The Push For A Superstore Musical Started With The Pilot

NBC's "Superstore," the working class masterpiece sitcom following a lovable oddball staff of a big-box store, left us with a tornado-blown-through-a-warehouse-size hole in our hearts when it ended in 2021. As an immunocompromised person who has isolated pretty much the entirety of the pandemic, my own 2020 binge of the show offered practical, wholesome nostalgia for The Before Times, in the context of seeing activities like work friends hanging out with each other face to face and people safely shopping at retail establishments, before the series introduced COVID-19 into important plotlines encompassing challenges across class, race, and gender.

This was a show that tackled the evils of capitalism via union busting, unfair labor practices, and ICE raids, and it was also a show whose best characters were obsessed with hobbies like hoarding birds as pets and riding the bus while a potential serial killer occasionally left human feet in the store. It makes total sense, then, that one might consider a musical episode for this delightfully bonkers series, because, well, why the heck not?

'We have begged for this!'

Musical episodes are hardly a new sitcom conceit, and as evidenced by enchanting entries over the years from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" ("Once More with Feeling"), Scrubs ("My Musical"), "Daria" ("Daria!"), to name just a few, they can add a campy quality and vibrant energy to the Big Emotions characters are carrying so intensely that they just have to burst into song.

Diegetic music did play a supporting but somewhat significant role in "Superstore," with the show's transitions in between scenes often showing glimpses into some of the shoppers' worst quirks of human behavior in a big-box store — a man abandoning a container of ice cream in a very unrefrigerated tech department, a fleet of folks on scooters storming the aisles, babies left in various displays, the list goes on — set to pop hits of decades present and past to low-key but gleefully nihilistic effect.

But as discussed at a 2019 panel at San Diego's Comic-Con (via Tell-Tale TV), at least a few of the sitcom's stars pulled for a musical episode, among them Lauren Ash (who played the no-nonsense Dina) and Nico Santos (who played the fabulous Type A Mateo). "We have asked for this!" said Ash. "We have begged for this!" continued Santos.

The show must go on

"Superstore" series creator Justin Spitzer admitted he'd heard the pro-musical clamor from the cast since the beginning and even agreed to it — under somewhat misleading pretense. He told the cast onstage at Comic-Con: "Since the pilot, you've asked, and I believe I said 'season 4' not believing that we'd ever actually get there."

High concepts like this are also high risks, and any kind of musical background or composing experience might be useful for creating a full-blown half-hour TV musical episode. Spitzer noted his lack of expertise in either. Still, Lauren Ash continued: "We sing so much between takes that it feels like it would be a disservice not to share it with people."

Now that the series has concluded without such an episode, the lack of its presence is a travesty when imagining the paths it could have taken. Stephen Sondheim-esque patter between an exasperated Amy (America Ferrera) and overexplaining Jonah (Ben Feldman)? An "I want" number featuring Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom) and Mateo planning their imaginary business Chateo? Carol (Irene White) and Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi) escalating their unhinged rivalry over the heart of sweet himbo Jerry (Chris Grace) into a song-and-dance-off? Dina singing an ode to (or lamentation of) her beloved feathered friends (with the birds singing back?)? I could go on for days.

But not all is lost — Nico Santos offered an alternative to the series' not ultimately pursuing its own stand-alone musical episode. "They can just piece together all the blooper reels of a scene between takes," he told the Comic-Con crowd. This idea seems cheaper than a reunion episode and just the right amount of wackiness with heart that the sitcom pulled off so well.

For now, though, we'll have to get by with "Superstore" currently streaming on Hulu and Peacock.