New TV Show Unmasks Retail Reality

There’s nothing like the mirror television provides to open a slice of the population’s eyes to its seething, simmering reality. So it is with Superstore, a spanking-new sitcom (tagline: “They’re getting their shift together”) that follows the lives of a band of retail operatives who share employment at a discount big-box store, Cloud 9.superstore

In this midseason workplace comedy, an exaggerated part of our consumerist culture is put on full, fluorescent-lit display by way of the microcosm of a generic big box retailer in Middle America.

And for folks who also ply their trade in the retail field, it’s an enlightening revelation about the world they occupy.

The store, a thinly concealed throw to Walmart, is awash in the kinds of tropes we’ve come to associate with the big box landscape. Here, find displays for rifles at one end of the building, and $8 engagement rings at another. Two customers come to blows after bashing shopping carts in a narrow aisle. There’s an abandoned toddler in a playpen in the baby section whose shopping parents have forgotten about her. In the grocery area, a worker eats food from a spill he’s cleaning up. In the appliances department, a man in his underwear does his laundry in a floor-model washing machine. And in one scene, a store clerk gets cozy on a bed displaying a comforter set.

As for Cloud 9’s low-to-middle-class customers, the show depicts them — predictably — in a less-than-favourable light: as inspid, gluttonous automatons. At one point in the pilot, one of the employees accidentally lowers the price on everything in the store to a quarter. This misstep sends the customers into a mindless frenzy of shelf-clearing shopping — a scene that’s uncomfortably familiar so close on the heels of Black Friday’s retail madness.

Originally slated for 13 episodes, the broadcaster subsequently cut Superstore down to just 11. It was released as a preview on November 30, and will have its official premiere on January 4, 2016.