They are the behemoths that bestride suburban and rural shopping stops across America. They are the monsters that their opponents say ate Main Street mom and pop stores. You know them as “big box” stores and NBC’s Superstore wants you to see them through the prism of the fictitious Cloud 9. And you’ll get a look at 10:30 p.m. ET Friday in what’s billed as a special “Olympics Edition” of the show.
The comedy that is situated inside Cloud 9 knocks off one of the all-time best retail knock-off stores. Superstore appears at first glance to be juvenile and not worthy of prime-time. But the store’s workforce does a lot to convey the working class populace that is so hotly pursued by presidential candidates in this political stretch. The cast, led by America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) as the exceedingly hard-working and equally practical Amy, and Ben Feldman (Silicon Valley, Mad Men) as the happy-go-lucky Jonah, really is sitcom goofy, but poignant moments bend the comedy toward message.
Just listen for the shrewd observations offered by Garrett (Colton Dunn), who uses a wheelchair as much, much more than a means to get around. Glenn (Mark McKinney) is the hapless, often clueless store manager who stumbles into solutions to sticky problems. Dina (Lauren Ash) is straight out of a big-box store version of Police Academy. Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom) is trying her best to take care of a new baby. Mateo (Nico Santos) is a clichéd, but occasionally funny presence in the cast.
Why should viewers care?
The slice of America that this cast presents, albeit in overly broad comedic terms, exists to some degree in the barely-making-ends-meet wage scale that thousands of workers in the more than 4,500 Wal-Mart stores and the more than 1,700 Target stores, even the roughly 1,000 Best Buy stores.
Online shopping has the big-box stores in the crosshairs of futuristic drone deliveries to homes, but the retail giants remain stalwarts in employment. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. employed about 1.4 million people in the U.S., according to the 2010 census, and spanning the globe, that number crossed 2 million.
There leaves plenty of stories from which Superstore writers can draw; you might even say millions of stories. It’s unrealistic to hope for scripts the quality of Cheers or M*A*S*H portraying life inside a big-box store, but the segment of the population whose lives depend on wages that exist somewhere around minimum deserve a satirical shot back at the top 1 percent.
The second season of Superstore, scheduled to resume next month on NBC, has the potential to deliver that punch.