A fond farewell to Superstore and Shameless
Goodbyes are hard. Unfortunately, they're also inevitable.
Every series comes to an end, and for NBC's Superstore and Showtime's Shameless, those finales are upon us. With Superstore wrapping on Thursday and Shameless eyeing an April 11 windup, we're paying homage to two shows that might not seem to have much in common (besides Nichole Sakura's presence) but have devoted years to telling stories about lesser represented groups of people, from a low-income family on the South Side of Chicago to the employees of a big-box store in St. Louis.
Quite frankly, we're not ready to say goodbye to the Gallaghers or the Cloud 9 crew.
DEREK LAWRENCE: It's been 10 years since Shameless premiered, and yet I remember it like yesterday. I was just a TV fan, living in Michigan, not yet a professional entertainment writer, and going over to my parents' house every Sunday to watch my new favorite show. But between the sex, drugs, and everything involving Frank (William H. Macy), I'd advise future bingers to not do so with your stepmom and younger brother. Sam, are your initial Superstore memories less scarring?
SAMANTHA HIGHFILL: Far less, thankfully. I was working at EW, watching the new slate of pilots, and I want to say it took me three whole minutes to fall in love with the Cloud 9 gang? I hadn't been looking for a new workplace comedy, but once I watched, I knew I needed it in my life. I realize we've got ourselves an unusual pairing here, Derek, but these shows have a few things in common other than the fact that they're ending and that they begin with the letter S. For one thing, they both lost a lead during their run. How did you feel when Emmy Rossum left Shameless?
LAWRENCE: Despite boasting such a large cast and an Oscar nominee in Macy, Rossum's Fiona was immediately the series' heart and leader. With no end in sight at the time, I couldn't blame her for leaving after nine seasons, but post-Fiona was an adjustment, especially since fellow standout Cameron Monaghan departed just before Rossum, only to soon return. Most of the Gallaghers were kids when Shameless started, and they've grown both physically and as performers, and so it did allow others, specifically Jeremy Allen White as Lip, to step up. Now, when it comes to Superstore, I finally started watching in the last few months (ashamed it took me this long), completing my binge in record time, and I couldn't help but spend the whole time bracing for America Ferrera's eventual departure.
HIGHFILL: The good news is that she doesn't leave until basically the end! Thanks to COVID, Ferrera's season 5 exit became a season 6 exit, and season 6 is the show's last, so you didn't have much of a chance to miss her. Like Fiona, Amy was the series' heart, but at the end of the day, it's an ensemble show, and thanks to the pandemic there have been more than enough stories to tell with other characters. Speaking of, how have you felt about Shameless' addressing of the pandemic?
LAWRENCE: When shows started returning in the fall, I was talking my dad, a dedicated watcher of CBS comedies and the Chicago Universe, and he complained about so many of them integrating the pandemic, and I mostly agreed with him in terms of wanting an escape from our hellscape. But Shameless and Superstore were the two big exceptions for me — they were both well-equipped to tell interesting stories beyond just throwing a mask on their main characters when convenient. And the Shameless team knew that, which is why they threw out the scripts they had written pre-COVID, deciding to truly explore the impact this time has had on working-class people and small businesses. Superstore has done some of that in its final season, but do you have any other specific hopes for these last episodes?
HIGHFILL: It's true, Superstore has done a great job of showing the pandemic's impact on essential workers who aren't always treated as if they're essential. One of the things I'll miss most about this series is its ability to tackle real world issues and provide true, heartfelt moments in the midst of so much comedy. When it comes to the final episodes, all I can ask for is a few laughs, an amazing Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi) moment or two, and some closure on the Amy-Jonah (Ben Feldman) love story. What's on your Shameless bucket list?
LAWRENCE: Our girl Amy is back!!! Not to steal your answer, but all I need to be on Cloud 9 is Fiona, even if just on Zoom! We haven't gotten any real update on her since she left, and while I understand the pandemic makes it where you can't just randomly fly in for one day of filming and leave, I hope they can get creative in reuniting the Gallagher siblings. Other than some closure there, this isn't like Lost where we need answers to unresolved mysteries. As long as these characters are together as a family in that final shot, that's enough for me. My one original predication was that Frank's life of debauchery finally catches up to him and he dies, but since then we've learned about his early stage of alcoholic dementia diagnosis. It's been a story line 11 seasons in the making, and yet I still can't help think that Frank outlives us all.