Leslie Jones loves “Supermarket Sweep.” The host/executive producer of the revived game show isn’t shy about her enthusiasm for the program, and her excitement is contagious.
She’s also, I fear, a bit naive about airing a show like this in the midst of a pandemic that has killed more than 216,000 people in the United States and almost 1.1 million worldwide.
“Supermarket Sweep” is the fourth incarnation of an old game show that aired on ABC (1965-67) and has been revived twice before — on both Lifetime (1990-95) and PAX TV (2000-03). It’s a goofy-but-entertaining show in which contestants answer questions, win shopping time and then race around a (faux) supermarket grabbing the most expensive things they can lay their hands on. It’s dumb fun, and — again — Jones’ love for the show is infectious.
And producers insisted they took every precaution when they taped episodes in July and August. Everyone involved was “tested and retested,” said executive producer Alycia Rossiter. The “store” was “cleaned like crazy” between every round and everyone but Jones and the contestants wore masks and/or face shields; social distancing was enforced; and a nursing team was on hand doing the enforcing.
“Everybody was vigilant on doing the right thing,” Jones said.
But you’re not going to see any of that when the show premieres on Sunday at 7 p.m. on ABC/Ch. 4. And Jones scoffed at the suggestion that “Supermarket Sweep” should include a disclaimer letting viewers know that it was produced under strict COVID-19 protocols.
“When you are looking at TV, first of all, you are already aware it’s a fantasy world,” she said. “It’s supposed to be an escape.”
She quickly blew off the suggestion that showing people running around what looks like a grocery store — it’s actually an airplane hanger — without seeming to take any precautions could make the job of real-life grocery store workers harder because some out there will use it to justify flouting mask rules in real stores.
“Are you telling me that we need to ... go, ‘Hey, you guys, all of these people were tested, and they wore their masks off the screen?’” Jones said. “Because I don’t think people are as stupid as you think that they are.”
Clearly, a lot of people are that stupid. Do a quick online search to see what real-life store staffers have to deal with every day. It’s beyond stupid.
And it would require almost no effort to include a disclaimer on “Supermarket Sweep.” It wouldn’t ruin the TV magic.
Let’s hope that the producers and ABC reconsider this decision before the show airs Sunday.
RECLAIMING PEPE THE FROG • Artist Matt Furie will tell you that Pepe — a character he created 15 years ago — is “just a happy little frog.” But when asked in a documentary what people get wrong about him, Furie replies, “Probably when they put Pepe on the internet saying, like, ‘Kill Jews.’”
“Feels Good Man,” which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and airs Tuesday at 11 p.m. on PBS/Ch. 7 as part of “Independent Lens,” is one weird documentary. It’s the very serious story of how Furie’s character was stolen from him and made into a far-right, racist and anti-Semitic meme. It’s also, at times, just downright goofy.
In a recent online interview, Furie, 41, told TV critics that “frogs are just real chill” and he would “love to be a frog. … I like to swim in rivers when I get a chance and pretend that I’m a frog and swim around the rocks and stuff.” That’s how he comes across in “Feels Good Man” — a chill dude who didn’t even know what a meme was before Pepe was turned into one.
Journalist Adam Skewer says in the documentary that when he interviewed Furie in 2016, “he was very well intentioned, but somewhat naive about the extent to which this symbol had been appropriated by the far-right.”
Furie doesn’t seem like a guy who would end up in court battling Alex Jones of “InfoWars” and other far-right extremists after they took his frog and made it into something the Southern Poverty Law Center identified as a hate symbol, alongside burning crosses, the Confederate flag and swastikas. But that’s the route Furie was forced to take.
Like a lot of things in 2020, “Feels Good Man” seems too weird to be true. But it is.