Attention all shoppers! NBC's new comedy, Superstore, from the brain of Justin Spitzer -- whose credits include Scrubs and The Office -- is offering a "weekly deal" of laughs and heart to which you'll want to subscribe. Though the show recently "officially" debuted on January 4th, as a way to (presumably) ensure decent ratings and get viewers pumped for what was ahead, the Peacock network actually pre-premiered the series in a two-part installment at the end of last November. Considering we're now a few episodes in, we look back and review the pilot, and take note of the progress in character relationships and plot line over the last six episodes that have aired.
The action unfolds in a setting reminiscent of Wal-Mart, and follows a ragtag group of employees through Cloud 9, the (faux) superstore to which the title refers. We open on Jonah (Ben Feldman)'s first day and, as is the case in most romantic comedies, he immediately falls for his floor supervisor, Amy (America Ferrera), albeit not without a few (terrible, terrible) missteps, an element also typical of a romcom.
On the whole, the pilot is a good first effort, despite the repetitiveness of Jonah consistently screwing up and apologizing. In fact, Jonah's wrongdoings are so repetitive, they essentially dominate the entire episode -- whether they be small, affecting only Amy (speaking condescending to her, undermining her intelligence) or large, affecting everyone storewide (accidentally repricing all electronics at 25 cents, playing shopping cart hockey). In short, the plot of the first installment revolves mainly around Amy correcting her protégé; however, that monotonous repetition is saved by the fact that constructing the episode in this way allows for more "moments of connection" between Jonah and Amy, intensifying the bond that will continue to grow over the next five episodes.
"I've made some mistakes, I can admit that, but that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun at work, does it? Or try to find some moments of beauty in the everyday?" Jonah asks after one of his many screw-ups throughout the half-hour.
"Sometimes, it's just kinda hard to find those moments of beauty," Amy responds later, when discussing how repetitive her job is (and we can tell from the structure of this episode).
We don't know at this point, but one of Jonah's main goals is to get Amy out of her mundane rut (How sweet... See the romcom theme yet?). He decorates the ceiling overnight, and when a disastrously derailed attempt at a flash-mob proposal ("This is the fault of YouTube", quips Amy) ultimately ends up in a blackout, an array of brightly lit, planetarium-like stars are revealed. Amy is, expectedly, touched.
While the series as a whole is not devoid of a few hiccups, I think it succeeds in achieving what it set out to do, in terms of delivering a strong, poignant message. Most importantly, it carefully plants that message in its pilot and carries it over subsequent episodes through thoughtfully worded (and equally charming) conversations between Jonah and Amy. And that message, as explained earlier, is about filling your day with little surprises -- or "moments of beauty" as Jonah calls them -- and finding the extraordinary within the ordinary, to offset the day's sometimes monotonous routine.
With that message in mind, it's interesting to consider the unique structure of the episode -- and, for that matter, the show as a whole: The written, rehearsed-word-for-word plot line given to us by the actors, is intercepted at points by various everyday (relatable) superstore occurrences or frustrations, such as dealing with customers on power scooters, or navigating around another customer's shopping cart. It's as if to say the storyline of these employees is itself its own "moment of beauty" within the mundane everyday life of a superstore. Without the episodic stories, we'd be watching everyday people navigating through a superstore in their usual way -- which is, again, relatable, yes, but would be rather boring to watch.
In a somewhat "meta" fashion, these characters give the store life. And what a coincidence that the story begins on Jonah's first day -- as if to say Jonah's arrival has sparked new life into the store, waking up the staff to the beauty in the world around them. It's a great metaphor that parallels what's literally happening with Amy, and it's amazing that that element continues to be prevalent in the subsequent episodes.
Of course, Amy's got some surprises of her own: she's married. Love the subtle detail of newly engaged Cheyenne complaining about how she can't wear jewelry at work, and then having the detail come back around with that extra jolt of significance, when, at the end of the episode, Amy reveals her ring. It adds a depth to the storytelling and gives us an idea of where the writing and story could go, not only in terms of symbolism and meaning, but also within the plot line itself.
I really do hope they play into that more (it is briefly mentioned at the start of the fourth episode, but isn't too impactful). It would be nice to see how the "husband" plays into all of this, whether in spirit or in person (!!), and how he affects the ever-progressing "Jamy" relationship.
On that note, I'm totally digging Amy and Jonah's relationship -- it makes the show, giving it the charm it seems to be lacking when dealing with other (albeit, non-romantic) pairings and relationships throughout the series. Jonah and Amy are fun to watch, because they do just the right amount of flirting, without throwing it in your face, and that's mainly because they don't even know they're flirting. It's nice, too, that there continue to be subtle hints of attraction as the series goes on -- and that it's not just contained in the pilot.
In later episodes, they continue to be at each other's throats (in fact, the sixth outing shows them in a heated competition), but it's all with that underlying message we all learned as schoolkids -- their competition and jealousy stems from the fact that they like each other. And the dramatic irony of that romance aspect is what makes their dynamic so compelling to watch, as the stolen, hopeful glances and flustered, awkward flirty talk ("I didn't know that you had a child. I think that's beautiful. I'm in awe of single mothers") build on each other throughout the series.
Again, Jonah continually challenges Amy to step up her game, and in doing so, it makes her a better person, even if, because of her spite for him, she fails to realize it for herself.
Kinda powerful, isn't it? Like putting the "super" into "superstore." Huh.
When Bo initially proposes to Cheyenne, Amy tells the mom-to-be: "I know how easy it is to get swept up in the romance of all of this, but think it through, okay? Don't do something you're gonna regret for the rest of your life." (For one, in hindsight, those words are majorly foreshadowing the "Jamy" pair, considering the progression of the "romance" in subsequent episodes).
But in relating these words to my experience in watching the show -- as I'm clearly caught up in the romance of it all -- I've definitely thought it through, and there's nothing I can regret in watching this show week to week.
What's not to love? To be honest, the show doesn't ask much of you. And looking at the recent TV landscape -- and while we're at it, the ratings of some of NBC's recent offerings -- it really is a nice change of pace. At the end of the day, it's light, campy, "not-to-be-taken-seriously," and enjoyable.... and you'll certainly have a few laughs as you watch it. Additionally, according to other sources, it seems to have enjoyed considerably steady-to-high ratings since it premiered. So, the show has heart, laughs, and is a proven hit?! That's seems like a "doorbuster deal" worth taking!
Superstore airs Monday nights on NBC at 8 p.m./7 p.m. Central.