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The Untold Truth Of Superstore

In late March 2021, NBC's endearing, sharply written, and unashamedly weird series Superstore came to a close after six seasons. Created by Justin Spitzer, who spent the first three seasons as showrunner, Superstore explores what it's like to work at a big-box store, from the experiences of the store managers to the floor supervisors to the lowest-level employees. Together, they keep Cloud 9 running.

With a talented cast led by America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Lauren Ash, Mark McKinney, Nichole Sakura, Nico Santos, Kaliko Kauahi, and Colton Dunn, Superstore carved out a unique and memorable place for itself on NBC's primetime lineup. It's a seriously goofy, yet deeply heartfelt series that manages to balance social commentary with some of the most offbeat jokes seen on primetime TV in recent memory. From the fictional lifespan of Cloud 9 stores to some of the series' funniest running gags, this is the untold truth of Superstore.

You can see Cloud 9 stores in other television shows

One figure looms especially large within the world of Superstore: The Cloud 9 store itself, set outside of St. Louis, Missouri, where everyone works. Cloud 9 likes to tell its employees and customers that it's a "heavenly" place to be, but the truth is that the corporate side of the operation treats its employees pretty poorly, and the job has the exact same pitfalls as any other retail job on the planet.

However, this set-up is clearly working: If you keep a close eye out, you can actually spot Cloud 9 stores popping up in other NBC properties. This happened twice in 2018. Early in the run of NBC's crime dramedy Good Girls, the main characters visit a Cloud 9 store, which both the official Good Girls and Superstore Twitter accounts cheekily confirmed. Meanwhile, in a 2018 episode of the short-lived comedy I Feel Bad, a Cloud 9 store can be spotted as well.

Superstore's pilot was filmed in a Kmart

Before Superstore ever got off the ground, the cast and crew needed a place to film the pilot ... and they ended up settling on a real store that also happened to still be in business.

According to a feature in Twice, before a soundstage was built for Superstore, the production used a real Kmart in Burbank, California to shoot the pilot. This presented some pretty unique and hilarious challenges. As the store's real manager at the time, Carrie Ricketts, told Twice, the store remained open during filming, with real employees and customers wandering around during the process. Despite Ricketts' efforts to change Kmart signage to Cloud 9 material, you can still spot some Kmart branding throughout the pilot. Moreover, the real customers really didn't understand what was going on.

"Besides being actors, the cast of Superstore almost became honorary Kmart associates after being asked a bunch of times where certain items in the store were located," Ricketts revealed. "They were good sports though, and always helped our members find something despite not working for Kmart." All in all, it sounds like a pretty weird experience, which fits Superstore's vibe perfectly.

Two Superstore cast members tried to work at a real big box store

Many actors try to tackle the jobs their characters work, in the interests of authenticity. However, when Nico Santos and Nichole Sakura, who play Mateo and Cheyenne, respectively, tried to get jobs at Target before starting Superstore, they ended up hitting an unexpected roadblock.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Santos revealed that when he and Sakura applied at Target, they didn't end up getting the job. "I have experience in retail, but it was high-end clothing boutiques," Santos said. "We had three months before we were going to start filming and Nichole [Sakura], who plays Cheyenne, had this idea of, 'Maybe I'll apply at Target.' And I was like, 'Oh my God, there's a Target right near me, I'm going to do the same thing.' So I sat down on the computer and I filled out the application for a good 45 minutes — and then I got an email two weeks later saying that they were not interested in hiring me. I guess I'm just not Target material." In the end, it didn't matter: Santos and Sakura were both Cloud 9 material.

Keep an eye on the name tags

Every Cloud 9 floor employee sports a crisp blue vest over their street clothes and a brightly colored name tag. Presumably, you would expect to see a character's real name represented on that tag. However, one character bucks this tradition over and over again, creating one of the show's funniest and subtlest running jokes.

Amy Sosa, played by America Ferrera, always tries to be as professional as possible while she's on the job ... except for one thing. She always has a different name tag on. Amy, a private person, never wants customers to address her by her real name, since they're complete strangers, and so, with the exception of a few episodes in season two, her name tag never says "Amy." While some of these names are pretty normal, like "Ramona," "Margaret," and "Christy," there are also some unique selections, including "Selena" (when she's dressed as the late pop star for Halloween), "Rowena," and, of course, "Poot." Next time you watch Superstore, definitely keep an eye on Amy's name tags.

