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With “Cloud 9.0,” Superstore Cements Its Place As One of the Decade’s Great Comedies

With a wildly entertaining season premiere, Superstore enters the pantheon of the era’s great comedies.

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Superstore Cloud 9.0

Over the course of its fourth season, Superstore transformed itself into something special; what was once a pleasant, mostly unassuming ensemble comedy shifted its tone into something rather radical for the network comedy space. Like Mom on CBS, or The Carmichael Show a few years back, Superstore used its comedy to explore fundamental conflicts of modern society; specifically, the rights of workers in an increasingly corporate, automated world.

[“Cloud 9” is] a true moment of distinction in Superstore‘s growing legacy, another reminder of just how goddamn bold, fearless, and downright effective the comedy is.

This led to a number of meaningfully radical arcs through the season: paternity leave, fair wages, corporate nepotism, and the desperate marketing tactics of big-box stores in the Age of Amazon were all major focal points of Superstore‘s fourth. And it concluded with its biggest creative (and sociopolitical) swing yet; following an extended arc where Cloud 9 workers considered forming a union, “Employee Appreciation Day,” the season finale, saw beloved sass-master Mateo arrested during a union-busting ICE raid at the store, ending with the entire staff watching poor, frightened Mateo driven away in the backseat of an ICE vehicle.

Superstore - Season 5

It was a heartbreaking moment, striking display of levity by a comedy already putting its neck on the line by being a network comedy with an actual point of view. The weight of Mateo’s imprisonment is undeniable; it looms large over the fifth season premiere, “Cloud 9.0,” which picks up a mere three hours after his arrest, with the workers of Cloud 9 reeling from the dramatic events of the day at a candlelight vigil for their co-worker. After a rousing rendition of the Pizza Rolls theme song (“pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening…” 90’s kids get it), “Cloud 9.0” observes the ripple effect of the season finale as it reverberates through the store – and in the process, firmly establishes itself as the greatest network comedy airing in 2019.

In a genius move, “Cloud 9.0” accomplishes this through two of its most outlandish characters; Dina and Cheyenne both go through painful stages of denial throughout the season premiere, which help ground the ripped-from-the-headlines nature of Mateo’s experience as an undocumented immigrant caught in the horrific nightmare of detainment. Dina and Cheyenne are both characters that have enjoyed emotional arcs through the series, but their presences are often comedic by definition: Cheyenne fills the space between scenes with hilariously mindless asides, and Dina fantastically fills the role of quasi-antagonist for everyone, the Dwight Schrute that you actually have to take seriously (because Dina don’t give a fuck).

Watching Dina scold herself for not being able to guide Mateo away from ICE is quietly strong; though she’s in the right to continue being angry at Garrett (for letting her birds die and lying about it), seeing her project her disappointment in herself onto him is not something “Cloud 9.0” takes lightly, even though she never fully lets her tough facade fall away. Just seeing cracks in the foundation are enough; it is a testament to Jackie Clarke’s script (she also directed the season premiere) and Lauren Ash’s performance alike that it all just works, and Dina’s acerbic ways can give voice to the pain she’s feeling over letting a friend down.

Superstore - Season 5

Cheyenne’s arc through “Cloud 9.0” is the obvious highlight; while Glenn is off being tortured by a robot Glen (another wonderful commentary on the increased automation of retail work), Amy is trying to help Cheyenne come to terms with the loss of her best friend. Amy and Cheyenne, after all, were the only people with Mateo the moment he got arrested; and given that Amy’s always taken a big sister-like role with the eternally clueless Cheyenne, it’s only natural to see Amy try to coax Cheyenne into visiting Mateo at the facility where he’s being held.

Nichole Bloom, whose always done fantastic work as Cheyenne (even when the role thins out a bit for comedic purposes), is absolutely stunning in the second half of “Cloud 9.0”; after flipping out on a customer for taking a product off the last display Mateo set up at the store, Amy tries to convince Cheyenne to finally go visit her gossip buddy. Her hesitance and fear speak volumes; both at the intimidation of visiting a loved one in such a depressing situation, and at how responsible the horrific actions of government officials can affect people on a fundamental level. Cheyenne feels, on some level, that she’s failed her closest friend: she couldn’t get him out, and now, is afraid to even go visit him (at one point, she tells Amy about how sad she was visiting her mother in prison, and how she would blame Cheyenne for making the visits depressing affairs).

