Acted with a certain amount of charm and riddled with lame jokes, Superstore seems like the kind of sitcom NBC might have programmed in the mid-1990s, somewhere between Boston Common and The Single Guy. It stars America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) and Ben Feldman (Mad Men) as employees of a big-box department store called Cloud 9.
The setting — a huge store with a vast variety of departments and customers — is actually a very good idea for a workplace sitcom, offering an inexhaustible supply of situations and characters that could be moved in and out of the store from week to week. But Superstore doesn’t do much with that concept, other than regularly cutting away to brief vignettes of shoppers doing odd things (one little boy wrapping another in a garden hose, for instance) as space or punctuation between scenes.
The scenes themselves are about how Feldman’s Jonah, a new employee, settles in to the job contentedly, contrasts with Ferrera’s Amy, an efficient professional who’s obviously too smart to find this employment challenging.
Superstore tries to ramp up some flirtiness between the two of them, and while they don’t have much chemistry, they’re also good enough actors that you don’t mind watching them talk, for a little while at least. The rest of the cast is filled with sitcom eccentrics and a store manager played by Mark McKinney, whom some still revere as a member of the Kids in the Hall comedy troupe.
In the second episode, Superstore looks as if it might become a different kind of show when the pregnant employee (Nicole Bloom) says she not be in her present state if she’d gotten “a ride to Planned Parenthood,” and McKinney’s Glenn immediately refers to it as “an abortion clinic.” When someone offers a counter-definition, Glenn squawks, “Abortion clinic! Abortion clinic!” over and over to drown out objection. But rather than engage in a (comic) discussion of these points of view, Superstore steers the plot toward the possibility of adoption — as in, the pregnant girl is thinking about it, and Glenn wants that baby. None of this is remotely funny, just interesting to note.
Don’t expect Superstore to stay around very long.
Superstore airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.