Superstore is this kind of project you don’t really care about until there is a great talent cast in it. America Ferrera was the last one to join Superstore, she’s playing the lead and that quicky turned it into a hot piece, something we really want to watch. Not only because we miss Ugly Betty sometimes -but it would be ignoring the fact that the show was pretty bad for half its run- but also because she’s a very capable actress that: A. Should have stayed longer in The Good Wife or become a regular indeed B. Is better doing television in lead roles than little independent movies that may be great but never seen by anybody anywhere. America has been very picky the last few years, being one of the most sought-after actresses every pilot season and refusing all of the roles she was offered, so it’s safe to assume Superstore is very special and spoke to her. Or she just came to her senses and needed to work for real.
I don’t think Superstore is special. Not yet. But it could become. For that, it will need one thing, just one: stay out of the love story business for a while! We all know how the romantic comedies launched this year on the networks did: Selfie was underrated, A to Z was too sweet to be really good, Manhattan Love Story was a wreck and the three of them were cancelled. People love when the characters find love in a hopeless place. Oops, sorry. The Rihanna inside me wanted to show you what she got. No, people love when their characters unexpectedly fall in love, slowly and finally kiss -and make sweet love- in the right place at the right time. Love takes time. Look at Parks And Recreation! Or even The Office! It was not about love at first. It was -almost- all about love at the end. They fell in love with each other along the way, and we fell in love with them as a consequence. Superstore makes the big mistake of having a very obvious soon-or-not-so-soon-to-be future couple right at the center of it. And that is not what we are looking for. It’s a workplace comedy. We want to have fun while watching those silly people having a better day than we had. But rest assured, Superstore is also a little bit of that too.
America Ferrera will probably be perfect as Amy. It’s a simpler version of Betty, without the braces, the poncho and the humiliations. She’s her own woman. She’s cool, but not too cool. She’s fun, but not crazy fun. She’s good at her job but she knows how to crack some joke. We kinda love her at first sight. Jonah looks dumb, but he’s not. He’s gentle and sweet and fun. We kinda love him too but it takes a little more time. The people around them are crazy. Crazy fun. There’s Garrett, whose gimmick is to shout absurd things on the mic so the whole store can hear him, also he’s in a wheelchair; Mateo, a very competitive newbie who’s ready to do anything to prove that he’s better than Jonah; Dina, the frightening assistant manager who has very poor social skills and mistakes Jonah’s kindness for love at first sight; Cheyenne, a six-months pregnant teenage girl; and Glenn, the fatherly manager, a not very bright man. It’s a promising set of characters, representative of middle class America. And since it is set in a big superstore, they can add as many employees as they want, play with the customers, make some of them return regularly, have guest stars playing them…There is a lot to do!
I’ll add there are funny intermediate scenes showing employees actually doing their job, cos the rest of the time they just do everything but work. It’s nice. Plus, Christopher Lloyd appears as a guest through corporate videos where he is the expert manager teaching how to be the best employee. Most of the jokes there are references to Back to the Future, which is starting to get annoying. Don’t ge me wrong, I love the movies, but enough is enough! Too many TV shows refer to it now. More generally, cinema is very present in the script with multiple references to movies like Jurassic Park. I’m okay with it as long as it does not keep too many viewers at bay.
NBC desperately needs a broad comedy that can please low and middle class America as much as well-educated viewers, young and old people, blacks and whites and latinos… Superstore can be this one. The superstore is this place where all kind of people meet because they have no other choice: they have to eat (and Americans especially love to do just that). In real life, no magic happens there. But on TV, it can turn into a magical place we’d enjoy to make a stop by every week. Superstore’s pilot script is promising. Now, it’s the director and the actors’ turn to make it greater. If they succeed, then a hit is not unimaginable.