You know that show that doesn’t get enough credit? No doubt a flurry of shows just leapt to your mind. But the one that should draw your attention is a little workplace comedy that echoes one of the best of its genre. The current TV show in question is Superstore, and it echoes the mother of all workplace comedies, The Office.
Superstore, which takes place in a Walmart-esque big-box store, can be funny, irreverent, and touching all at once. Cloud 9, like its parent company Dunder Mifflin, houses a wide array of characters and acts as a playground for their misadventures. If you haven’t taken a chance to visit, you really ought to.
Superstore is a worthy followup to The Office. This doesn’t mean it’s the best workplace comedy since The Office, as it hasn’t exceeded Parks and Recreation. Disavowing Parks as The Office‘s title bearer has nothing to do with its quality, but more to do with the fact that the two were very different shows. Superstore, however, is more in line with The Office‘s core characteristics.
With the citizens of Pawnee hopefully placated, let’s dive into the 15 Reasons Superstore Is The True Successor To The Office.
15. Familiar Archetypes
Archetypes are often unfairly scorned. They serve as the building blocks for every character you see, and only go bad if they remain building blocks, left unfinished by lazy writers. The writing staff behind The Office knew exactly which archetypes would benefit a show about workplace mundanity, and molded those types into characters that are still loved today.
Superstore draws on the same basic archetypes as The Office. But the show shuffles these archetypes and splits them up to accommodate a new cast of characters. Jim’s disregard for productivity passes on to Garrett, while his subtle charm manifests in Jonah. Dwight’s commando vigilance finds a home with Dina, while his constant ass-kissing transfers over to Mateo. The similarities to The Office are in plain sight, but look so fashionable on Superstore‘s cast that you don’t cry ripoff.
The writers’ room for Superstore is occupied by hardworking archetype sculptors, and the resulting cast of characters grows the fruits of their labors. Superstore’s cast is sure to gain emotional traction with fans like The Office once did.
14. Social Commentary
From labor unions to election tampering, many social topics are stocked in Superstore’s warehouse. Like The Office, Superstore invites closer examination of larger issues. The Office took an often uncomfortable look at how average Americans approach subjects like race, sexuality, and gender politics. Superstore inspects issues with its predecessor’s same acerbic style.
Most pointedly, Supserstore walks a tightrope in a story where Glenn, the store manager and devout Christian, objects to the morning after pill. Glenn, rather than coming off as a vengeful pro-lifer, continues to be the well-intentioned man he’s always been, just one whose worldview sometimes overshadows his better tendencies. This is ratified when Glenn, much to his bank account’s dismay, purchases all of the pills in the store to keep customers from buying them.
Superstore adopts many other issues that brew endless contention, and makes them easier to swallow. No character is punished for their outlook, and neither are they idolized for having a particular stance. Like everybody, they’re just regular people in the same world as us.
13. Diverse Cast
Representation seems as important to Superstore as it was to The Office. Superstore fills its roster with actors of all ages, ethnicities, and sexual preferences, without treating them like items on a diversity checklist. Altogether, the actors give great performances and emulate what America really looks like. In that order.
At the risk of making this a shallow recitation of Superstore‘s inclusion, this list still owes it to readers to mention the many types of people who keep Cloud 9 up and running. For starters, the cast is led by America Ferrera’s Amy, a Honduran-American. There’s also Mateo, a Filipino employee who the show reveals as an undocumented US resident. And finally you have Garrett, the paraplegic operator of Cloud 9’s intercom system.
These are only a few selections from Superstore‘s primary cast, and doesn’t even speak to the recurring characters in the show’s lower tiers. The producers of Superstore cast their show the way ever sitcom on air now should.
12. Hilarious Side Characters
Speaking of Superstore‘s lower tier cast, rarely does a character enter Cloud 9’s sliding doors without eliciting a fair share of laughs. Every corner of the store employs a different quirky individual, much like Dunder Mifflin did for the Scranton branch of its enterprise.
Behind the counter at Cloud 9’s pharmacy, you’ll find a pharmacist who perceives himself as a ladykiller, and spends his downtime writing a screenplay that’s totally not like Limitless (except it’s exactly like Limitless). Elsewhere, you’ll meet Myrtle, an elderly worker at Cloud 9, who in her later years is a proud free spirit. Most notably, Superstore‘s surefire fan favorite is Sandra, a timid character who rarely speaks up, even when it’d help for her too (when a character suddenly goes into labor in the store, Sandra mentions in a whisper that she’s a trained midwife).
11. Celebrates the Ordinary
On The Office, Jim Halpert had the unique ability to make the monotonous ins and outs of the workday seem somehow extraordinary. While Jim seemed like the sole arbiter of fun on The Office, Superstore offers multiple sources of everyday shake-upery, and in consequence makes Cloud 9 look like an oddly fun place to work.
