Superstore: Walmart-inspired sitcom isn’t such a bad deal

Taking an archetypal mundane setting and filling it full of oddball characters, NBC has come up with a sitcom that’s strange, promising and funny

(l-r) America Ferrera as Amy, Mark McKinney as Glenn, Nico Santos as Mateo in Superstore.
Pile it high ... (L-R) America Ferrera as Amy, Mark McKinney as Glenn, Nico Santos as Mateo in Superstore. Photograph: NBC/Getty Images
Pile it high ... (L-R) America Ferrera as Amy, Mark McKinney as Glenn, Nico Santos as Mateo in Superstore. Photograph: NBC/Getty Images

Last modified on Tue 19 Dec 2017 16.11 EST

What’s the name of the show? Superstore

When it is on? A special one-hour premiere airs Monday 30 November at 10pm.

What is this show about? It’s a traditional workplace comedy set in a big-box store called Cloud 9. You know, like Walmart, Target or Big Lots.

There has to be a cast of wacky characters, right? Naturally. There is our main character Jonah (Ben Feldman), a new employee who thinks he’s a little bit smarter than his co-workers. He has a Sam-and-Diane thing going on with earnest supervisor Amy (America Ferrera). There’s the truly bizarre Christian store manager Glen (Mark McKinney), pregnant teenager Cheyenne (Nicole Bloom), paraplegic jokester Garrett (Colton Dunn), gay brown-noser Mateo (Nico Santos) and security-obsessed Dina (Lauren Ash).

Does anything crazy happen in this store, or is it just like a Target? It’s just like a Target. Actually, it’s just a very traditional workplace comedy with a bunch of oddballs forced together. Justin Spitzer, who created the show, is an alumnus of The Office, so it has that whole vibe going on. You know, like there’s an episode where a journalist comes to profile the store and they all have to impress her; or everyone in the store competes to adopt Cheyenne’s baby. Just real, normal stuff.

Do they ever leave the store? No.

Really? Who wants to spend all their time watching a Walmart? That’s honestly one of the show’s biggest problems. As much as I love Target, I try to get out of there as fast as possible. Watching Superstore is like being stuck in a badly lit consumerist dystopia where displays of toilet paper are constantly being knocked down. However, such is the plight of the retail employees.

Now that you put it like that, it does seem kind of edgy. Yes, it is. It’s as if the dead light of the store and the very familiar setting starts to blot out the background after awhile. It’s like everything is taking place in a strange dreamscapes where everything is so hyper-real it’s not real at all.

OK, this is getting way too deep. Is it funny? Yes, for a network comedy, which these days has hit a nadir, it’s pretty clever, especially the episode where the employees decide that one of the creepy mannequins looks exactly like Jonah and start setting it up in overly elaborate scenarios (which is also the same episode with the truly funny story where they compete for Cheyenne’s baby). The jokes are as much situational as they are based on these crazy and diverse characters who are forced to work together and find common ground. You know, usual workplace stuff. The better you know the characters, the more fun the show is, so the first couple of episodes are pretty stiff.

So, who are the best characters? As in most of these shows, the leads are sort of cyphers, and we don’t really learn much about their lives beyond the store, which is another big problem, especially if this series plans to last a while. But crazy Dina and daffy Glen are immediate standouts, loveable weirdos who never seem to have an appropriate reaction to anything. Sure, Dina is a bit of a rip-off of Melissa McCarthy’s character from Bridesmaids, but since she was so good, why wouldn’t you want to replicate her for television?

Should I watch this show? If you’re looking to add something a little bit off-kilter to your comedy roster then Superstore promises to be a consistent source of laughs for some time to come. Let’s just hope we see everyone get a little bit further than the parking lot sometime soon.

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