Mid-week mini-reviews: South of Hell (US: WE tv) and Superstore (US: NBC)

What’s this? ‘Mid-week mini-reviews’? Is this something new? Could this be Rob, having a new idea, some genuine innovation for a change?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA. 

HA.

Not really. It’s basically a couple of short reviews of programmes I watched this week that normally I’d save to Friday, because they’re not worth full reviews, but decided not to this week. 

South of Hell (US: WE tv)
Benjitek did herald this as being “about as bad as TV can get” and he wasn’t wrong. Mena Suvari (American Beauty, American Pie) plays an exorcist-for-hire who wanders round the US South expelling demons. The trouble is that a demon lives inside her, feeding on the evil Suvari exorcises from others and threatening to take her over.

Now I’m not a big fan of Eli Roth (Cabin FeverHostel). In fact, I’m not a fan of Eli Roth at all, but he has something of a rep in the horror genre and was given the honour of exec-producing Netflix’s second original TV series, Hemlock Grove, as a result. Clearly, he knows a thing or two about horror.

Which almost makes me think that maybe South of Hell is some cunning piece of satire that eluded me, because it’s astonishingly bad and ineptly made, with no hint that Roth was doing anything but reading a magazine while sitting 1,000 miles away behind some drone controls, directing on auto-pilot. In fact, it’s so laughable – I was literally laughing in places – with kids with badly glowing eyes to indicate possession, there were times I thought the show had to be deliberately bad and almost comic in the vein of Supernatural.

Except it’s clearly not. It’s just bad, virtually unwatchable, with no redeeming features. Cliched plot, abyssmal acting, cheap effects. Pity the poor, wretched souls forced to work on it.

Superstore

Superstore (US: NBC)
So on the one hand, well done to NBC not only for continuing to try to be diverse in its casting and plotting, but also for harking back to the days of Roseanne by giving us a blue-collar comedy with touches of workplace classics such as Parks and Recreation and The Office (US). On the other hand, it would help with a situation comedy if the comedy actually came from the situation or indeed the writers really ever indicated they’d worked in a supermarket before. The Office (US)? Think Outsourced instead. Just less racist. 

The basic set-up is that America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) is a supervisor in a hypermarket and Ben Feldman (A to Z) is the new employee with airs and graces who finds her attractive but makes an immediate bad impression on her, which leaves her with little patience for him. The result is that he keeps making costly mistakes, such as marking everything as costing $0.25 rather than 25% less, resulting in Black Friday levels of customer in-fighting. An obvious training issue that needs to be addressed? Something that needs HR’s involvement? A simple tannoy announcement that legally, the store doesn’t have to sell anything at the marked price if it doesn’t want to, so stop clubbing each other with the electrical goods or you’ll have to pay full price?

Nope. Just hilarious consequences.

The show’s saving grace is that while there are other employees and plenty of customers who are white trash idiots, Ferrera isn’t an idiot and Feldman’s not truly a dick, just a little unfortunate, so the show usually feels like it’s laughing with its characters, rather than at them. It’s even sometimes sympathetic towards them.

All the same, without jokes, a comedy show is for naught, and while frequently it’s smart and comes perilously close to being funny and sometimes even witty, nothing ever really lands home, bar a joke about a cubic zirconium knock-off. Still, it’s better than South of Hell. And Sky’s Trollied, for that matter.