Watching Cheyenne struggle with the loss of Mateo – and once she eventually sees him, forcing herself to try and attempt some sense of normalcy in a very fucked up situation – is deeply moving, a potent scene full of cogent observations and some powerful, quiet moments as Amy watches Mateo and Cheyenne try to make jokes through a thick plane of glass. It’s fucking depressing, but an important scene, a true moment of distinction for Superstore‘s growing legacy, another reminder of just how goddamn bold and fearless the comedy is.

Superstore - Season 5

It’s important to note that through all this, “Cloud 9.0” doesn’t forget to be a comedy; Sandra can’t find anyone who’ll listen to her engagement story, and the utterly ridiculous existence of Marcus continues, as he tries to plan a break-in of the ICE facility (“we’re going to go in at night, when everyone is going to be asleep!”). That balance is important; it keeps Superstore‘s balance in check, giving room for sociopolitical reflection, without feeling self-indulgent or preachy in the process.

Even through its heaviest moments, Superstore never forgets it is a sitcom; it seems like a simple thing, but cannot be understated in how integral it is (I mean, did you see the first few episodes of the Will & Grace reboot?). But this balance allows Superstore to take a story like Amy becoming store manager, and utilize as both an avenue for comedy, and for the increasing chasm it forms between her and her colleagues, once she’s their superior and begins enjoying the (much larger) paycheck. Superstore finds the humor in her attempts to establish her authority, and finally attaining some semblance of financial security in her life – and also observes her slide towards defending Cloud 9’s executives against Jonah’s push towards unionization (a movement that begins when Cloud 9 begins cutting hours in attempts to save costs, and reduce the benefits they provide to their minimum-wage employees).

It also avoids the “both-sides”-ism many moderate comedies try to seek when superficially criticizing aspects of the world; Superstore makes no qualms about condemning the corporate approach, and the inhumanity forced upon the most marginalized communities of America by their endless greed. It’s a tightrope act to walk, but Superstore manages it quite simply; it’s just honest about the dichotomy between trying to maintain some sense of morality and community, and trying to survive in a divisive world under the boot of the 1%. Amy should’ve taken the job to become manager; but the effects of that decision are unavoidable, intriguing debates Superstore never shies away from, even when expressing its most integral philosophies about humanity and capitalism.

There’s really no telling where it goes from here; you could tell me season six (please let this show run for a long time, NBC) takes place with everyone working in a warehouse for internet orders, and I’d completely believe it – it could also end with Cloud 9 getting bought out, and the Superstore employees left jobless in an economy that demands college degrees and 5+ years of specialized experience for nearly any position. I’d still watch it either way; Superstore‘s only gotten better through its 78-episode run, and it doesn’t appear to be peaking anytime soon (plus, now it has a cranky, possibly semi-sentient cleaning robot running around – who wouldn’t want to watch that?). One thing is for certain; Superstore is the great pro-union comedy of this era, a remarkable accomplishment of comedy, character, and satire unlike anything else on TV.

Other thoughts/observations:

I’m sad this piece is publishing alongside the news of Linda Porter’s passing. Superstore will miss her Myrtle greatly – she was as foundational a piece to the show’s thoughts on worker’s rights as anyone.

Glen Robot stands to fill the Mail Robot-sized hole in my heart (there’s even a reference to The Americans right after the robot first appears, a sign this show hits way too many of my personal buttons).

I love how season four pitted Amy and Jonah against each other, as Jonah tried to form a union at the store – but their relationship remained intact and healthy the whole time. Now that they’re working on the same “fuck corporate” team, I can’t wait to see the conflicts bound to brew in their relationship.

Best “new” tagline from Cloud 9: “Bot It At Cloud 9”

Glenn, referring to Glen: “Get him, Cheyenne, he’s after my wife!”

Admittedly, the four scenarios in the 4 Mateos plan were thoughtfully ranked.

The best Marcus line in this episode is either “it’s cool… you know, like Tosh.0” or “it’s chunkier than I thought”… your choice.

