Last year, we were speculating about an Office reboot, and here it is. Superstore presents a fresh take on the ‘workplace comedy’ format. No paper company this time around, but a mega-store serves as the decorum of goofiness and, of course, romance.
When Jim Met Pam
What better way to introduce the store and its inhabitants, than through a new employee: Jonah (Ben Feldman, Silicon Valley, Drop Dead Diva and Michael Ginsberg on Mad Men). He’s way too intelligent to stack toilet paper (which goes wrong) and price products (which goes even wronger), but he needs a job, apparently, so there he is, applying for one at ‘Cloud9’. His interview is with Dina (Lauren Ash, comedy’s most recent revelation), the female counterpart to Dwight Schrute. She’s clearly attracted to Jonah, but Superstore knows how to do farce; he’s into his supervisor Amy (America Ferrera, Ugly Betty, The Good Wife). With a little imagination, this show could be the tale of ‘When Jim Met Pam’, in an alternate universe.
On top of the hierarchy, is boss Glenn (Mark McKinney, Saturday Night Live, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). An older, more mellow version of Michael Scott. There’s also fun guy Garrett (Colton Dunn, Parks and Recreation), dumb brunette Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom, Shameless) and suck-up Mateo (Nico Santos, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2). There isn’t one unlikeable character on the show, like a Kevin, Ryan, Erin or Meredith. It’s only the first episode, of course, so let’s not cheer just yet.
The pilot episode deals with Jonah, trying to fit in and desperately trying not to look like an ‘elitist’. He also spends a lot of time apologizing to Amy – who doesn’t want to give her real name at first – because he screws up the simplest of tasks. His excuse is: moments of beauty should be incorporated, especially in a big-box store such as this. If that means stacking up soda cans, based on their colors, to create an emoticon wall (in the shape of a sad smiley face – to say he’s sorry), so be it. It doesn’t go over well with Amy, although she’s slowly warming up to him.
Parallel to his first day(s), is the story of Cheyenne, whose boyfriend Bo proposes to her – on his knees. Amy, who’d just sold him the cheapest of rings (at the time unaware of who he was), convinces Cheyenne not to say yes immediately; Bo isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the hardware store. He’s persistent, though. He stages a robbery – jumps on top of the cash register, mask on, waving a gun around, threatening to kill everybody unless – he pulls off his mask – unless Cheyenne promises to marry him. How romantic. Too bad the police kind of looks at his stunt from a different angle.
During his proposal, Dina’s already in full Dwight mode, still convinced there’s a robbery going on, and trying to save the day by crawling on all fours through the store. She picks up the phone for help, but no one seems to understand what ‘code green’ is (the Schrute family would, probably). As a last resort, she cuts the power. When the lights go off, the ceiling lights up. Jonah’s put glow in the dark stars everywhere, which enhances the romance. Everybody’s speechless – and Cheyenne says yes this time.
Quite a first day. Quite a first episode. It’s really nice to see Ferrera and Feldman back in a well-written sitcom. They’ve got good chemistry together, too. Star of Superstore is without a doubt Lauren Ash. I think it’s fair to say the era of Melissa McCarthy is over. She’s Hollywood establishment now. You’d better keep a close eye on Ash, because there’s no question she’s going to be big.