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TV Series Review

Doughnuts had their day.

Oh, we still eat them. Frankly, I'd eat a dozen right now if my wife would let me. But their fluffy, high-fat, glazed goodness is less appreciated in our more health-conscious age, and stand-alone doughnut shops are about as scarce as beaver-hat boutiques these days. The rare doughnut eatery to survive in the 21st century must have something special going for it.

Something superior, you might say.

Chicago's Superior Donuts is, admittedly, a dinosaur of a business—just like the guy who owns it. Arthur Przybyszewski opened the thing in 1969 and has seen no reason to change anything for the last 40-odd years. I suspect even the grease in the shop's ancient deep-fat fryer is original.

But time has been hard on Arthur's sugar-sprinkled concoctions. And even the best of businesses can grow a bit stale. Enter Franco Wicks, a hip young employee who believes he can help Superior not just survive, but thrive. All it takes is a little know-how, a little innovation and maybe a WiFi hotspot to keep the people streaming through the doors. (Oh, and maybe a little sriracha, too. Old-fashioned Boston cream is soooo 1990.)

Fixing the Show With a Firm, Steady Glaze

CBS's Superior Donuts mines much of its comedy from generational differences—a setup we've seen before. Why, even CBS's own sitcom The Great Indoors is predicated on this clash of old vs. new, with Joel McHale's wizened Jack Gordon trying to teach a handful of Millennial pups that life extends beyond their smartphone screens.

Superior takes the same setup and flips it: Here, young Franco is the teacher, not the clueless student, encouraging Arthur to set aside his typewriter and learn to Skype a little. The donut shop could clearly use some updating, and Franco gently guides Arthur through this strange, sometimes painful process of change.

They're joined by a motley band of donut shop regulars: 'Tush' Tushinski, who runs a series of makeshift, seat-of-your-pants businesses from Superior; Fawz, the dry-cleaning tycoon who wants to put Superior out of business (even though he buys coffee there every day); idealistic college student Maya, who spouts Bernie Sanders' slogans behind her laptop. And, of course, it wouldn't be a doughnut shop without a couple of police officers in house: officer Randy DeLuca and her geeky partner, James Jordan.

Together, they all form a tight-knit (if dysfunctional) family of sorts, all united around Arthur's jelly-filled calorie bombs. It's a little like Cheers, perhaps, with doughnuts instead of beer and a canned laugh track subbing in for actual laughs.

An Opportunity Frittered Away

Superior Donuts, the show, feels about as anachronistic as the shop itself, what with its two-camera format and setup-punchline patter. The jokes can taste a bit stale as well. And while these characters do care about one another, it's hard to give the show too much credit for this. I mean, I don't know how many folks would tune into a sitcom where everyone despised each other.

But when I tuned in, I was hoping that if Superior Donuts wasn't original, at least it'd be relatively clean. Most of its episodes bear a TV-PG rating, which encouraged me. That was before I watched the thing. Alas, this doughnut shop has a few holes in it.

Probably the biggest drawback here is the language. While we don't often hear much stronger than "d--n" or "h---," we hear a steady patter of those words and other mild profanities. Sexual innuendo can be found in the deep-fat fryer as well.

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Episode Reviews

Superior Donuts: Apr. 9, 2018 "Streaks and Balls."
Superior Donuts: Apr. 16, 2017 "Wage Against the Machine"



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Judd Hirsch as Arthur Przybyszewski; Jermaine Fowler as Franco Wicks; David Koechner as Carl 'Tush' Tushinski; Maz Jobrani as Fawz; Anna Baryshnikov as Maya; Katey Sagal as Randy DeLuca; Darien Sills-Evans as James Jordan; Rell Battle as Sweatpants






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