SUPERIOR DONUTS tried to teach a lesson this week, and in doing so forgot about the comedy. It didn’t help that the lesson—guns can be dangerous in the hands of the wrong person—was so obvious that it definitely didn’t deserve a whole episode dedicated to it. After Franco freaks out about Arthur’s safety due to a crime wave in the neighborhood—Fawz’s drycleaner’s is robbed—Arthur buys a gun to defend himself, making Franco even more worried because Arthur isn’t properly trained to handle a gun.
This episode veers into “very special episode” territory one too many times. Franco’s constant pleas to Arthur to take some measures to protect himself grow repetitive and feel hollow. Franco tells Arthur that he cares about him and doesn’t want to see him get hurt, treating him like one would treat their father or grandfather. That’s fine, but how did they relationship develop to father/son levels so quickly? Just last week, Arthur was considering firing him. Franco’s level of concern for Arthur felt false and unearned. It doesn’t help that the show isn’t good at demonstrating the passing of time. How long has Franco been working at the donut store at this point? Three weeks? Three months? This type of relationship would take years to develop.
Arthur listens to Franco, who in the one funny scene this episode demonstrated how easy it would be to break into Arthur’s apartment with Sweatpants, but instead of installing bars on the windows or getting surveillance cameras, he jumps straight to buying a gun. Commenting on the gun show he bought it at, he says “Man do they hate Obama.” It’s an incredibly dated and lazy joke. Franco begs Randy to take the gun away from Arthur, but she can’t do that because he has a permit. All she can really do is take him to the gun range to learn to shoot properly. Of course, he misses the target every single time.
Franco decides to follow Arthur on his 4 AM walk to the newsstand to talk to him, but when Arthur sees a man in a hoodie walking quickly towards to him, he pulls out the gun. Franco tries to grab it out of his hands, which is when the police arrive. The police of course assume that Franco, a black man, was trying to rob Arthur, an elderly white man, but that Arthur managed to wrestle the gun away. The officer twists everything that comes out of Franco’s mouth to make it seem like an admission of guilt.
The joke in this scene seems to be just pointing out that cops are racist. This isn’t necessarily a bad premise for a joke, as often the best jokes point out issues in our society, but when it’s given the same amount of weight as jokes about Tush’s invention of a stuffed donut hole, which he calls a Tush hole (the groaner of a joke from the cold open), it just feels glib. Randy eventually shows up to free Arthur and Franco from their handcuffs. We’re supposed to find it hilarious and risqué that a middle-aged woman could be having sex with a twenty-something man. Another incredibly tired premise for a joke.
Arthur decides to get rid of the gun and allow Franco to put up cameras. Franco is so uncomfortable around guns because he’s lost a lot of people to gun violence. Gun violence is an epidemic in Chicago, but once again, it felt too treacly and too much like the show was trying to make a point, a point that would hold more weight if we knew anything about Franco’s’ character. Really all we know is that he’s black, a millennial, and wants to be an artist. We don’t know where he comes from or anything about his past.
The show once again struggles to include Maya in the narrative. After Maya shows Tush, James, and Randy the face she uses to scare off weirdos on the bus—it’s too adorable to actually work—Tush decides to teach her how to protect herself. It’s the start of a subplot, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Tush does his impression of a crazy guy, Maya tries hers, it’s cute, the end. It’s hard to even call this a subplot, even though the show highlighted it in the synopsis CBS provided for this episode—it’s just one scene. It’s hard to believe that the actress went from costarring in Manchester by the Sea, one of the most critically claimed movies of the year, to this. Someone get her a new agent.
Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
Superior Donuts airs Monday at 9PM on CBS
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor