SUPERSTORE (2015-2021)

(fubo/Hulu/peacock/VOD) SUPERSTORE has always flown under the rader. Often marketed as a big-box retail version of THE OFFICE (US) because it’s comprised of eccentrics and weirdos all trying to get by in their humdrum work environment, it has more in common with the warmness of PARKS & RECREATION, in that the characters are often trying to help one another through each day. It’s also a show that subverts how we imagine work-based sitcoms, how the audience is supposed to suspend disbelief that every employee is treated equal, that each one of them goes home at night to live in a place they can easily afford, and none of them ever have to worry about how they’re going to pay for an unexpected car repair.

While the show would be entertaining enough if these characters were placed in their own universe and the writers blissfully ignored everything happening in the real world, SUPERSTORE often tackles heavier topics, such as unionizing, immigration, and natural disasters. Few sitcoms are able to manage the delicate balance of real-world problems and humor — usually coming across as either overly glib, or as a Very Special Episode — but SUPERSTORE not only manages it, it excels at it.

The season six opener, which aired a handful of weeks ago, deals quite frankly with COVID and we watch as the show barrels through months of COVID prep and paranoia in the expert way only a five-year-old show could juggle. They don’t rely on title cards to relay the day or month, they let you figure it out through visual indicators and character dialogue because they realize you’ll pick up on the major touchstones. Sure, it won’t play the same to viewers in 10 years, but few shows do.

In the second episode of season six, the novelty of safety precautions have faded into the background but still linger as a threatening presence, and the show depicts several characters struggling with their fear and stress. Despite that, they still make it funny without defusing the importance of these characters’ struggles.

I know folks are pretty reluctant to invest in old-school 22-ep season shows — I get it! — but this one is worth it. It’s the full package: heart, humor, and hope. Feel free to skip over the first season, as it’s a bit rocky! If you don’t want to deal with COVID in your TV shows, steer clear of season six! (I know I get a bit squicked out when the show has characters talking close-up and unmasked, just for the sake of trying to wring the most out of a scene.) I don’t know what the future holds for SUPERSTORE — perhaps one more season, at best — but if that’s the case? It’s been a good run.

Season 1 trailer:

Season 4 mid-season trailer:

(The actual tone is really an odd mixture of the two: not as much spectacle as S1 promises, not as preachy as S4 appears.)