Netflix’s “Blockbuster” is a complete bust on all fronts

Written By Rachel Ross, Co-Features/A&E Editor

For millions of people between 1985 and sometime around the late 2000s, the name “Blockbuster” inspires feelings of nostalgia for a seemingly simpler time, when streaming services either didn’t exist or weren’t very successful yet, and physically leaving your house and driving to the rental store was one of the few options available for acquiring a movie to watch, along with purchasing a DVD to keep or just catching it on TV. Blockbuster is often looked back on with rose colored glasses; what was seen back in the day as just going to a store much the same as any other is viewed retrospectively as having been a special experience, one that you can lord over those who weren’t around for it, much like people often do who were there when MTV was actually “Music Television.” 

I’m certainly not immune to this sense of nostalgia. I frequented the local Blockbuster and Hollywood Video with my parents often as a kid; for me, I associate these stores with my childhood, and therefore find the memory of them comforting and beloved. 

So when I heard that Netflix had released a new comedy aptly named, “Blockbuster,” on November 3rd, my interest was certainly piqued. Now, having watched the ten episode first season, I wish it hadn’t been, for I can unequivocally say that I hated it, and that it’s a disgrace to the Blockbuster name. 

The show follows Timmy (portrayed by Randall Park), as he learns that the Blockbuster he manages in a run down strip mall has become the last store location on Earth. The rest of the series sees him and his “wacky” staff as they try to keep the business afloat. In the midst of this and oftentimes overshadowing this, we have a really gripping will-they-won’t-they between Timmy and his co-worker Eliza (portrayed by Melissa Fumero). It basically wants to be NBC’s “Superstore” with nostalgia bait, except it’s not because “Superstore” is actually funny and well cast, the same of which definitely cannot be said for this. 

The characters are meant to be the show’s biggest draw besides the Blockbuster name. It relies on the viewer to make connections with the group and, you know, actually find them entertaining; come for Blockbuster, stay for this rag tag “loveable” ensemble. Of course the problem with that is when the viewer inevitably fails to make these connections, the show falls flat on its face, oftentimes even going a step further and inspiring genuine anger and frustration for how bad it is. The one and only reason I finished it was for the purposes of this review. 

The characters are most often split off into two sections: Timmy, Eliza, and Percy (portrayed by J. B. Smooth), the nearby party store manager, and the four other Blockbuster employees. For me personally, the four other employees were slightly less hateable than Timmy and his posse. We have Carlos (Tyler Alverez), a Quentin Tarantino wannabe, Hannah (Madeleine Arthur), whose dominant trait seems to be that she’s “nice,” Kayla (Kamaia Fairburn), the teenager who acts like she hates everything, and Connie (Olga Merediz), the “strange” older lady. I don’t know if it’s because they are often in the B plot and therefore get less screen time or what, but I found these characters to be the more palatable of the two. Their jokes are still as bad as any, but their deliveries were often less painful than that of the other group, which is interesting to me since the other group is comprised of mostly seasoned actors. While these guys were kind of just there, the other group was actively agonizing to watch at times. 

Percy was probably the least anger inducing of the three, even though his character is kind of a jerk. He constantly uses Timmy, who is supposed to be his best friend, and oftentimes neglects Kayla, who is his daughter. Maybe I just tolerated him like I did because the actor talked really fast and mumbled a lot, and I couldn’t hear half of what he was saying. 

Timmy as a character is fine; he’s kind, hardworking, and thoughtful, but his joke deliveries are oftentimes stomach churning, which again, I find interesting considering I am familiar with this actor and have seen him in other things where I thought he did perfectly fine. It’s infuriating towards the end of the season to watch him drag himself down by his attraction to Eliza, often sabotaging himself and either his personal or business successes for her, when she doesn’t deserve it at all. That brings me to Eliza herself, the worst character on the show, and really, maybe the worst part of the show altogether. 

Eliza’s character is a horrible person; she thinks that she is leaps and bounds ahead of her Blockbuster co-workers because she spent a singular semester at Harvard. She repeatedly puts the store down and talks about better things she could be doing than working there. In one episode, she goes on an interview for a different job, where it is eventually revealed that, after failing to get an offer, she begged them to hire her and bad-mouthed the store in the process. However, when she returns to the store, she tells the other employees that she actually was offered the job and turned it down, claiming that she plays such a vital role in the store’s survival that she couldn’t possibly leave. Beyond her horrible sense of morals and self praise, her joke deliveries are by far the most painful of anyone’s, which I don’t understand because she was on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine;” although I’ve never seen it myself, I’ve always heard good things about it. 

Beyond being unfunny, the characters are also incredibly flat and one dimensional. They all have a “thing” that they cling onto for dear life that entirely defines them. Timmy is scarred by his parents divorce, Hannah is cheap, Carlos is a child of immigrants, etc. Essentially every move these characters make is motivated by a singular trait. They have as much depth as an inflatable kiddie pool. 

As for the “comedy” that everyone fails so miserably at, it usually falls into one of two camps, being either a pop culture reference or “isn’t this situation so wacky and ridiculous?!”. Both are as insufferable and bottom of the barrel as they come. Even without the poor deliveries, I don’t think any of the jokes would go very far. 

All of that aside, the biggest crime this show commits is against the Blockbuster name. They treat this as if it’s supposed to be some kind of love letter, when in reality, it completely misses the mark on what made the store special and why people look back on it so fondly. The show tries to shoehorn in this post Covid message about togetherness and the irreplaceable experience of being face to face, but it’s so shallow and on the nose that it lacks any sincerity or real meaning. They claim to know what made Blockbuster special, but they fail to capture it at all. The show makes it into a joke while trying to insist that it isn’t one, and that it should be recognized for its special qualities. It often tries to venture beyond the rose tinted view of the enterprise and paint it as something that it never was; Blockbuster was not a “gathering place;” it didn’t bring anyone together. It was just a cool store to stop into and browse for DVDs or games. The show is so hyper concentrated on hitting the right mark that it misses it completely. 

I would not recommend “Blockbuster” to anyone. Anyone. It fails horribly on all fronts. There are much better office comedies out there, like “Superstore” that I mentioned previously, or of course, “The Office.” I’ve never watched “The Office” and yet I still feel more confident recommending it, as there’s no way it’s worse than this.