Home Context Thanks for being a friend Superstore

Thanks for being a friend Superstore

In a year of uncertainty and fear, Johnathan McGinty shares how this quirky, representative and sweet comedy brought comfort and hope to his family


So, let’s talk a little about Superstore.

Tonight, this sweet, hilarious and incredibly reflective show ends a six-year run with a little bit of fanfare but none of the awards it so richly deserves. 

There are countless, thoughtful takes on this show that promise to be exceedingly more well-written than this, and I encourage you to go find them. For instance, this piece by Scott Tobias for the New York Times is great, while this essay in Vulture by Kovie Biakolo is a brilliant take on the importance of representation in Superstore. They’re both wonderful reads.

More than that, if you haven’t watched Superstore, I strongly encourage you to add it to your viewing list and catch up on one of the most clever and charming sitcoms to be released in quite a while.

Given that my storytelling skills likely are not as artful and nuanced as others who can tackle the social importance of the show, I’d instead like to tackle why Superstore has made a lasting impression on my family this past year. That’s because, if I’m being honest, it wasn’t a show we were naturally drawn to. Sure, we had seen promos for it since its debut in 2015, but the promise of The Office set in a big-box store just didn’t do much for us.

That, of course, was our error. 

Fortunately, the algorithms in place at Hulu forced us to confront this mistake head-on, and the result was gifting us a show that is beloved in our home now. More than that, it’s something that gives us comfort, bringing a loveable, relatable cast of characters to our screens whenever we need something familiar.

And familiar has been something we’ve all needed this past year. The concept of “comfort shows” has exploded during the past few months, with popular programs finding their way into people’s everyday rotation. Less and less are we being drawn to something “new” once we find something that brings us joy.

Obviously, the stresses and anxieties of the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated this need for something we all know, appreciate and value. More than any other show, that’s been true for us and Superstore.

Now, the show was “new” to us at the beginning of 2020. Before the pandemic began, my wife and I finally relented to that nagging suggested viewing list that kept pushing Superstore on us, and I’m glad we did. We began our binge-watch of it sometime in either January or February of 2020, and we were hooked immediately.

We worked through a few seasons, pulled into fits of laughter and tears, joy and sadness through some of the freshest storytelling we had come across in years.  

Then something happened … the world fell apart. 

And that’s where the show really took hold for us, even though we quit watching it.

You have to remember in those early days of COVID-19, we were completely unsure of what would happen next. There were no treatments, no vaccines, no clarity. There only were reports of health systems being overwhelmed in Italy and New York with patients of this new, terrifying virus ravaging folks who were older, who had underlying health conditions, who were vulnerable.

Folks like my parents. 

Folks like me.

I’m not sure if I can clearly and neatly put into words what that level of terror was like.

It might feel silly to some to talk about it this way, but for me, rightly or wrongly, I was experiencing every nightmarish scenario the mind of my immune-compromised body had ever drawn up. In those early days where there was so much uncertainty before we had a better understanding of what to do and not do. 

And while we can have a thoughtful conversation of whether we as a society have properly done or not done those things, all I can tell you is that I remember breaking down in my kitchen at one point last March and telling my wife that I was scared of getting this new virus and scared of dying.

Y’all, that’s a humbling feeling right there.

There’s nothing more sobering than existential dread, and I suppose I began to use that to my advantage. My fear morphed into active worst-case scenario planning. While other folks were scrambling for toilet paper, we had a closet full of it. When there was a shortage of flour — bread baking, remember that? — I knew of restaurants sourcing bulk orders and then selling them to customers they were no longer allowed to serve.

Gradually, we settled into a routine. Our family of three would work some during the day, make dinner and then rotate between playing a board game or watching one of those “comfort shows” later in the evening. Despite the fear, uncertainty and, yes, tragedy unfolding everywhere, it was a weirdly wonderful time. Prior to the pandemic, we’d all go to different rooms to do different things, but here we were doing what families do … sticking together when times are scary.

At one point, having finished up another one of those series, we wondered what we should watch next. Oddly, I was hesitant to recommend Superstore. We hadn’t even gotten halfway through the show before everything happened, yet it’s connection to a time before the pandemic was unsettling to me. It felt like an interrupted memory that spanned the normality before and the tumultuous world we know lived in. Would starting it anew only trigger a sadness of what life was like before all of … this?

Eventually, my hesitation abated, and we convinced our 13-year-old daughter to give it a try. As with most 13-year-olds, she’s skeptical of not only anything new, but anything her parents suggest might be cool. After a few days — and assuring her she’d find it funny — she tried out the first episode.

By the time Bo proposed to Cheyanne at the end of the opening episode through a meandering, yet oddly endearing rap song, she was laughing hysterically. She’s now watched the full series, from beginning to end, twice.

Tonight, our family awaits the series finale, wondering how they’ll wrap everything up. What will happen with Dina and Garrett? What is Cheyenne’s future shaping up to be? Is Carol’s lawsuit against Cloud 9 still a thing? Does Glenn continue to run the store? And, Amy’s coming back! What does that mean for Jonah?

As these questions get answered — or maybe not — it will bring this six-year run to an end, wrapping up a show that looked like our country and, at times, acted like our country (I mean, the episode with the gun protest is just wonderful). It wasn’t a cookie-cutter sitcom. Things just didn’t work out sometimes because, you know, that happens.

But, that’s OK!

What Superstore did provide, for me at least, was a constant source of comfort and assurance.

Feeling anxious? Flip on a Superstore

Can’t sleep? Oh look, it’s the episode where Amy hosts the Golden Globes party.

I suppose now that the pandemic is slowly marching to some level of finality, succumbing to both our science and our stubbornness, it makes sense that the show that helped get me through it is ending too.

As of this morning, my wife and I are both fully vaccinated. My parents made it through their own bouts of COVID and are now awaiting their second doses. Last week, I was able to go see them and hug them — something I was unsure would ever happen again when it all started to break down.

We’re almost through this long, sad, painful experience in our lives, and though I know it sounds incredibly silly, I’m grateful to the cast and crew of Superstore for playing a small, but vitally important role in our journey.

Thanks y’all. It’s been a heavenly run.

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Johnathan McGinty has worked in sports journalism and sports public relations for the past 20 years. If there's an opportunity to put together an oral history on something, he'll find a way to do it.