On Cloud 9 with ‘Superstore’
When confronted with the success of “The Office,” NBC looked to develop a show that built upon its comedic and stylistic foundations. Thus came “Parks and Recreation,” which emulated “The Office” in its mockumentary style; large cast; standalone, quotable cold opens; and general atmosphere and comedic feel.
Near the end of “Parks and Recreation,” there was no spinoff/replacement show developed. However, NBC has found the natural successor to “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” in its 2015 comedy “Superstore.”
Because the show is so stylistically similar to recent NBC hits, it does follow some NBC sitcom archetypes in terms of characters and structure.
Cloud 9, the fictional big-box store in which the show takes place, has a bumbling Michael Scott in the form of store manager Glenn (Mark McKinney), a Ron Swanson-Dwight Schrute hybrid in assistant store manager Dina (Lauren Ash) and a Jerry Gergich in sales associate Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi).
Despite following these rough character molds, the show does not feel tired or recycled. Rather, “Superstore” updates these characters for a new setting and brings a fresh energy to the screen.
The characters all feel incredibly real and human, because the show’s writers do a great job of writing their strengths and flaws. The writers very adeptly make viewers go back and forth between rooting for or against them at a minute’s notice.
Season three of “Superstore” ups the ante and builds upon the cliffhanger the audience was left with at the end of season two. At the close of last season, the employees of Cloud 9 were dealing with the physical and emotional fallout of a tornado that ripped through the store while they were present. Season three picks up on Cloud 9’s employees’ first day back at work three months after the storm.
The writing on “Superstore” is spectacular; it is the area in which the show really excels.
There is an ample amount of dark humor in season three, including references to a severed foot found after the tornado.
While these events could have easily made “Superstore” into a morbid show, the writers brilliantly navigate the discomfort and keeps them safely in the realm of awkward comedy.
This season also gets more emotional. As we get to know these characters better, their storylines become more personal and heartfelt.
The romantic tension and inevitable transition from friends to couple between show leads Amy (America Ferrera) and Jonah (Ben Feldman) is even more tenable this season; still, the show manages to develop and portray their friendship in a meaningful way.
Another thing “Superstore” does really well is navigate its cast. It has seven main cast members; however, due to the big-box store setting, it has a much larger recurring cast than many other shows of its kind, mainly composed of other employees of Cloud 9.
The large cast does not make the show cluttered; rather, it makes it feel more authentic to its setting. Each character in the recurring cast seems like a real person, rather than just a punchline.
Between scenes, the show has clips of various customers shopping, fighting and generally making themselves too at home in Cloud 9, which are always entertaining.
I wrote off “Superstore” for a while. I did not think the premise sounded very interesting, and as someone who attended middle school in the 2000s, I thought it was odd to see Ferrara in something other than “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”
When I finally gave it a chance, however, it proved all of my preconceptions wrong. With only a few episodes left in the third season, “Superstore” continues to impress. If you enjoyed “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation,” it will definitely be worth your time to give “Superstore” a chance.