Little by little, our favorite shows are starting to return to our screens after a long absence due to the COVID-19 production shutdown. This week is a big one for NBC as Tuesday, “This Is Us” kicked off its new season and Thursday marks the return of “Superstore.”
If you’ve never seen it, “Superstore” is a workplace comedy that follows the family of employees at a big box megastore called Cloud 9. Amy (America Ferrera) is the caring store manager, who tries to keep the motley crew working together. Her boyfriend, Jonah (Ben Feldman), is an optimist who always looks out for his coworkers. Glenn (Mark McKinney) is the awkward former manager still trying to find his place in the store, and Dina (Lauren Ash) is the aggressive assistant manager who is always overstepping her bounds.
When last we left the Cloud 9 crew, Amy had accepted a job with the corporate office in California, and she and Jonah were making plans to move there.
In the premiere, Amy and Jonah’s plans have been put on hold because Amy is needed at the store during the pandemic. With very little direction or resources from corporate, Amy and her employees are forced to navigate the pandemic on their own. That includes getting creative when it comes to masks and finding a way to keep customers from fighting over certain items.
Meanwhile, Dina begins her search for her new best friend in the store to replace Amy.
Because of its subject and setting, the show really had no choice but to address the pandemic, and it does it very well — even managing some laugh-out-loud moments. But there are awkward moments as well, since it deals with difficult issues we may not want to relive, like desperately searching for toilet paper and cleaning products.
The second episode is all about the departure of original cast member Ferrera, who had her goodbye last season interrupted by the shutdown and returned for two episodes this season to wrap up Amy’s story. I am sworn to secrecy as to what happens, but I will tell you that the episode is a bit brutal emotionally. That’s due in large part to the pandemic altering the way both the characters and the actors are able to interact with each other.
You’ll remember that I was concerned about how TV shows would be produced while taking COVID-19 precautions, and “Superstore,” as one of the first to return, does an excellent job. There is social distancing, masks and even limited use of split screens.
But everything still appears fairly normal — other than characters saying goodbye without hugging. However, even that is dealt with beautifully, even if it is a little painful.
If you’re a “Superstore” newbie, please don’t judge it by this season’s first two episodes. Though both are solid, they’re not as hilarious as what you normally get with the show, so be sure to keep watching until at least episode three.
The sixth season of “Superstore” premieres at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, on NBC.