10 Items or Less
by Jef Burnham
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The grocery store sitcom 10 Items or Less can be seen on TBS at 11 p.m. on Tuesdays. The question is, would you want to watch it? As someone who has worked in three grocery stores, I can tell you that the writers of this show seem to have missed all the genuinely funny things that go on in the retail world. The problem is, these things are funny because of their juxtaposition to the mundane and monotonous experiences of such a job, which would mean that an effective grocery store sitcom would require most of the screen time to feature the cashiers doodling on the sales ad for fifteen minutes in wait for another customer, or the stock clerks mopping up pickle juice for a half hour.
Primarily, television is used as a method of escapism for the mindless masses, who stroll in from work and plop down on the sofa for an evening with William Petersen. So I find the recent trend of retail-based comedy, such as 10 Items or Less or NBC’s Chuck, which is otherwise a great show, a bit disturbing. Have we become so resolved to work dead-end jobs that we feel the need to glorify the positions by making sitcoms out of them? As such, television ceases to be both an art form and a means of escapism, becoming nothing more than a means of justification for those who gave up their dreams to work in a grocery store, because, let’s face it, not many people dream of working in a grocery store unless it’s a family business.
10 Items or Less really finds no creative ways by which to present the show’s humor and so attempts to utilize the sort of awkward comedy of shows like Reno 911, but ultimately fails. If I were to recommend a sitcom about a grocery store, it would be Blame Society Films’ online sitcom, Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager, which follows the exploits of Darth Vader’s unimpressive brother, Chad, as he loses and attempts to regain his position as Day Shift Manager of a grocery store.
However, if you are at home on a Tuesday night and don’t have the ambition or time to put in a DVD, 10 Items or Less is definitely worth a chuckle or two, which is still more than you can say for most current sitcoms. If you are a fan of the show, the Season 2 premiere, “Dollar Day Afternoon,” is a must-see, if for no other reason than the allure of the heist genre. Season 2 premieres Tuesday, January 15 at 11 p.m. (ET/PT) on TBS.
Jef Burnham is a film critic and freelance writer living in Chicago.
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