TV Review: ‘Superstore’

Superstore NBC Premiere
Courtesy of NBC

Casting and chemistry can, occasionally, trump concept. So NBC’s big-box-store development approach receives an unexpected (and slightly ironic) infusion of energy from “Superstore,” thanks largely to America Ferrera and Ben Feldman as its adorable, meant-for-each-other leads. While much of this is familiar – and even echoes that “People of Walmart” Web meme – the show comes closer to approximating the desired mix of sweetness and silliness than most of the network’s workplace series have since “The Office.” Receiving an early preview behind “The Voice,” “Superstore” returns in January with the also-OK “Telenovela,” offering a pretty good comedy hour, at reasonable prices.

Despite a single-camera format, “Superstore” only once ventures beyond the parking lot of the fictional wholesaler, Cloud 9, during the four episodes previewed. The premiere introduces Jonah (“Mad Men’s” Feldman, last seen on NBC in the short-lived romantic comedy “A to Z”), who immediately antagonizes the level-headed Amy (Ferrera) by giving off an elitist vibe.

The episodes don’t divulge anything about his background, or much about hers. But even when they’re bickering (which is often), it’s obvious that he’s smitten, and that she’s more intrigued by him than she cares to let on.

Not surprisingly, everything else around them is played much, much more broadly, from the hyper-vigilant assistant manager Dina (Lauren Ash), who is convinced Jonah has the hots for her; to the clueless boss (Mark McKinney of “Kids in the Hall”), a Christian who seeks to inspire employees by playing the “Jurassic Park” theme and, in a later episode, awkwardly tries to demonstrate how cool he is with the idea of gay marriage. In another, the wheelchair-bound Garrett (Colton Dunn) spends the entire show trying to avoid a company photographer, knowing that a disabled African-American is irresistible fodder for the corporate magazine.

Created by “The Office” alum Justin Spitzer, “Superstore” is predictable in a lot of places. But then, the show will deliver a surprise, like a riff on “American Beauty,” or someone describing Jonah as being so cute that he’s like “a panda and a Disney princess had a baby” and, later, “like a villain on the CW.”

Admittedly, NBC’s recent comedies have generally done a whole lot of heavy lifting in terms of lowering expectations, and filling the breach between editions of “The Voice” isn’t the most promising of scheduling options. (The network slightly reduced the episode order, maintaining the decision was predicated on budgets and scheduling, not on a lack of faith.)

Whatever the commercial prospects, though, the “Superstore”-“Telenovela” combo not only strikes a blow for diversity by presenting two shows with Latina leads (Eva Longoria headlining the other), but actually delivers some laughs in the process. And even if they’re not actually quite as cute as a panda, for NBC, that’s still pretty, pretty good.

TV Review: 'Superstore'

(Series; NBC, Mon. Nov. 30, 10 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Angry Stickman Prods. and the District in association with Universal Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Justin Spitzer, Ruben Fleischer, David Bernad, Gabe Miller, Jonathan Green; supervising producer, Lon Zimmet; producers, America Ferrera, Eric Ledgin, Sierra Teller Ornelas; director, Fleischer; writer, Spitzer; camera, Damian Acevedo, Jay Hunter; production designers, Aaron Osborne, Michael G. Gallenberg; editors, Mark Sadlek, Steven Lang, James Renfroe; music, Mateo Messina; casting, Susie Farris, Brett Greenstein, Collin Daniel. 30 MIN.

Cast

America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Lauren Ash, Colton Dunn, Nico Santos, Nichole Bloom, Mark McKinney

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  1. Jay says:

    Chris Lahr are you for real?

  2. Sandy McCoy says:

    ive heard a song used during promos for the show Superstore. Can anyone tell me what it is?

  3. Kerri V says:

    The term isn’t ‘wheelchair bound’…just say ‘a guy who uses a wheelchair’. Another lame show to use an actor without a disability in a role of a person with a disability. They could have at least put him in a chair that (1) fits him, and (2) is realistic for someone who has that much function. It’s equivalent, for example, to Fisher Stevens playing an Indian guy in Short Circuit. So lame and offensive when there’s plenty of actors who really are in wheelchairs.

    • DJ says:

      Shut up with the “I’m so offended” politically correct crap, people like you are ruining this country.

      • Chris Lahr says:

        Yes because our country is diminished when people stick up for the slandered and downtrodden, when people reject bias and demeaning stereotypes. Bring back black face!

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