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Blockbuster, photo via Netflix
Blockbuster, photo via Netflix

Culture

Blockbuster: Netflix’s Latest Workplace Comedy Misses the Mark

Blockbuster Review

When I first heard that there was a series in development that would follow the employees of a Blockbuster Video, I was elated. It’s a brilliant concept for a workplace comedy. However, the present-day setting is its biggest weak spot and hurts the season as a whole.

How great would it have been to set the series in a Blockbuster Video during its heyday or at the beginning of its decline (thanks to Netflix, ironically)? Fashions from the 90s and 00s have come back with a vengeance, and Blockbuster could’ve capitalized on those trends—appealing to younger audiences while giving nostalgia to the older crowd.

Blockbuster, photo via Netflix
Blockbuster, photo via Netflix

Instead, Blockbuster lays on the present-day message pretty thick, right out of the gate, with too many references to current things. Aside from the NXIVM joke, of course. Any mention of a cult, especially that cult, gets a pass from me.

Today we celebrate our Independence Day from all the corporations ruining this country by throwing the greatest block party the world has ever seen and signing up more members than that sex cult with the creepy volleyball guy and Chloe from Smallville.

Timmy

Some of the comedy does hit, but in the first episode, “Pilot,” the references become a bit of an overkill. We get it, we exist in the same current unfortunate timeline as these characters. And as a result, the escapism factor that many seek from their media consumption these days is sadly lacking on Blockbuster.

The cast of characters, thankfully, is a quirky, charming bunch. Timmy (Randall Park), the hapless owner of the last Blockbuster in the world, is adorably nerdy. Park has a breezy sitcom style of acting that works in this environment. Melissa Fumero as Eliza is also very well-versed in this kind of comedy, having come off of eight seasons playing Amy Santiago on the beloved sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Fumero is a natural here, but it is difficult to separate Amy from Eliza as they are quite similar to each other.

However, Eliza shares more similarities to Superstore‘s Amy played by America Ferrera. This is a common problem for any workplace comedy. Blockbuster is starting out too formulaic, and that is evidenced by the pilot episode establishing the will-they-won’t-they ship between Timmy and Eliza. It’s another case of overkill that doesn’t let up as the season progresses.

Blockbuster, photo via Netflix
Blockbuster, photo via Netflix

New workplace sitcoms are guaranteed to be subjected to comparison to past, successful ones. And that doesn’t do Blockbuster any favors. Luckily though, despite comparing, these characters are quick to grow on you. Carlos (Tyler Alvarez), a film buff and aspiring auteur provide a lot of comedy and heart that will land with movie lovers. I am pleasantly surprised to see that this character isn’t a douchey portrayal of a Film Twitter dude bro. Connie (Olga Merediz) plays a bit of the mother figure role to the rest of the employees and Timmy as well. She is also fodder for boomer-related humor.

She’s the same age as our clientele. Who else will know that Hank Ackerman means Hugh Jackman?

Timmy

Hannah (Madeleine Arthur) and Kayla (Kamaia Fairburn) are the other younger members of the staff along with Carlos, but they are very different. Hannah has a lot of eccentric qualities and is “the sweetest person on the planet.” Kayla is the sarcastic teenager who routinely roasts the other characters, most of all Eliza. She is also the daughter of Percy (J.B. Smoove), the strip mall’s landlord and Party! Parti! Parte! party store owner who happens to be Timmy’s childhood friend. Their somewhat strained father/daughter relationship adds some nice family drama.

Sitcoms like this need time to grow their audience, and I certainly think Blockbuster can get there, but its first season isn’t a very strong argument for it. Although, it is entertaining enough for me to continue watching. Fingers crossed for a stronger second season.

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