Ever wonder just what happens during a typical day at a local supermarket? The new comedy TV series HELP WANTED takes a peek inside one such store, Food Mart, where fresh produce, meat and other assorted bargains abound – along with a (sometimes) dedicated staff of managers, stock boys, cashiers and other employees who attend to the needs of a wide assortment of wacky characters who enter the store every day, while also trying to deal with problems not only in their jobs, but also in their lives.

The series was directed and edited by Ryan Shovey, and written by Peter Zuppardo, himself familiar with the often hectic atmosphere of life in a supermarket – as well as growing up in a family that owns one (more on that later). Both creators hope to pitch the half hour series to several networks, and while the show has not debuted yet, fans can view teasers and other additional content from the show on its Youtube page via the HELP WANTED Facebook page (see link below), which has recently cracked 1,000 likes.  Six episodes are planned for the show’s first season, with a possibility of six more (totaling twelve).

Described by the show’s creators as a blend of the popular sitcoms IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA and THE OFFICE, HELP WANTED stars A.J. Rome (THE CAMPAIGN, W.I.N.O. – WET IN NEW ORLEANS) as Food Mart’s manager Tim Grayson, who suddenly finds himself looking for help when his former co-manager, Jesse Brooks, unexpectedly disappears from the store. When his current co-manager – and the store’s resident slacker – Stephen West (played by Dean West – no relation –  also of W.I.N.O.), proves to have no interest in finding Brooks’ replacement, not only does Tim have to carry the load of running a store, along with feeding the egos of its often apathetic staff, pleasing its offbeat shoppers – and keeping a recently caught shoplifter at bay – but he also has to find a new man to help him with those tasks. In addition, Tim is smitten by the store’s cashier, Cassandra Troy (played by Croix Provence), and the two maintain an awkward relationship. The show also stars James Avatar as Isaac, the store’s stock clerk, and Alexander Eldimiati as Shoplifter Carl, both of whom are part of a large cast of recurring characters that provide a lot of the show’s humor.

Growing up in a family who runs one of New Orleans’ most popular supermarkets provided Zuppardo with a wealth of inspiration for HELP WANTED. “I pitched the idea that I grew up in a grocery, and worked in a grocery my whole life. Real life has definitely inspired the fiction. Nothing is funnier than real life occurrences taken to new levels. You wouldn’t believe some of the things that happen in a grocery from day to day. There are definitely certain circumstances (I won’t divulge which), but real life definitely influences the fiction,” he says. “My roommate and I did a lot of comedy writing in college. I went to school for screenwriting, so I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve written a few things before this, but I felt like this really gave me the best opportunity to tell a story, so I’ve really put a lot of thought and effort into making this a reality, and it’s come true so far,” he says.

Zuppardo had the script for his tale of supermarket silliness. What he didn’t have was anyone who could make his story come to life. Enter Ryan Shovey. “I think it was pretty good happenstance that we met. He (Peter) put a Craigslist ad up saying, ‘Hey, I need a crew, and I’m like, ‘do you want a director?’ Then he started watching my stuff, and he was like ‘yes I do!’ So we got together, I got friends of mine, he got friends of his, and we just got this ball rolling. The amount of time that it came together, and the amount of money that was involved, and the amount of talent that ended up coming from it is really just mind-blowing to us,” Shovey says.

Each episode of the show was filmed solely at Zuppardo’s supermarket, but for Zuppardo and Shovey, time wasn’t on their side. “We only had a small window to shoot, because we could only film at the store. Everything takes place at the store. We’re never away from the store, so we can only be there from closing time (at the store) to opening time,” says Shovey. As a result of the filming schedule, viewers shouldn’t be surprised if some of the episodes are visually rough around the edges. Yet, says Shovey, it’s the story that counts. “The only unfortunate side of that (filming at night) was (that) the story takes place during the daytime, but every time you see a window, it’s nighttime. It’s a pitched pilot, so we’re not really worried about it. The story really handles itself really well. It’s so solid. You’re going to be caring more about the characters than anything else.”

Despite a tight schedule, the production process moved along smoothly, in large part due to the show’s dedicated cast and crew, along with Zuppardo’s script. Recalls Shovey: “It wasn’t as stressful as it could have been, because we were on our game for pre-production. I went in there for storyboards, diagrams, like ‘this is what we’re doing’, all that stuff. We did twenty eight pages in four 10 hour days. It was pretty daunting to look at it on paper, like ‘how am I going to get this?’, but then the last day we ended up wrapping up 2 hours early.”

Along with the supermarket setting, HELP WANTED stands out from many other episodic comedies because of its storytelling approach, one that emphasizes continuing storylines and character arcs, as opposed to the one-off style used by many shows, resulting in a show that depicts not only the store’s wacky employees, and the offbeat customers who pass through its doors, but also the comical situations that ensue there. “It’s a really unique show that lends itself an opportunity to tell stories that haven’t been told well up until this point,” Zuppardo says, and Shovey echoes those sentiments. “You just don’t think about that stuff happening at a place you go to two or three times a week to get your food.”

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/helpwantedtvshow