A TV critic since the pre-Peak TV days of 2011, Randy is a critic and editor formerly of Sound on Sight, Processed Media, TVOvermind, Pop Optiq, and many, many others.

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The Boys Season 2 Episode 3 Review: “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men”

The Boys’ marks an improvement and pays big dividends in an explosive, violently revealing hour.

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The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

Half bottle episode and half coming out party, “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” is a sneaky little showcase for The Boys, and just how big its world’s suddenly gotten in season two. Though ostensibly an episode designed around two events – the boys getting stuck on the boat, and Stormfront revealing her inner racist sociopath – “Over the Hill” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion. With a nimble script and a game group of performers, The Boys‘ second season is turning out to be a distinct pleasure – albeit one heading down a gruesome, dark path I sure hope it’s capable of navigating.

“Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion.

It does take a little while for “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” to get going; beginning three miles offshore with The Boys and the reunited super-siblings, the first quarter feels like it’s simply restating the stakes. It’s a nimble trick, though; led by Kimiko and Kenji, The Boys begins to feel like it is approaching a true moral quandary for the group. Which door descending into hell will they choose?

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

While The Boys often likes to posture its presenting characters with complex dilemmas, the show’s unnerving nihilism often upends any sort of nuance it looks for in its debates around “necessary” violence. Here, Kimiko’s presence throws a fascinating wrench into the proceedings; with most of the group’s members clinging to whatever mirage of family they have left (save for Hughie, who has… forgotten his dad exists?), even Butcher can’t deny having conflicting feelings about what to do with Kenji, and the deal that’s been offered to him if he turns him in.

Elsewhere, “Over the Hill” throws the brazen personalities of The Seven into their own little blenders, as Stormfront begins to sow discord through Vought, and abuse her powers to casually murder a lot of people – nearly all of them minorities, in a way that feels like an explosion of character, rather than an unpeeling of some complicated identity. Stormfront simply doesn’t give a fuck; and with her supernatural ability to manipulate feminist views (her speech to the reporters is magnificent, both in how it develops Stormfront’s character and nods to the simplistic ways in which the evilest people in society disguise themselves among the “good”).

While she’s kicking up tornadoes and electrocuting everyone that gets in her way, characters like The Deep and Homelander continue to benefit from the much-improved writing of season two. The show is still struggling to make Becca something more than the Ultimate Mother Protector trope, but Homelander’s warped sense of responsibility to his son is interesting, surely a bad sign for the upbringing of this world’s Superboy (will he also don a cool leather jacket and weird cyberpunk sunglasses? Who knows!). It’s clearly not going well; even he seems to recognize the danger in bringing his son’s powers to the surface, as its the first time in his life he’s facing a challenge as the world’s strongest hero (that is, until Stormfront doubles that total later in the episode, further frustrating Homelander’s attempts to hold domain over everything in his grasp).

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

It’s not going well for The Deep, either, as his slow descent into cult life is bringing his desperation for acceptance further to the surface. Like with Homelander’s stories, I wish The Deep’s story was a little tighter and more thoughtful (some of the body image stuff seems to be treated trivially, in a way that borders on insensitive and uninformed for the sake of easy jokes), but there’s no denying his character is infinitely more interesting this season, a test case for what a superhero trying to learn their own limits would struggle with. The Deep works best as a pathetic character, but not when it’s a pathetic character The Boys just kick around with bad punchlines; when he’s treated as a byproduct of a deeply flawed human being trying to find a path to good intentions, his fumbles and weak-minded rhetoric is much more amusing – and at times, the tiniest bit empathic (his sadness over Billy’s, well, butchering of his whale buddy was such an earnest, raw and twistedly funny moment).

The Boys has needed to accelerate its internal stakes for a while; the introduction of “super terrorists” to the world by Homelander, and Compound V’s reveal to the public might make the show’s world feel a bit smaller than intended – I think a lot about the “big” fight scenes at the end of Arrow‘s third season, where the ‘entire city’ is fighting, but there’s never more than six people around – The Boys does that on a narrative level sometimes. But as the stories of the show dig a little deeper into its characters – Maeve’s disillusionment, Homelander’s failure to emulate paternal behavior, A-Train’s desperation, it’s beginning to feel like the writers have a deeper understanding of its characters and world, and how to wield its inherent sadistic cynicism to more interesting ends. “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” benefits massively from that, setting up a number of intriguing dominoes for the back half of season two to knock over (in bloody fashion).

