Superstore

⭐⭐⭐½ based on 3 reviews.

tl;dr: It rarely steps outside of the standard US formula, but Garrett is chaotic neutral perfected and the humour is steadily finding its feet.

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Review

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

After a lukewarm start, Superstore has generally grown on me. America Ferrera helps ground what could have been an otherwise overly wacky and absurdist take on big-chain retail, whilst the core cast of secondary characters at least feel like an unusual group of characters. Whilst it rarely detours too wildly from the kind of hand-cam sitcom that shows like The Office really popularised, the creators have at least run with the setting, providing a surprisingly diverse cast from a number of perspectives. They're also happy to break out of their own comedy stereotypes a little from time to time, with Mateo and Cheyenne, in particular, having some nice moments that allows them to be more than simply the catty gay one and the dumb young one, respectively, as the season develops.

That said, I'm not wholly sold on the whole Amy/Jonah set-up, and was happy to see the initial "love triangle" with Dina was firmly shoved to one side; her character has really begun to feel a lot more enjoyable once we got past that point. I'll give them credit for the reveal that Amy is married, though: it's an unusual twist on the standard Ross and Rachel dynamic, so I'm interested to see where it goes/how they deal, and whether it ends up bringing a slightly darker subtext to proceedings.

On a more positive note, I think the show has some really fun (and surprisingly/worryingly realistic) cutaway gags and cold opens. We're not talking Brooklyn 99 here, but still better than they need to be as quick fillers to transition between scenes. And then there's Garrett. I was initially a little unsure about the character, as they felt a little like a discount Chandler with some disability jokes sprinkled on top. However, by the season end, I'm a full convert! They've written someone who isn't just mean or uncaring or desperate to seem cool; he's more of a trickster type, a literal embodiment of the chaotic neutral personality type. Any opportunity is exploited to fuck with somebody and no one is safe, but they're totally happy for Garrett to also be emotional, vulnerable, shocked etc. It's a surprisingly fun dynamic and easily my highlight of the show.

Season Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

The weird (and deeply confusing) "opening" Olympic-special episode aside, I thought the second season of Superstore really took things up a notch. It's still pretty generic, but I feel like they're starting to get a bit more comfortable with their setting and characters. The opening gambit (following on from the previous season's cliffhanger) was an interesting side to take around workers rights, the evils of capitalism, parental leave, and just how truly messed up the US is for those working minimum wage jobs. (I mean, retail is messed up everywhere, but the US has made a sort of perverted art out of it)

I wasn't really expecting that level of progressive thought from the show, even with a character like Jonah knocking around to be a stereotypical progressive intellectual middle-class voice of "reason"/privilege, but I'm glad they did and I thought the ensuing plot was well handled. I thought that follow-up plots on drug testing and gun control were a little less nuanced, but interesting nonetheless, whilst Mateo's whole long-arc subplot about being an illegal immigrant was handled surprisingly well and continues to make for entertaining TV, plus I'm still rooting for Mateo and Jeff 🤞, who was a fun new character to bring in.

The characters are generally feeling a lot more fleshed out too, and I enjoyed the whole Garrett x Dina plot, whilst also liking that they seem to have parked Jonah x Amy for a little bit, even if the tornado brings it back full circle. I also didn't mind Bo taking a bit more of a backseat role for the season; he's a fun character but was wearing a little thin.

Overall, then, its improvements all around and the tornado finale left things on an interesting note that I'm excited to pick back up. The characters are feeling a lot more nuanced, the humour is generally strengthening episode-to-episode, Garret remains brilliantly funny, and many of the side characters are starting to have some really enjoyable moments (Sandra in particular). I hope season three doesn't go too hard on the will-they-won't-they of Amy and Jonah, but otherwise Superstore is feeling like a show that's really found its feet.

Season Three

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Three seasons in and Superstore is beginning to feel very comfortable with its storytelling. The brief flirtation with social commentary in season two has been largely thrown away, to be replaced by increasingly ridiculous sketch-comedy like stories, but given the stereotype-filled cast, this works largely to the show's favour. I was glad to see that they've kept Mateo's whole "illegal immigrant" angle running, as it grounds the show and provides some slightly higher stakes, particularly as they continue to soften the character's edges.

There aren't a huge number of truly stand-out moments, but the overarching plots around Mateo x Jeff, Dina's pregnancy, and the whole Amy x Jonah x Kelly triangle were well done and entertaining. I thought Kelly was a generally solid addition to the cast, though I wonder if she'll be rapidly sidelined or even leave the show now that her fling with Jonah is over. I've also enjoyed Dina's broadening into more of a friend rather than purely being involved through her own stubborn blunt will, and Garrett continues to be a whole lot of fun (though arguably less so than in the previous season).

I'm also finding Glenn to be better balanced. I like that he's now stepping outside of the goodie-two-shoes role a little, particularly when his wife is involved (she's a fun new side character 😂), and largely serves as a good focal point for several of the plots.

Overall, I think Superstore is beginning to feel a lot more comfortable with where it wants to be, but that also makes for a slightly less interesting end result. It's done taking risks or making political comedy and whilst it doesn't feel as much like a cookie-cutter sitcom formula as the first season, it's definitely marked out a distinct path and is happy to just retread it each episode. That's okay, it's still plenty enjoyable, but I imagine it means that season two will remain the high point moving forward.

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