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HOW/WHEN & WHERE TO WATCH: 8 p.m. on NBC
In an upcoming episode of Superstore, a blizzard traps employees at the Cloud 9 outpost on Ozark Highlands Road. Record snowfall has frozen the doors shut. Assistant manager Dina (swaggery Lauren Ash) has a survival plan that doesn’t involve immediate cannibalism. In a sense, this is a normal day. Superstore is a zany network comedy, but it shines with insidious brightness. Here’s an old-fashioned NBbC workplace sitcom where work is an economic prison. Employees wear matching blue vests and matching grimaces, caught between customers and corporate overseers.
Sound dour? It’s a riot. I live for sequences in the break room, when laugh lines pinball through the brilliant ensemble. There’s Amy (America Ferrera), who got only two whole days for maternity leave from a company she’s served for 15 years. Her love interest-turned-boyfriend Jonah (Ben Feldman) is the local ineffective intellectual, like I guarantee he’d love the phrase “economic prison.” Mateo (Nico Santos) is a judgy prima donna — and an undocumented immigrant seeking asylum (yeesh, bad timing). Manager Glenn (Mark McKinney) has a sunny outlook on life, while cynical Garrett (Colton Dunn) delivers loudspeaker announcements he doesn’t care about to customers who care less.
Superstore’s fourth season has been on hiatus since December. A burst of new episodes starting in March exemplifies its goofy-sharp charm. A Fitbit-ish Cloud 9 health initiative tallies employees’ steps, a fully Orwellian policy pitched as smiley inter-store competition. The screen fills with product placement — every scene is a chance to play “Spot the LaCroix!” — but what other show has ever dared to make (funny!) jokes about Oprah Winfrey, AIDS, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, all in one minute or less?
In our binge-everything era, the episodic plots are uniquely welcoming to newcomers. (Late to another party, I only started watching last year.) Some gags can feel old-fashioned, misunderstandings piled atop overreactions. But Superstore is rewardingly humane. Consider Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi), a gloomy loner whose ongoing star-crossed attachment to eternally befuddled Jerry (Chris Grace) is starting to achieve Ross-and-Rachel levels of romantic tragicomedy. And this season has wonderfully showcased Ferrera (who’s also a producer). Amy wants to become a store manager, requiring her to attend a dopey training retreat where a PowerPoint advertises “The Three L’s of Leadership!”
Amy’s ambition is a downbeat joke that the show also takes seriously. Take Superstore seriously, too. On paper, it’s a no-concept throwback: People work together, laughs ensue. But creator Justin Spitzer has evolved a classical setup into a vitally modern American tale, exuding Must See TV warmth and chilly downward-mobility anxiety. All hail the Cloud 9 employees: Their drudgery is joyful. A– —Darren Franich
- Superstore renewed for season 5
- Ugly Betty heads to Cloud 9? America Ferrera wants a crossover with Superstore
HOW/WHEN & WHERE TO WATCH: 9 p.m. on ABC
Heroics will come fast and furious in the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off’s second half, as Andy (Jaina Lee Ortiz) gets her chance to shine. We’ll learn a lot more about Captain Sullivan (Boris Kodjoe), while Miranda’s (Chandra Wilson) on-again hubby, Ben (Jason George), will wrestle with his future. And great sex alert! Get ready for lots of surprising love affairs in the coming months. “We will fall into bed with multiple unexpected secret romances,” executive producer Stacy McKee teases. “And the biggest emotional stakes of all will test everyone in the station when they are in danger of losing one of their own.” —Lynette Rice
- Grey’s Anatomy is bringing back Abigail Spencer
- Grey’s Anatomy has tallied up all those surgeries and ‘seriouslys’ for your enjoyment
What ELSE to Watch
*times are ET and subject to change