While other TV shows brushed the pandemic away, Superstore tackled it head-on for relatable comedy and an important message.
The COVID pandemic has been one of the wildest things to ever happen... since 1918. The whole world is trying to figure out how to work together and overcome this with vaccines and money and cooperation. It's kind of overwhelming. While Hollywood has been trying to get back to work, many shows and movies have purposefully dodged the issue and pretended like things are normal.
While it makes sense to give people an escape, when you have the most powerful empathy machine on your side, it would be foolish not to act. And it's actually one of the funniest shows that's not shying away from the story.
Superstore has leaned into the pandemic storyline. They're centering shows around being essential workers, interacting with customers, masks, and the ongoing struggle of what it's like to be alive during this time.
“This was a show where going escapist just didn’t make sense,” Superstore writer Owen Ellickson told Vulture. “Our characters would be people in a very interesting, tough spot.”
He went on to say, "We definitely wanted to have an episode where we saw [the pandemic] start. We ultimately decided we shouldn’t spend too long on the beginning of the pandemic because the whole thing about the pandemic is its constant presence, it being this shadow in people’s lives."
One of the things I appreciated about the risk they took is that it allowed me to laugh a little about the situation, but also hear stories of the people we usually ignore. I think it gave me a different experience than one I was accustomed to and still delivered the humor within the situations we had taken so seriously during this time.
But the decision to cover COVID, while dealing with actual COVID protocol on set was not easy. They were writing the sendoff for America Fererra's character and had to tweak the story to limit the number of people on set and cut out the extras. They also were testing cast members and preparing for what was a much longer quarantine than anyone expected.
Everything was changing.
Actors had to be in masks, so then characters had to be in masks. They changed the way they recorded sound and ADR. They tried face shields, but they reflected all the lights and you could see the crew and cameras in other reflections as well. To make things easier, they leaned into other masks, incorporating them into the story and also planning which actors would wear them when. They came up with a few defining qualities: employees take their masks off in the outdoor warehouse where they now have staff meetings, but in the indoor retail spaces, their masks stay on.
Superstore has never been afraid of tackling issues, from gay rights to immigration to healthcare and capitalism. COVID has been no different. It's been interesting to see how brave they have been just talking honestly about mask use and the importance of public health. Especially with masks being such a political and cultural hot-button issue, which is crazy, because wearing a mask keeps you and everyone around you much safer, but I digress...
I've enjoyed Superstore this season. They've really rolled with the punches and still somehow figured out to be both poignant and funny. While their original plans were not able to be achieved, I liked seeing how they pivoted. It felt relatable to what the audience was going through. And the humor added some levity to situations that have felt burdensome.
Are you a fan of the show?
Have you enjoyed how they have dealt with COVID?
Let us know in the comments.
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