Jonah, who assumes the part of a more pretentious Jim, frequently challenges Amy to increasingly weird dares. More than a few employees at Cloud 9 will swipe snacks off of shelves and eat them with peckish abandon, caring little whether or not they’re found out. Superstore’s antics even spill out onto the parking lot, where Jonah and Garrett have spent time racing in shopping carts.
While your average Target might not seem like a desired place of occupation, Cloud 9, or at least the specific store that provides Jonah, Amy, and Garrett their paychecks, seems like a delightful place to spent your 9 to 5.
10. Humor that’s just awkward enough
The Office wasn’t for everyone. Some could endure the socially oblivious Michael Scott from one horrendously awkward scenario to the next. Others put as much distance between themselves and Scott’s cringe-factor as possible. But at the end of the day, The Office knew best how to evenly distribute funny and awkward, and Superstore can also handle that balance.
The pinnacle of Superstore‘s discomfort comes when the spokesman for Cloud 9 is ousted as a serial cannibal. As a completely appropriate response, Jonah dares Amy to dress up in the spokesman’s outfit, worn on his television commercials, and walk around the store during open hours in full view of customers. This is a prime example of an uncomfortable situation being made unnecessarily more unbearable by the people involved. And the results are gut-busting.
Superstore is the type a show that can take on an awkward story and ride it to the end, through thick and thin. Still, who knows if Superstore will reach the cringeworthy heights of The Office‘s “Diversity Day.”
A sitcom can’t survive on laughs alone. It needs a beating heart. Only time will tell if Superstore can conjure a romance as timeless as Jim and Pam, or Leslie and Ben on Parks and Recreation. But Superstore definitely has several irons in the romantic fire, and anyone of them could assemble a crowd of shippers.
A lot of viewers are resting their expectations of a second generation Jim and Pam on the Jonah and Amy. And to be fair, there is a lot of chemistry between them, and a good amount of obstacles given Amy’s husband and daughter. But perhaps Superstore’s romance pairs Mateo with Jeff, a district manager of Cloud 9.
Company restrictions on worker relationships make Mateo and Jeff all the more compelling. The writers deserve a lot of credit for making them an engaging couple who’re gay but treated just as legitimate as a straight couple, without jokes being made at their expense. The only other couple on TV like them is Titus and Mikey on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
8. Uses setting for all its worth
With titles like The Office and Superstore, each show spends most of their time in their eponymous locations. Financially speaking, this makes life easier for the showrunners. But creatively speaking, it can be tough for a writer to demarcate stories to one environment. Luckily, the writers on Superstore are no slackers, as evidenced by their subversion of archetypes.
How much could possibly happen inside a big-box store over the course of a day? It turns out a lot, as Cloud 9 sees hi-jinxes daily from the first aisle to the last. On some occassions the heater will break, and each plot-line of the episode will capture every character’s method for dealing with it. Or maybe food poisoning hits the employees on the infamous Black Friday. The characters don’t have to look far outside Cloud 9’s walls to run into a worthwhile story.
7. Holiday Themed Episodes
Lately, season lengths have dropped in proportion to the the sudden rise in TV shows on air. But long seasons still offer that yearlong presence, allowing shows to celebrate special events with viewers. The Office made use of this by scheduling special episodes around each holiday, and Superstore continues in this vein.
When a holiday comes around, be it Halloween, Valentines Day, or Christmas, Superstore uses it as a kind of writing prompt, and then models an episode around it. A Christmas episode brings seasonal help to Cloud 9, offering a bevy of new story opportunities. Valentines Day motivates some employees to intercede with the love lives of others, however ill-advised that might be. Superstore makes the special times during the year seem all the more memorable.
Obviously, holiday episodes are not unique to either The Office or Superstore (Community was particularly good at them in its time). But Superstore’s holiday episodes most clearly resemble the awkward, heartfelt occasions that defined The Office during the year.
6. Justin Spitzer
Here’s the most obvious connection between Superstore and The Office. Justin Spitzer, the creator of Superstore, previously wrote for The Office. During his tenure on The Office, Spitzer wrote classic episodes like “Back from Vacation” and “Did I Stutter?” If there’s any mystery as to why Superstore resembles The Office, that’s easily dispelled by Spitzer.
The tradition of writers starting on one famous show and then proceeding to create their own has been around for a while. Most famous examples include Matthew Wiener starting on The Sopranos before creating Mad Men, or Vince Gilligan writing for The X Files before creating Breaking Bad. These crossovers can be found in comedy as well, with The Office in particular. Before creating Parks and Recreation with Greg Daniels, Michael Shur wrote for the office (and also played Dwight’s cousin Mose).
Spitzer graduated from The Office to create his own personal followup, Superstore. Clearly the lessons Spitzer learned on The Office stayed with him, as he emanates the best aspects of his former show on his current one.
