The fact that the new NBC comedy Superstore is basically The Office, but with America Ferrera and set in a “big box” outlet is not surprising. The show’s creator Justin Spritzer worked on the 2005 American version of Ricky Gervais’ awkward comedic show as story editor and producer. The Gervais original was brilliant at those awkward interactions between the weird and wonderful colleagues in that workplace environment.
According to all reports the American The Office was equally adept at provoking those “cringe-worthy” moments that Gervais did so well. While Superstore is not quite as unique, it is funny. Not looking through your fingers while laughing guiltily, and more than a bit hysterically funny, but close.
Having missed the beginning of the series, a brief spot of binge watching was required to catch up on the Superstore. Each of the half-hour episodes were chuckle-worthy, even without a live audience, or thankfully a laugh-track, and by the fourth one the series was outright hysterical.
Episode four also had that first “cringe” moment. When Justin buys a sex-doll that he thinks looks like Amy.
America Ferrera proves that she does not need “Ugly Betty” to be funny. She stars as floor supervisor Amy who new employee Justin (Ben Feldman) manages to annoy on his very first day. These two have a great chemistry together with the series immediately putting them into a “will they/won’t they” dynamic.
Later in the fourth episode, disabled employee Garrett (Colton Dunn), aka the “cool one” points out that Amy is having a “work flirt” with Justin, and when she believes that Justin has worked this out, she gets flustered.
Essentially The Office set in the world of K-Mart, WalMart, Target, et al, the “shenanigans” of a discount shopping store, aka Superstore do not really match up to the intricacies of the white collar comedy set up by Gervais originally, and then adapted for the American market later.
Superstore is funny, despite relying a bit too much on stereotypes. Example: Store manager is a social inept and overly religious buffoon – Glenn (played with toe-curling sincerity by Mark McKinney) , another floor supervisor with an immediate crush on Justin, Dina (brought to brilliant life by the superb Lauren Ash) and the other new employee, Mateo; an annoying sycophant wannabe (played annoyingly by Nico Santos).
Superstore is, if anything, more applicable to a wider audience demographic. While The Office did pander to office white collar workers the world over, this version, set in the “big box store” world that many have passed through as employees, or indeed customers, should tickle even more funny bones.
Each episode thus far has managed to look at the minefield that makes up the workplace of the new millennium. Ben Feldman is brilliant as the new guy who just does not quite fit. His Justin already realizes that he can have fun, check out the trolley (shopping cart) race with the manager Glenn and Garrett, and that he really likes Amy, but he misses on the group dynamic.
It may well be that Superstore does use stereotypes a great deal, as did The Office, but both shows do so go great comedic effect. So far, at four episodes in, Ferrera is proving that comedy is her forte and that she and Feldman have a great give and take as Amy and Justin.
This new comedy does have an “almost” ensemble feel, with a core set of characters; the pregnant teen, the Latina floor supervisor, the ineffectual outlet manager, the two new employees, one a nebbish yes man and the other the good looking younger man and the store “crush.” Not to forget the cool employee Garrett.
Superstore does utilize stereotypes, but there has been an attempt to give a little depth to the characters. Ferrera’s “responsible” supervisor takes off her wedding ring when at work and was a teen mother. In one episode Amy speaks about the sameness of her days; 10 year’s worth, while looking at glow-in-the-dark sticky stars. Justin, in an attempt to prove his “American Beauty” quote, placed them on the ceiling.
The payoff comes when the very pregnant Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom) is serenaded by her “thug” boyfriend and Dina turns off the store’s lights. A little gem, hidden in the comedic offering of Spritzer and co.
Superstore airs Mondays on NBC and is splendid comedy of the “more normal” absurd. A world populated with mannequins that look like employees and a store manager who is not above racing his employees in a shopping cart. Tune in and marvel at the comedic talents of the cast and have a giggle at the storylines and gags.