SUPERIOR DONUTS has differentiated itself from the other multi-cam sitcoms on CBS’s lineup by being the show that addresses the tough issues—racism, gun violence, and this week gentrification and anti-Arab/anti-immigration sentiment. The show’s willingness to address tough and important issues is admirable, but it also wants to appeal to everyone. It takes complex issues and compacts them into easy to digest packages, with a few inoffensive jokes and a laugh track to remind us that it’s still a comedy. By trying to have it both ways, this episode lacked the power that it could have had.
Franco and Sweatpants have taken to sleeping in the donut shop, as the heat is broken their apartment and the landlord is refusing to fix it. They think he’s trying to force them out so he can convert the building into luxury condos. Franco vows that he won’t leave without a fight, so Mia researches to find out the identity of the owner of the building. Turns out it’s owned by Fawz, who’s 100% unapologetic in his quest to replace Franco and the other low-paying tenants with people who can afford to pay triple the rent, so Franco decides to stage a protest.
Arthur warns Franco that this will end badly, but Franco, Sweatpants, Mia, and a sizable crowd march in front of Fawz’s drycleaners, his most profitable business. The protest attracts a news reporter, who interviews both Fawz and Franco. Fawz once again refuses to apologize or listen to the other side, instead twisting all of the reporter’s questions so he can respond with a drycleaner related question. Example: the reporter asks if he’s worried about the protests escalating into altercations. He says he doesn’t know about altercations, but he knows about alterations, 10% off with every order. It was amusing but the first time, but the joke quickly turned obvious and stale.
The next day, Franco is high on the media attention, proud of himself and his cause. That is until Arthur shows him that someone vandalized Fawz’s drycleaner over night, writing “Arab go home” on the window. Tush tells Randy that he doesn’t want to tell her how to do her job, but he thinks this crime is racially motivated. The reason I point this out is because earlier in the episode, Tush told Fawz that he’d miss him when America was great again. To the live studio audience’s credit, they groaned at this awful joke, but Tush can’t both support Trump’s policies and speak out against hate crimes.
Franco blames himself for what happened, as he put Fawz on blast on TV, which attracted the attention of some crazy. He vows to give up protesting for good, but Arthur tries to convince him otherwise. There’s been a problem on this show with consistent characterization. Characters act in completely different ways week to week. Arthur started out the series as a grumpy old man, the foil to Franco’s idealistic millennial. Both this week and last week, Arthur has gone out of his way to make sure that Franco is happy and fulfilling his potential. Week one Arthur would have never done that. It’s sweet, but it detracts from some of the comedy inherent in the premise of opposites working together. It’s rare to see characters change on sitcoms, as the genre demands that characters pretty much stay static, so this feels more like sloppy characterization rather than genuine character development.
Arthur decides to show Fawz that he supports him by painting “Arabs Welcome” on the donut shop window. Fawz decides to let Franco and his other poor friends continue living in the building, even after he converts it to condos. Not because of some emotional epiphany, but because Mia showed him a tax credit he’d get if he kept some units affordable. At least Fawz hasn’t changed a bit.
Season 1, Episode 5 (S01E05)
Superior Donuts airs Monday at 9PM on CBS
Jennifer Trofa | Contributor