5. Guest Appearances from Underrated Comedians
Shows that appreciate under-praised actors should be equally appreciated. Sometimes this means appreciating up and coming comedy writers, improvisational comedians, or standup comics by featuring them on an episode or two. The Office made a habit of this, and Superstore does as well.
In its run, The Office hosted comedic voices that hailed from The Daily Show, MADtv, and the Upright Citizens Brigade (or UCB), to name a few. For the landmark episode “Diversity Day,” The Office featured Daily Show alum, and future Nightly Show host, Larry Wilmore. The show also plucked Andy Daly from MADtv to play a Benjamin Franklin impersonator. And in later years, The Office called on UCB heavyweight Chris Gethard, who recently cameoed on Broad City and starred in indie comedy Don’t Think Twice.
Superstore assumes the role of comedy melting pot, mixing A+ comedians with its existing cast. Thus far the show has featured Natasha Leggero, star of Comedy Central’s Another Period, SNL‘s Cecily Strong, and Dave Ferguson, writer and castmember in IFC’s The Birthday Boys.
4. Incompetent Authority Figures
This is an aspect of The Office and Superstore that builds off the usage of classic archetypes. Incompetent authority figures act as a foil to the straight men employees under their watch, but also initiate trickle down incompetence that renders their workers somewhat inept. Either way, the results are hilarious.
The primary authority figures in charge of Superstore’s cast are Glenn, the joyful Church-going manager, and Dina, the hardcore assistant manager. Each messes up in their own unique ways. On one hand, Glenn is woefully naive, and not only feels surprised when he discovers most of his staff could be smoking pot, but also becomes nervous that they’re capable of doing terrible things under the influence of the mild drug. On the other hand, Dina relishes the opportunity to do a drug crackdown, and wastes no time demanding every employee’s urine sample.
Amy, Jonah, and Garrett comfortably watch their bosses’ follies from the sidelines, confident that they’re nowhere near as foolish. This makes it all the funnier when their foolishness comes out to play.
3. A Corporate David/Goliath Dynamic
The Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin often found itself at odds with corporate overlords. The big wigs at Dunder Mifflin were prone to causing their underlings a fair deal of stress, whether it was by way of sudden mergers or lay offs. But the cruelty doled out by Cloud 9 executives makes Dunder Mifflin’s injustices look like a minor hassle.
One of Cloud 9’s worst policies is its unwillingness to provide pay for maternal leave (once again showing Superstore’s inclination to bring up real-life issues). This creates no small sum of problems for Cheyanne, a pregnant seventeen-year-old working at Cloud 9 who gives birth at the end of season one. Luckily, Glenn suspends her with pay, circumventing Cloud 9’s maternal leave policy. Unfortunately, Glenn gets fired for doing so.
The Cheyanne ordeal prompts a storewide walkout, and shows Superstore‘s willingness to stick it to the man. There will always be a struggle between Cloud 9’s underlings and their detached CEOs, but the conflict is what should make the show interesting for seasons to come.
2. Effective Emotional Beats
As stated before in the romance entry of this list, a sitcom is nothing without a beating heart. Superstore delivers sentiment not just in a romantic context, but also in platonic scenarios between friends, mentors, protégés, or even bitter rivals. Superstore isn’t just in it for the jokes, taking aim at sincerity just like The Office did so successfully.
Perhaps the sweetest moment in Superstore‘s run comes when Amy, currently having marital troubles, confides in Glenn about the growing rift between her and her husband. Glenn listens to Amy understandingly, and offers up his ear for whenever she might need to talk. Here we see real people talking about real problems, elevating a good sitcom to a great one.
Only time will tell if Superstore pack as many moments of genuine feeling as The Office used to. The show has yet to feature a scene as touching as the one where Jim consoles a tearful Dwight, delaying their rivalry for a few brief moments to assuage his heartbreak. But Superstore definitely has the potential.
1. It’s ushering in a new era of great NBC comedies
NBC once sported a comedy lineup like no other. Its Thursday night block included The Office, 30 Rock, Community, and Parks and Recreation. The Office was the first of these sitcoms to air, and each show owes a lot of thanks to its success. All four comedies are as highly regarded today as they were then. So will NBC ever be able to reach these heights again?
That’s hard to say, but following Superstore, some promising half-hours have come to NBC. First there was The Good Place, an afterlife comedy from Parks and Recreation creator Michael Shur. Then there was Trial & Error, a spoof of true crime series. Both shows, along with Superstore, bode well for NBC’s comedic future.
To be fair, Trial & Error hasn’t been renewed yet and its ratings have been sub-par. But The Good Place will return for a second season, and could possibly, along with Superstore‘s success, make a case for Trial & Error‘s continuance. Keep your fingers crossed, because a Thursday night with Superstore, The Good Place, and Trial & Error would be perfection.
Watch Superstore Thursdays at 8pm on NBC!