NBC’s Superstore has breakout potential and is one of the best comedies you’re probably not watching.
We’re currently in an era where good comedies are growing increasingly scarce, especially on network television. Most people are scared to become invested in new shows because of networks’ (especially NBC’s) readiness to cancel new shows. Because of this I am apprehensive to fall in love with new shows, but I gave Superstore a chance anyways. I am so glad I did. I easily binged the 11-episode first season in two nights. By the end I was hooked.
My love was gradual because the pilot is a little misleading. At first the audience is presented with two “normal” leads to relate to in Amy (America Ferrera) and Jonah (Ben Feldman). The only problem is that means as an audience we are supposed to put them and ourselves above the eccentric coworkers and customers in a similar way that some revel in scrolling through “People of Walmart.” After the pilot, there’s a shift, and they are continuously put in situations where they come across as daft as everybody else.
In one episode where the floor team is in the middle of a sales competition, Jonah unknowingly convinces Amy’s husband to spend hundreds of dollars on a grill set for his YouTube channel. Amy’s most memorable episode follows her as she fights against a stereotypical and problematic salsa sales campaign only to be the face of the campaign at the end. This plot line of a character with strong morals being put in a compromising and dumbfounding situation is very reminiscent of what would happen to Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation. I hope the writers challenge themselves to push the show in this direction throughout season two.
The standout performance is Lauren Ash as the assistant store manager Dina. Every workplace comedy has a character like her, the abrasive misfit with an abundance of quirky hobbies. Dina’s quirky hobby is her family flock of birds at home that she is constantly referencing or singing lullabies to over the answering machine. Dina is very assured in who she is and the rules she enforces. I wasn’t surprised to discover that Ash is an alumna of Second City which only helped me appreciate her performance even more. As a performer, Ash has a way of delving deep into uncomfortable, squirmy moments but not letting the audience dwell on them. Her standout moments are her interactions with shoppers whether she’s accusing elderly women of being secret shoppers or accusing Natasha Legerro of being a shop lifter. If any breakout comedy performance deserves an Emmy nomination it’s without a doubt Lauren Ash. It’s unlikely but deserved.
As the season progressed, the ensemble became more integral, dramatically improving the show. My personal favorite character is Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi) as the timid employee who hardly speaks above a whisper and cringes at high-fives. My favorite scene of the season includes Sandra attempting to open up about her self-esteem issues only to be repeatedly shutdown by Dina. Some of the ensemble takes a while to warm up to like Glenn, Bo, and Mateo, but as the season progresses so does the ensemble. The writers understood the characters more as the season went on and put them in the right situations. The teaming up of conservative Glenn a Mateo to create a gay section in the wedding department is one such perfect situation. Looking back throughout the season, I grew an appreciation for every character, even Bo’s socially conscious white rapper.
Superstore isn’t perfect, and several critics have even described it as safe. While the beginning of the season does feel that way, I would argue a lot of critics are dismissing the show simply because it’s on the sinking ship of NBC. I would urge anyone who loved any of NBC’s golden workplace comedies (The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Rec) to give Superstore a chance. No, it doesn’t feel as edgy as those shows did when they first premiered. Yet, in a post Modern Family world where network television is over-saturated with family comedies, Superstore feels fresh. Even when the writers are constricted by being on network television, they find ways to push boundaries (as with the salsa story line).
I’m excited for season two when it returns in the fall, and I hope more and more people discover it on-demand throughout the spring and summer.