Just recently, while perusing the FXUK listings a comedy show named 10 Items or Less caught my eye and interest. It's a remarkably low profile show, currently lacking enough ratings on the IMDB to even garner a score and just a meager 8 people have voted for it on TV.com (9.2 atm, but 8 people is hardly a decent sample size). So I set to pulling a little research about the show, wikipedia, the official site and a few reviews here and there; and I liked enough of what I read to decide that giving the first season a try would be prudent.
10 Items or Less is an off-beat comedy show about Greens & Grains, a small grocery store/supermarket which is owned by Leslie Poole John Lehr, who inherited it after his father passed away. The business and it's small number of staff exist under the shadow of the far larger chain Super Value Mart, which is run by Amy Anderson (Jennifer Elise Cox). Leslie's staff are small in number; there is Todd the Butcher and ladies man (Chris Payne Gilbert), Ingrid (Kirsten Gronfield) who's enamoured with Todd, Yolanda (Roberta Valderrama) who is a curvy and outspoken latino mother, checkout/bagging team Richard (Christopher Liam Moore) and Buck (Greg Davis Jr.) and last but not least a familiar face to comedy Bob Clendenin as Carl.
The first season, which runs for just five episodes is a punchy and fast paced comedy show which is mostly improvised. Much like Curb Your Enthusiasm the show is scripted in broad sweeps and then the actual dialog is improvised by the actors. John Lehr has compared the style to that of Spinal Tap and it gives the comedy a spontaneous and somewhat natural feel to it. It's a very energetic show with a low tech appearance much like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and at times it even brings the feel of The Office and Arrested Development to the screen. It's comedy in a similar vein to these shows and it holds up reasonably well when compared to them.
The entire cast give strong and fun performances, Bob in particular does well - he's normally cast as a more ditsy and 'lost' type of person, but here he's a little more down to earth. Chris as Todd is also great, bringing a lot of charisma to the screen. But it's John Lehr's performance as Leslie which is the lynch pin of the show. He brings a huge amount of energy to the character, making him feel a lot like Michael Bluthe (hence the comparison to Arrested Development) which is no bad thing, because Michael is an incredibly likable and fun character. Likewise Leslie is also fun, he's a bit more of a heel than Michael though, he's desperate to keep his business afloat and that results in him making unethical decisions at times. But he has good intentions at heart (remind you of someone else from the world of comedy?) It's important to any comedy show that the central character clicks with the viewer, and he does.
Over the first five episodes the gang deal with a range of subjects; including - but not limited to - buy outs, religious stains, speed bagging, bison membership and health insurance. The earlier episodes are a little rough, but the show finds it's feet rapidly and by the fifth episode it's grown into something with real promise and is quite often laugh out loud funny.
I'm certainly going to be checking out (groan) the second season as soon as possible and I'd recommend you give it a try yourself.
Full episodes are available to watch over at the official TBS site: http://www.tbs.com/shows/10items.jsp and you can check out Greens & Grains Grocers' website here. It also airs on FXUK, so keep an eye on your schedule for it.