SUPERSTORE may be new to UK shores, but it’s already something of a veteran show Stateside, with three seasons and counting under its belt - a promising sign considering most new shows are cancelled after (and sometimes during) their first season.
The show follows the trials and tribulations of a band of quirky employees at the “Cloud 9” superstore who run the gamut from gently incompetent to borderline psychotic. In amongst them lurk our heroes: long suffering supervisor Amy (America Ferrara) and idealistic newcomer Jonah (Ben Feldman).
Superstore establishes itself as a microcosm of American life, as customers debate $10 engagement rings and staff question their life choices. To some prospective viewers, that may sound fairly standard (and not unlike Sky’s supermarket set sitcom, Trollied).
Thankfully, Superstore’s creator Justin Spitzer previously worked on Scrubs and draws on some of that show’s oddball surrealism to gold plate his own creation. Superstore could easily have been a bland sitcom taking potshots at people propping up the service economy in thankless jobs.
Instead, it has a wry whimsy and takes a biting but ultimately soft hearted approach to its oddball characters. Despite its standard sitcom length (20 minutes once you’ve wandered off to make a cup of tea during the advert break), every episode is a rollercoaster.
Superstore, tongue firmly in cheek, doesn’t hesitate to take a jab at US culture and values, but always stops to smell the roses and celebrate the little “moments of beauty” that crop up everywhere. If that sounds a little too saccharine for you, fear not - episode one takes aim at everything from Cloud 9’s trailer trash customers and pompous staff to Black Friday riots.
A large chunk of that humour comes from the odd couple dynamic between Amy and Jonah, who are clearly bound together by virtue of being slightly more level headed (not to mention better looking) than their colleagues, despite their different worldviews. The best comedy gold though, comes courtesy of their comically deranged colleagues, particularly Lauren Ash’s scene stealing Dina, stalking the aisles of Cloud 9 like the bewildering offspring of a lovesick teenager and an overzealous drill sergeant.
This may be the golden age of TV drama, but the half hour sitcom is something of an endangered species. It’s hard to believe, but there was a time before DVRs and reality TV when people used to stay in just to watch shows like Friends and Frasier. Superstore may not be worth sacrificing your Tuesday night plans for, but it’s definitely worth recording the series.
That’s partly because it might encourage the powers that be to provide more original writing, but there’s also a limit to how much Scandinavian crime drama a person can watch. Superstore’s smart, light-hearted and fun approach to TV is a welcome change of pace.
- Aired on ITV2, January 2 2017 at 20:30.