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Look, I’m bummed how the Kenji character played out; he was such an interesting character, an examination of everything horrible about what power and war can do to a human being. It’s sad to see The Boys dispose of such an intriguing presence, especially as its a death of a minority character in service of mostly white-related stories – however, with such a hateful, nasty character like Stormfront waiting in the wings, it is easy to see how the writers found their way down that path. (like, she could’ve killed Black Noir and this show would’ve literally lost nothing… just sayin’).
  • Can A-Train just collapse or whatever, so we can get this storyline moving? We’ve been doing this since the second episode!
  • Why haven’t we seen any reaction to Becca seeing Butcher in person at the end of season one? She hasn’t mentioned it or even had a longing look off-screen to violin music.
  • Man, I’m so glad they cast Aya Cash as Stormfront.
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The Best Golden Girl is Sophia Petrillo

Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won.

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Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

A seemingly harmless little old lady with curly white hair, oversized glasses, and an innate ability to tell a great story shows up on her daughter’s doorstep when the retirement home she was put in by said daughter burns down. With a simple, “Hi there,” the world meets Sophia Petrillo. For seven years on NBC’s The Golden Girlsa show about the senior set—Sophia lived with her intelligent and extremely sarcastic divorced daughter Dorothy Zbornak and her two roommates, sexy, eternally horny southern belle Blanche Devereaux and sweet but dim-witted Minnesotan Rose Nylund. Each is memorable in their own way, but it’s Sophia, “feisty, zesty, and full of old-world charm,” that stands out the most.

When TV was full of generic, sweet grandma types, Sophia was anything but. Sure, she looked the part with her bifocals, pearls, and now iconic straw and bamboo-beaded handbag, but Sophia was always trying to make a quick buck. She conned Rose into going into a sandwich-making business that pit them against the mob, faked being paralyzed to try and collect insurance, and constantly “borrowed” money from Dorothy’s purse. Instead of helping Dorothy, Blanche and Rose get out of jail when they are mistaken for hookers (don’t ask, just Youtube it). She stole their tickets to go to a party and meet Burt Reynolds. She also stole Rose’s car, worked at a fast-food restaurant, and won a marathon. Not bad for a woman in her eighties. Sophia had a sharp wit and an acerbic tongue, blaming her stroke for leaving her without the ability to self-censor. She was always ready with a zinger or a comeback, some of which she saved for her very own daughter.

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

Sophia Petrillo is the Secret Star of The Golden Girls

That’s not to say she’s all schemes and insults. Beneath her tough exterior is a kind woman with a big heart who loves her family and friends. Viewers don’t often get to see her softer side, which makes the moments they do seem that much more special. One of the best Sophia episodes showed her reaction to the death of her son, Phil. She put up a wall of anger which Rose was finally able to break down in the final moments of the episode, revealing Sophia’s true feelings of guilt over Phil’s cross-dressing as she bursts into tears. Another favourite was when Dorothy expressed concern about her mother not doing enough with her days. We then get to see exactly what she gets up to sticking up for her friend and causing a scene at the grocery store while claiming to represent a fictional senior citizens union, volunteering at a sick kids hospital and later, conducting a senior citizens jazz band. Meanwhile, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche do next to nothing except sit around and eat. When she’s asked what she did all day upon her return, she simply says she bought a nectarine, and Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche are none the wiser.

But if Sophia has one claim to fame, it is her colorful old-world tales about Sicily, which often as not, contain a pearl of wisdom or embellishment of some kind. We would have loved to have known her during her “picatta period (a wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything),” when she was the most beautiful girl at a resort and all the men fought over her (so beautiful, in fact, that she had “a butt you could bounce a quarter off of”). She was also once painted by Picasso and was best friends with Mama Celeste. But I digress. Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won. Her hunches were never wrong, and rarely, if ever did she meet her match. Sophia was, in short, a one-woman show. And thanks to re-runs and fan appreciation, that show will never be gone.

  • Dasilva

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
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