SUPERIOR DONUTS returned at its regular timeslot tonight with an episode that improved in some areas, but highlighted new problems. Jermaine Fowler seems much more comfortable in this outing, letting punchlines land and bringing an appealing easy-going energy to the proceedings. However, the premise of the show is already wearing thin. The writers try to frame inventing new donut flavors as an epic battle between generations, with both Arthur and Franco getting incredibly defensive over Franco’s new innovations. They’re just making donuts!
How seriously they take the process could be funny, but the writers don’t try to mine humor out of their over-the-top behavior. Instead, they double down on the power of donuts, having Arthur deliver a speech about how donuts can provide some sort of comfort to people in this crazy, messed-up world and there’s really no higher calling than wanting to make them. Franco is once again this episode inexplicably obsessed with his new job, thinking of it as an outlet for his creativity rather than a 9-5 at a neighborhood bakery. Arthur reluctantly lets him apply the glaze to his famous old-fashioned donuts, hoping Franco will stop begging him for more responsibility.
Franco decides to improve upon Arthur’s classic recipe by adding sriracha to the glaze. Arthur thinks it’s a dumb idea, but of course they catch on with the hipsters rapidly taking over the neighborhood. The way the show portrays “hipsters” is very clichéd. They’re all crazy beards, wooden bicycles, and adult coloring books. We’ve seen variations on this stereotype before and the show doesn’t seem interested in trying anything new. Franco lets his newfound success go to his head, adding habanero sprinkles, ghost pepper glaze, and a whole jalapeno and dubbing it “El Diablo”.
He promotes his new flavor by challenging customers to finish the donut in under a minute. Winners will get their picture on the “Wall of Flame”. Franco’s so caught up in his innovations and his marketing gimmicks like hiring a mariachi band and employing Sweatpants to be his hype man that he doesn’t notice Arthur storm off until he’s been gone for hours. Arthur wanders the streets (or the one set that CBS has kind of made look like a street), depressed at his inability to keep up in a changing world. If that doesn’t sound like comedy, that’s because it isn’t. it’s an odd scene. Fawz is there to act as comedic relief, breaking up Arthur’s speech with attempts at getting him to sign a contract finally selling the store to him.
Speaking of Fawz, while it’s great that CBS hired the very funny Maz Jobrani to be a man proud of his Iraqi heritage, the show is sort of making him out to be a stereotype. This episode we learn that his village suffered a mustard gas attack and that his mother is a distant cousin of Saddam Hussein. It plays into people’s preconceived notions of what Iraqi life and Iraqis are like, but as with the show’s portrayal of millennials, they just aren’t interested in trying new things. Maya is still there as a very minor character who occasionally says something to highlight her youthful ignorance of real world problems. This episode, she and James try to crack Fawz’s wifi password, as they’d rather be attached to their devices than engage with their surroundings. Classic millennials!
Eventually, Arthur returns to the shop. He decides that Franco’s innovations are a good thing. He can help him connect with even more people, spreading the joy of donuts even further. It’s a fine conclusion, but it’s also essentially the same one he came to at the end of the pilot. How often can they repeat this conflict? Arthur and Franco invent a PB&J donut, as Arthur realizes that hipsters love to relive their childhoods. It wasn’t an objectively bad episode of TV, but it’s one that doesn’t require a lot of analysis to enjoy. It’s very easy viewing—it doesn’t challenge the audience or expose them to new ideas. Like donuts, it’s comfort food, but sometimes you want a complete meal.
Season 1, Episode 2 (S01E02)
Superior Donuts airs Monday at 9PM on CBS
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor