Set in the Lunch Room of a low-end supermarket, we follow the antics of the exasperated retail staffers in the opening 3 episodes of Mark Nunnari’s and Martin Ponferrada’s situation comedy Lunch Room.
Back in 1994, an unknown black and white film made for $28k went on to win awards at the Cannes Film Festival and became a huge cult hit all around the world. That film was Clerks and its director Kevin Smith went on to dine at the top tables of Hollywood. Over 25 years later Mark Nunnari and Martin Ponferrada have brought us Lunch Room, without doubt, Clerks very own long lost child. Carrying the flame for 90’s slacker comedies everywhere, Lunch Room focuses on the trials and tribulations of its ill-paid and disenchanted employees.
There is an enjoyable sense of anarchy about this TV series that is quite simply infectious. Set in the small staff room of a town centre supermarket called OzSupermart and filmed mainly using wide shots and two-shots, the pilot episode called ‘Logo’ is a great introduction to this world and its characters. There is a large cast who I will name individually when writing about their roles, and when they all converge into this tiny room we are treated to chaotic but very naturalistic moments. People talk over each other, interrupt, argue, agree, some snap, while others joke, and this all happens at the same time. Basically, it feels like we are watching real life and due to some clever direction, we never lose track of who is saying what and who they are saying it to.
Episode 2: Ears
Here we learn a little more about the supermarket hierarchy and we gain more dimensions to some of the characters. While the girls sit around discussing stupid customers choking on the produce and complaining about what this will mean to the confectionary section because, at the end of the day, no one ‘wants to de-shelve the confectionary section!’. We are introduced to some of the management team played with just the right amount of gormlessness to be believable. It is easy to see why these people are in their managerial positions but it is also easy to see why these young employees believe themselves to be far superior.
Episode 3: Tall
This is a genuine change of pace from the earlier chapters, while still containing elements of comedy, it is more of a drama. Titled ‘Tall’ episode 3 is a two-hander between a boy and a girl who has recently become an item, Carlo played by Carlo Sardon and Julia played by the actor Jade Bowell. Initially, Julia wonders if her being taller than Carlo is the big issue but it soon becomes clear that the height difference is mild compared to the main thrust of the episode which is about race and racism. Carlo is mixed-race while Julia is white and studying to join the police. This leads to a tense and serious political conversation about racial profiling, police corruption, and inherent discrimination. The performances of the two leads here are very strong but the exposition gets quite heavy in parts and it has to work hard to hold your attention.
Overall the first 3 episodes are a huge success there is a lot of promise here that suggests Lunch Room wouldn’t look out of place on our TV schedules or streaming services. I can’t wait to dive into the rest.