Cloud 9 has a really macabre problem

During Superstore's third season, the crew at Cloud 9 makes a seriously horrifying discovery: A lone severed foot, which appears in the aftermath of a tornado that nearly destroys the store. Though everyone thinks it belongs to an employee believed to have died in the tornado, it doesn't. Moreover, throughout the series, employees mention that they keep finding severed feet on the store's shelves. Ultimately, in the series finale, they find an entire duffel bag of severed feet, bringing the issue to an upsetting head.

Thankfully, the mystery is solved. As it turns out, the largely silent Cloud 9 worker Elias (Danny Gura) is the source of the feet: He's seen quietly putting one on a shelf alongside merchandise. According to star Ben Feldman, the cast loved it. As he told TVLine, "It was a jump-up-and-clap moment for us. And we love Danny. It was such a perfect thing to see him replacing the foot on the shelf. That's incredible closure." Showrunner Jonathan Green also confirmed that Elias' fate is still unknown: "We don't know if he's [been arrested]. I like to think he's still out there!"

The interstitial cuts in Superstore are packed with crazy gags

Superstore might seem like a casual comedy – maybe even the sort of thing you put on in the background, while you do something else. But it's actually important to pay close attention to everything that happens on Superstore, especially the interstitial cuts between scenes.

What sort of jokes are hidden in these cuts? Here's a sampling: A bride-to-be making sure a dress doesn't clash with her court-mandated tracking anklet, a joke about absurdly long receipts for just one item, containers of Parmesan cheese and bleach that look way too similar, lost children (whose activities run the gamut from using a training toilet in the store to gorging on candy to struggling to free their head from a chair), a pair of mysterious twins who quickly vanish from view, and a customer taste-testing a candle. The interstitial gags in Superstore are nothing short of amazing. Ranging from utterly absurd to believably bad behavior, these in-between scenes are a work of art, and well worth keeping your eyes pinned to the screen to catch.

Superstore tackled the COVID-19 pandemic fearlessly

After the world essentially shut down thanks to the highly contagious and seriously dangerous COVID-19 pandemic, different television shows faced a unique challenge — besides figuring out how to safely continue working without endangering their casts and crew, that is. Should they address this unprecedented moment in history or not? Along with medical shows like Grey's Anatomy, Superstore fearlessly jumped into the COVID-19 fray, showing audiences just how tough it is for essential workers to handle this brand-new burden.

Ultimately, as the minds behind Superstore told Vulture, there was no hesitation when it came to tackling COVID-19 head-on. "This was a show where going escapist just didn't make sense," writer Owen Ellickson told the outlet. "Our characters would be people in a very interesting, tough spot." Throughout the sixth and final season, everyone's favorite characters from Cloud 9 deal with the same struggles the whole world was grappling with in real time, including social distancing, masks, hand sanitizer, and more. Thus, Superstore gives audiences a glimpse into the life of a big-box store worker suddenly thrust onto the front lines of a global pandemic.

Critics hailed Superstore for tackling very real social issues

Sometimes, when a network comedy tries to tackle a real societal issue, the entire endeavor can feel like a "very special episode" — cheesy, forced, and awkward. However, Superstore excels at bringing real problems into its narrative, whether it's discussing the difficulties of being a working mother (as when Amy and Cheyenne are denied paid maternity leave), the issue of unions within a huge corporation, or, most memorably, immigration. Viewers were shocked during the fourth season finale when Mateo, an undocumented immigrant, is deported.

In the aftermath of the finale, Vox critic Emily VanDerWerff addressed the show's skill at handling sensitive topics with style, humor, and sensitivity, calling the entire series "a wildly funny and poignant capitalist tragedy." Not only does the show handle social issues well, VanDerWerff noted, but it also has a lot to say about the corporate world of retail as a whole. "It doesn't matter how much the store's workers like or support each other if the company that issues their paychecks fundamentally doesn't care," VanDerWerff wrote. "That balance between interpersonal affection and corporate indifference underscored Superstore's entire ethos and its best storylines." Superstore walks a tightrope of tone right from the beginning, and according to esteemed critics like VanDerWerff, it pulls that balancing act off.

