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ATLANTA -- A new comedy series based on none other than life in a supermarket debuted on TBS yesterday. The late-night show, called "10 Items or Less," combines scripted and improvisational elements. In fact, it's filmed in an actual grocery store called Jon's, located in Reseda, Calif.
The series, co-created by comedy improv actor John Lehr, goes behind the scenes at the family-owned grocery store, which is called Greens & Grains in the show. Lehr plays Leslie Pool, who returns to his native Ohio to run the store he has just inherited from his father.
His somewhat dysfunctional staff -- which might seem eerily realistic to real-life store managers -- includes Carl (Robert Clendenin, "That '70s Show"), the sweet, doofus stockboy who serves as Leslieis sidekick; Yolanda (Roberta Valderrama, "ER"), the straight-talking dominant force in the produce department; Buck (Greg Davis Jr., "The King of California"), the bagger who's looking toward the future by attending night school; Ingrid (Kirsten Gronfield, "Steve Saves L.A."), the quirky, soft-spoken customer service representative who lives for Renaissance festivals; Richard (Christopher Liam Moore, "Judging Amy"), the dignified cashier who dreams of becoming a professional ice dancer; and Todd (Chris Payne Gilbert, "The Broken Hearts Club"), the sexy butcher who hopes to one day to be a stock car driver.
Seeking to undermine Greens & Grains is Leslie's arch-nemesis, Amy (Jennifer Elise Cox, "Lovespring International"), who manages the Super Value Mart down the street. He has known her since high school, where she was the popular beauty queen and he a nerd.
The show's creators said they chose a supermarket as the backdrop because they were looking for "a public place that was evenly lit." "In retrospect, I'm stunned that there hasn't really been a show set in a grocery store," said Lehr.
While the show may be the first U.S. series centered on a supermarket, a Canadian sitcom about a grocery store ran for three seasons from 1985 to 1988. Don Adams starred in the tongue-in-cheek-titled sitcom, "Check It Out."
"10 Items or Less" is somewhat unusual in its improvisational style, according to executive producer Robert Hickey. "10 Items or Less is an improv show, but what is different about this series is that it is long-form improv," he noted. "It is a combination of strong stories with true spontaneous improvisation. We are pushing comedy in a different direction."
In addition to the show's cast of improvisational actors, "10 Items or Less" also features some unexpected cast members, by virtue of the fact that the series is shot in a real, working grocery store. "The store is open for business," said Lehr, "so actual customers are shopping around us as we shoot. We're all dressed in uniform, so people are asking us where certain products are shelved. Often this stuff gets into the show."
The show airs on TBS on Mondays at 11 p.m. ET.