take risks, considering her character left the corporate world because she wanted to take advantage of the less hectic schedule and acquire more free time. Her approach to life is what encourages the students to think about life outside of school and classwork.  

The series may not appeal to those who grew up watching its predecessor and for those who can’t look past the resemblance to banal Disney Channel sitcoms, but it’s great at illustrating the problems with workload and productivity. Those in charge may think too much work is good work; however, it is more detrimental than we think. There needs to be a balance between work and play, and “Head of the Class” opens up many doors for a conversation on why this needs to improve for the sake of our youngest generations.

Daily Arts Writer Jessica Curney can be reached at jcurney@umich.edu.