Tonight Superstore returns to kick off its sixth season on NBC. Star America Ferrera was supposed to exit the show at the end of last season, but due to the sudden production shutdowns last spring, Amy didn’t get her proper sendoff. When we last left off, Amy was planning to take a position with Zephra corporate, as Director of Customer Experience for Cloud 9. However, this would mean that she would have to relocate to California. She was nervous about telling Jonah, but it turned out that he was on board to move as well. Just like how the TV season was interrupted, so were Amy’s plans. As the new season opens, COVID has hit, and Amy’s transfer has been delayed—just two episodes for the viewers, but several months in Cloud 9 time.
While several new/returning shows (including comedies) have taken a more heavy-handed, somewhat political approach to incorporating the events of the past several months into their storylines, I appreciate that Superstore has managed to keep things much lighter, comedically paying tribute to those essential workers who keep our grocery stores going, and have to deal with the unruly customers who try to hoard during product shortages or refuse to wear masks. I thought the writers did an excellent job of incorporating the pandemic into the series in a way that felt natural and organic. I’m curious to see if they continue to incorporate the workplace changes throughout the season, or if tonight’s premiere is just a one-off. Next week we finally get part 2 of what was supposed to be last season’s finale, and it will be interesting to see how Amy leaves, and if Jonah does join her—right now their relationship appears to be trouble-free, however, there has been no mention that Ben Feldman would also be leaving the series. I’m just going to enjoy these final two episodes with Amy, and look forward to seeing how the series fills the void left by America Ferrera’s departure.
In tonight’s sixth season premiere, “Essential”, during the coronavirus pandemic, Amy and Jonah try to bring order to the chaos in Cloud 9 while being pulled in multiple directions; the employees learn what it means to be “heroes”, while Amy and Jonah’s impending move to California looms large.
The first story, “Survivor Type”, is based on a short story by Stephen King. Disgraced surgeon Richard (Kiefer Sutherland, 24, Designated Survivor) is stranded on a deserted island with very limited supplies, including a jackknife and two kilos of heroin. His ankle is badly wounded and he contemplates amputating his own foot in order to prevent a deadly infection. Trying to keep his mind off his hunger and pain, Richard begins to recount his life story and how he ultimately got into his current predicament. However, as the days progress, he starts to go a bit insane, and turns to some pretty drastic measures in order to stay alive.
The second tale, “Twittering From the Circus of the Dead”, is based on a short story by King’s son Joe Hill. It is told from the point of view of Blake Teller, an angsty teen who is stuck on a family road trip to Colorado with her parents and younger brother Eric. She creates a Twitter account to document her inner thoughts and complaints about her family and the voyage. Along the way, the family stops off at the secluded Circus of the Dead, an eerie Big Top filled with zombie performers. However, Blake and the other visitors think the theme is just makeup and effects and part of the show. She is constantly joking on her Twitter feed about what she sees, not realizing the horror that is really happening before her eyes, and the danger her family is in.
The animation style of the two stories is very minimal. It’s not like watching a cartoon or an animated feature. The special primarily consist of static panels with some slight character animation, and visual/sound effects added. However, the voice performances are amazing—it’s like listening to two masterful monologues by Kiefer Sutherland and Joey King, who each really bring their stories to life in great detail. The first tale is quite gruesome and difficult and disturbing to watch at times. However, the second one is a lot more fun, and more of a dark comedy. There are lots of Easter eggs strewn about both tales, such as the names and images of the writers. The Twitter account used by Blake is real—it looks as though the original story was posted as a series of tweets in that account back in 2010. For those with access to Shudder, I recommend checking out this special (as well as the first season of the series) for some Halloween fun.
Tonight, I’ll also be watching/recording Match Game and Deutschland 89.