Sunrise, Sunset

It's always interesting to compare and contrast the feelings that are inspired by a promising new show, and the feelings that are inspired by an old favorite coming to an end. I recently got to experience both at about the same time when the premiere season of Superstore wrapped up, just as Downton Abbey came to its final episode. The two shows couldn't be more different if they tried, yet they both appealed to me, albeit in different ways.

There were a lot of surprising things about Superstore, not least of which is that it's a new comedy... On NBC... In the year 2016... Which actually works! I know! I was shocked, too. NBC has had a tough time of it lately in the sitcom department. Community, Parks & Rec, The Office, and 30 Rock are gone. They let Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt slip through their fingers. The comedies they've tried have been crashing and burning at an alarming rate. Only The Carmichael Show has any current buzz whatsoever.

And yet, here came this little sleeper about the employees at a big box store (think Target or Walmart) in St. Louis that regularly made me laugh out loud, and always had me looking forward to the next episode. It doesn't do anything groundbreaking; it's pretty much your usual structure for an ensemble comedy. Jokes are a big part of what makes a comedy work, of course, but I'd argue that it's even more important to have a cast with good chemistry, and Superstore had that in spades. Ben Feldman (Jonah) is the straight man, and does a fine job, as does America Ferrera (Amy) as his frustrated manager that he'll probably wind up romantically linked with at some point.

But it's the supporting cast that really shines, particularly Lauren Ash as Dina, the assistant store manager who follows rules with militaristic precision and who harbors a deep crush on Jonah. Mark McKinney is the store manager (Glenn) who manages to be a complete pushover most of the time, but steps up when he's most needed. Colton Dunn (Garrett) is the "token" disabled employee, who delights in lazing around and pitting his coworkers against each other for his own amusement. And hey, there's Nichole Bloom (Cheyenne), who was last seen being a huge bitch in a game I was too chicken to play, but is sunny and dim as the pregnant teen here.

Superstore also manages to walk a pretty fine line when it comes to satirizing actual societal issues, like the well-known inability of low-wage workers to unionize. The show tackles that economic disparity, along with the casual injustices surrounding race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability, without ever losing its sense of humor. I was unprepared for how much I wound up liking this inaugural season, and am pleased that it's already been renewed. NBC is still a tricky beast; it's entirely likely that either the ratings won't be there or the network will mismanage the show out of existence. But for now, I'll sit back, laugh, and enjoy the name-checks of local St. Louis neighborhoods.

Now let's change gears entirely and talk about England in the 1920s! In its first season, Downton Abbey roared into the cultural consciousness and into my heart, garnering one of my rare A+ grades. From there it's been... I guess "inconsistent" would be the most apt adjectives. Some storylines really, really worked, and some really, really didn't. Remember Ivy? Feh.

So for its final season (Season 6), you'd think they'd concentrate on tying up all the loose ends, and for the most part they did. But somehow, they still found time to pull their signature move, and left pointless arcs lying around unattended. How many scenes were devoted to Baxter's decision to testify against Coyle, which led exactly nowhere? How many scenes did we focus on Edith's inability to get along with her blowhard editor before he was finally dispensed with?

Aside from those annoyances, though, they did a very good job in bringing all the major storylines home. The fight that's been brewing between Mary and Edith for several seasons finally comes to a head. The issue of how the house supports itself and the rapidly diminishing servant class is dealt with front-and-center, which I appreciated. And who wouldn't love that dinner scene where Robert's... Let's just say "medical condition" brings an abrupt end to a snippy fight?

Of course, the big deal is how the show was going to leave everyone at the end. Will Edith ever find happiness? Who will finally land Mary's heart? Will Molesley ever win? Will Daisy ever shut up? How will the pairings of Mrs. Hughes/Carson and Anna/Bates turn out? Will Thomas find his place and stop being such a dick all the time? Could someone pass along my phone number to the actor who plays Andy? All of these questions are addressed, except that last one, unfortunately. Downton Abbey went out on a high note, and although there were plenty of sour ones that preceded it, I'll always remember it an amazing and beautiful show.

Superstore - Season 1: A-
Downton Abbey - Season 6: B


Post a Comment

Copyright © Slice of Lime