One of Superstore's actors has a very famous brother

Cloud 9 warehouse worker Marcus (Jon Barinholtz) is a particularly erratic employee, who shares disturbing details about his bathroom habits and is constantly trying to start group chants that never take off. If he looks really familiar, it's not because the actor who plays him has been in a ton of movies and television — it's likely because his brother, Ike Barinholtz, has.

Jon Barinholtz is perfectly cast as Marcus and steals almost every scene he's in. He definitely shares his comedic chops and perfect timing with his brother. You've certainly seen Ike on both the big and small screen, whether you're a fan of his work in huge comedies like Blockers and Neighbors or his unforgettable TV turns on shows like Eastbound & Down and The Mindy Project. Jon Barinholtz has very similar mannerisms to his brother (and even looks like him), but he still isn't overshadowed. His work on Superstore proves that the entire Barinholtz family is seriously funny and truly talented.

Superstore could have continued for years to come

Superstore ended with an abbreviated sixth season in 2021. But the cast and crew didn't initially know the show would end this quickly, according to a feature in Entertainment Weekly. Showrunners Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller even had a seventh season planned. Ultimately, they decided to close out the sixth and final season with the closure of the Cloud 9 store. But their initial plans for the show's future remained in their heads — and ultimately, in fans' heads as well, after they detailed them to EW.

Beyond bringing America Ferrera back, whose departure was announced at the end of season five, Green and Miller also reworked their plans for the store's evolution into the finale. "When we thought it was just going to be a season finale, we had already been leading to the store becoming like a hybrid fulfillment center and in-person store," Miller said. "The final shot of the season would've been a wall going up and dividing the store, and we were leading toward taking our co-managers and having [Dina] in charge of the fulfillment center part of the store and Glenn in charge of the in-person part of the store, and dividing some of our employees and seeing what that's like in season seven. That was already part of our plan, but we just adapted that for the series finale." Sadly, Superstore didn't continue, but Miller and Green concluded the story perfectly.

A running joke about raccoons echoed real life

Throughout Superstore, the employees constantly reference and joke about the fact that the store is absolutely overrun with raccoons. This results in some truly delightful sight gags, when actual raccoons pop up, freezing on their hind legs to either terrorize employees or blend in during daylight hours. Though this might seem like a sly reference to Parks and Recreation, another smart, popular, racoon-plagued NBC workplace comedy, it turns out that Superstore's raccoon gag came from a real-life problem.

Apparently, the soundstage on which Superstore shot had a raccoon infestation, which showrunner Gabe Miller revealed during 2020's virtual San Diego Comic-Con. As Miller put it, sometimes a raccoon would just be slightly off to the side, watching a scene play out — and fans who visited the set backed up Miller's claim. When a fan, Twitter user @bioreconstruct, visited Universal Studios Hollywood in May 2019, they revealed, "VIP tour also stopped at Superstore soundstage. Like being in any store, but wider aisles. Guide explained why we saw some items on floor. Raccoons have taken residency during the production hiatus. As if on cue, a raccoon scrambled across the aisle."

The cast of Superstore is friendly in real life

Some of the very best things about Superstore are, undoubtedly, the relationships between characters, which blossom throughout the series. They all receive closure in the series finale: In a flash-forward narrated by Garrett, Jonah and Amy finally start their life together, Glenn starts his own business (and hires Mateo and Cheyenne), and eventually, the entire gang gets back together for a sweet backyard barbeque.

As it turns out, that get-together happened in real life, with COVID-19 precautions in place. According to Variety, the cast had a socially distanced wrap and watch party in Ferrera's backyard after filming concluded. As Ferrera sweetly put it, "It was such a joyful, awesome group of people that no one ever wanted to leave."

Feldman, her eventual on-screen husband, agreed: "I think this show was about the family that you are sort of forced into, or the family that you kind of fell into and chose to stay ... And that's definitely what Superstore was, and that's what this cast is to me. We're all extremely close." Knowing that the relationships on Superstore transcended the on-screen story is pretty special. Hopefully, this bond will lead to many reunions throughout the years to come.