TV: Superstore (Seasons 1 & 2)

Over the past several months, I’ve been quietly growing quite fond of Superstore, a refreshing, low-key comedy about the quirky employees of a Target-like big box emporium in the Midwest. Boasting a terrific cast and a charming, simple sensibility, Superstore stars America Ferrera as Amy, the snarky, chronically disappointed floor manager of a “Cloud 9” franchise in St. Louis. Stuck in a bad marriage and trapped by long-ago life choices, Amy is a pretty good romantic match for new employee Jonah (Ben Feldman), a college-dropout intellectual who can’t quite realize his potential. Neither of them acknowledge this chemistry at first, of course, but their will-they, won’t-they friendship becomes a source of increasing support for one another in the daily grind of their lower-class lives.

Superstore has a classic workplace ensemble comedy feel, and excels by playing its diverse, peculiar cast of characters against one another in familiar sitcom hijinks. Smart, subtle writing gives voice to a supporting cast full of personalities that will ring true to anyone who’s worked in a dispiriting group environment. The main players include petty tyrant Dana (Lauren Ash), sarcastic, apathetic Garrrett (Colton Dunn), obtuse teen mom Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom), and haughty apple-polisher Mateo (Nico Santos), but there are plenty of memorable recurring parts like the brilliantly meek Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi) and the inscrutable Brett (Jon Miyahara). Running the store—well, more or less—is Glenn (Mark McKinney), a character whose flamboyant Muppet persona is initially off-putting but becomes increasingly inspired as the series progresses. Amy and Jonah serve as sensible windows onto this zany, low-income subculture, as the absurdities of their situations entangle them in the dramas of their flawed but lovable coworkers.

But Superstore has heart to go along with its antics, and while there’s a sense of melancholy underlying its world, there’s also a kind-hearted, positive energy. The romantic comedy framework serves as a unifying, under-the-radar narrative glue, but there’s also a charming teamwork vibe to this unlikely bunch. Superstore combines the created-family joy of Parks and Recreation with the frustrated workplace striving of Party Down. While ultimately it doesn’t reach the heights of either of those series, it’s a worthy descendant of that style of comedy that is gradually becoming a personal favorite.

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