Hello and welcome to your regularly scheduled reminder to watch NBC’s Superstore, a delightful workplace comedy about a megastore in middle America and the lovable weirdos in it. Now in its fourth season, Superstore is as brilliant as ever, and it’s finally able to lean in to the charming romance it’s been building up for years.
It may seem blasphemous to declare Superstore’s prominence in such hallowed company, but TV romance has come a long way in the decade-plus since The Office. There was Ben and Leslie on Parks and Recreation and Jake and Amy on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Superstore feels like a natural followup because of how it makes you feel.
Like The Office, Superstore began with Amy (America Ferrera) and Jonah (Ben Feldman) having just enough chemistry for us to be equally titillated and worried. She was married and he was interested and we’ve been down this road before.
But week to week, Superstore makes us feel warm and fuzzy. Like The Office and its ilk, this is an ensemble comedy with enough hilarious performances and wild B plots to wholly distract from Amy and Jonah when it wants to — or to let them be friends without any agenda when it serves the plot.
Parks didn’t waste too much time on tension once Ben and Leslie got together. Nor did Brooklyn Nine-Nine, instead subjecting its central couple to the very real struggles they’d experience as working detectives and opposites in attraction. Similarly, Superstore thrives equally on stretches of agonizing tension juxtaposed with bursts of bliss that are the hallmark of a good crush and TV romance.
Superstore began with a situation that ostensibly doomed Jonah to years of Halpert-esque waiting. But in 2018, Halpert-ing isn’t as romantic as it once was. Listening to some of Jim’s romantic overtures years later — and seeing the real-life copycats it inspired and sometimes misled — does lead us back to some toxic ideas for young men, even if Jim and Pam’s love was true.
Superstore borrows the best of the Jim-and-Pam model, then updates it with subtlety and precision.
Superstore borrows the best of the Jim-and-Pam model: the chemistry, friendship, and support that laid the foundation for their successful romance, and the emphasis on timing, which can make or break a relationship.
Then Superstore updates it, refines it, with genius subtlety and precision. Amy’s husband Adam (Ryan Gaul) is far less obvious a villain than Roy on The Office. A furtive kiss at the end of Season 2 (remember “Casino Night?”) leads to awkwardness and confusion, but not to a clean break; while Jim had the luxury of transferring offices to get space from Pam, Amy and Jonah do not. There’s no question of them not being friends even when one or the other wants more.
Season 3 ended with as fresh a start as this two could have. They had sex, and Season 4 (spoiler alert!) even pulled a classic Jim-and-Pam fakeout on us as they turned out to be dating in secret — while Amy was pregnant with Adam’s baby.
It’s messy and complicated in a way that The Office wasn’t, in a way that TV has naturally embraced over the past decade, which only makes it realer and more worthy an emotional investment.
In a year when we all consistently turn to The Office for comfort and sanity, Superstore‘s central romance is a perfect companion. It’s soothing and simple when little else is, and being reminded of the great TV ships that sailed before it only adds to the enjoyment. Jonah, Amy, Jim, Pam – you’re all in good company. Please don’t mess it up.
Watch Superstore on Hulu and Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.
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