Is The NBC Comedy ‘Superstore’ Another ‘Cheers’? One Critic Thinks So

If you blinked, you may have missed Superstore. The NBC comedy, produced by some of the same people behind The Office, stars America Ferrera and follows a well-developed cast of characters who work in a big box store that might look familiar — simply because big box stores are so ubiquitous, no one has escaped the experience of working or shopping in one. Superstore had a steady presence on Monday nights before airing a season finale last month after a mere eleven episodes.

The A.V. Club praised the finale as a “nice little cap” to a show that “could’ve used a little more attention.” Its pickup for Season 2 — currently set to be 13 episodes, according The Hollywood Reporter — means viewers gave the show enough support to warrant the network’s continued faith.” Its return comes despite the fact that (spoiler alert) all of the characters who worked at the ‘heavenly’ chain called Cloud 9, save one, were fired in the final moments of the last episode.

Last week, Paste magazine compared Superstore to the classic sitcom Cheers. The shows share an ability to be simple entertainment without an edgy angle, and both Superstore and Cheers effectively develop their full ensembles of characters instead of relying on a few leads.

“‘Cheers’ was primarily a show about disparate people finding common ground in a Boston watering hole. In the same vein, ‘Superstore’ is mostly a show about a group of oddballs stuck in the often unforgiving environment of big box stores, but it too has the ability to be more.”

Vox pointed out the show’s demonstration of diversity on a number of fronts: race, sexuality, and ability among others, without any hint of self-congratulation. Colton Dunn, who plays Garrett, the prankster often behind the superstore’s paging system, told a panel discussion that “the anomaly isn’t diversity. The anomaly is no diversity.”

Ferrera said at a Television Critics Association event in January that Superstore is the first role she’s been offered that was not specifically written for a Latina. None of the characters came with a racial definition attached. Ferrera’s co-star, Mark McKinney from the legendary sketch comedy troupe Kids in the Hall, joked during the same discussion that producers had taken “the great step of casting two Canadians,” referring to himself and Lauren Ash.

The Los Angeles Times credited the entirety of Superstore’s cast for the show’s success, deftly pointing out that some of the best episodes happen when the entire cast is involved in a single plot line instead of split up into three separate stories, as is normally the case on episodic television.

As much as Superstore is rich with diversity, clever writing, and intelligent humor, it also paints a realistic picture of working retail, according to The A.V. Club. Diversity of life experience among workers is a fact of life in retail. So are the significant challenges faced by retail employees, who rely on the job to pay the rent but often receive less respect than they should.

“[‘Superstore’] depicts the actual hardships of being an overworked, underpaid employee at a big corporation that treats its employees like faceless, nameless workers who are entirely interchangeable and replaceable.”

That aspect of Superstore is important to executive producer Justin Spitzer, who produced and wrote The Office. He told Vox that audiences want to see shows set in working class environments and emphasized it is important for the show to get it right while remaining focused on laughs.

“[W]e want to approach the topic with sensitivity, and we want to have fun with it. We don’t want to ever feel like we’re trying to teach anything, or give a sermon about class differences. I mean, we’re a comedy; we want to be entertaining. But I think people enjoy seeing themselves on TV, so we need more shows dealing with other classes, other economic levels.”

The first season of Superstore is available to stream on Hulu.

[Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]