Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, right? Right?
I mean, how can it not be with all the lights and the merriment and the joy and “winter barn displays” (aka nativity scenes) and such?
And yet in “Christmas Eve”, the season 3 episode of Superstore which goes deep diving into just how wonderful Christmas is, or perhaps isn’t, we discover, with touching comedic effect, just how all that deck the hall-ing and joy to the world-ing actually affects some people.
In typical trademark style, Superstore, which is a far more clever sitcom that many people give it credit for, full of incisive social commentary and the kind of emotional resonance some dramas fail to generate, hides some serious observations inside a bunch of off-the-wall hilarity and comes out somehow feeling festive but all too aware that that festivity might be fleeting.
One person who finds it hard to accept that Christmas can’t be endless tinsel-draped wonder for everyone is highly-religious, goofy store manager Glenn (Mark McKinney) who takes it upon himself to convince benign humbug Mateo (Nico Santos), who doesn’t hate Christmas, he just doesn’t love it you know, that it’s a fabulous time of year.
This being a slapstick-heavy, oneliner-rich sitcom, his attempt to convert Mateo wholeheartedly to the Christmas cause doesn’t quite go as planned, until the ending of the episode which restores quite a bit of ooh-aah wonder to Mateo’s jaded perspective. (It’s best to leave the ending unspoiled because it manages to be both Christmas cheesy and moving all at once, a tribute to the skill of the show’s writers.
While Glenn is on his holly-jolly crusade, everyone else is just trying to survive Christmas eve.
Amy (America Ferrera) is desperately trying to convince everyone that she’s actually “Cramy” or Crazy Amy, a bad girl masquerading as a dogooder.
Facing the fallout of her split from her partner, Adam (Ryan Gaul), which is affecting her most acutely at Christmas, she hopes that telling tales of her reckless youth will generate the kind of connection she craves with her co-workers.
Everyone is sceptical, of course, and not even some illicit alcohol-scoffing in-store does the trick until she adds something extra to the Christmas hot chocolate and everyone proceeds to get very merry on the company’s time.
It’s her storyline that is perhaps the most affecting because amidst all the drinking and boasting and shopping carts taken offsite – in their drunkenness, Amy, Dina (Lauren Ash) and Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom) decide to “drive” to Adam’s possible new girlfriend’s house and confront him which goes about as well as you’d expect – Amy is genuinely thrown by the fact that her ex’s life is moving on while hers seems stuck in neutral.
For all her tough talk, and tales of rebellion past, Amy is struggling with where she is in life, and wishing, deep down, that she was someone old or someone new or someone not-her-right-now.
The scenes in which she’s exploring how painful Christmas eve is making her feel are Superstore-silly to the core, but there’s a beating heart beneath all the awkwardness and drunken misjudgement and it cuts right through, giving the audience laughs and empathy in one perfectly brilliant comedic dose.
Many of the other stories are a lot of fleeting fun to watch, with a Salvation Army reindeer accidentally ending up with the run of the store, Garrett (Colton Dunn) and Jonah (Ben Feldman) sorting out their long-simmering housemate issues while dressed as Santa and an elf (cue one traumatised kid) and Jonah and Kelly (Kelly Stables) heading off for some bar-hopping, and maybe more (another blow to Amy who, you know, secretly likes Jonah though it’s early days for them at this point).
But what really gives an already emotionally resonant episode even more presence and impact is when Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi) who gets some wonderful news right at the end which only she can share in because everyone else is too drunk to do much about it.
So, takes a leaf from Amy, Dina and Cheyenne, she jumps on a battery-powered shopping cart and sets off across a snow-covered carpark to the sound of “Joy to the World”, as perfect a festive ending as you could hope for in a Superstore story that deftly combines hilarity and humanity to brilliantly funny but moving effect, stamping “Christmas Eve” as a classic of the genre and a worthy addition to your yearly Christmas viewing rituals.