Review by Sean Boelman
From Vanessa Ramos, a writer on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Superstore, comes another look into the mundanities of middle classdom, this time from the perspective of video store employees. While nostalgic cinephiles might be intrigued by the premise of Blockbuster, it’s simply not a very entertaining sitcom.
The show follows the employees of the last remaining Blockbuster in America as they struggle to keep afloat as a small business. Fundamentally, the perspective is rather broken — as it’s difficult to sympathize with a former franchise of one of a megacorporation that formed a near-monopoly and forced several small businesses to shutter their doors before their own demise.
Obviously, the series attempts to cash in on the nostalgia that the Blockbuster generation has for wandering the aisles of their video store in search of the perfect movie to take home. However, those hoping that the series will be a quick in-and-out when their parents give them five minutes to pick out just one movie will be frustrated, as the series really drags.
The show unfortunately just isn’t all that funny. There are some witty jokes here and there, but for the most part, it’s just gags that are recycled from much funnier shows in the past. For example, the funniest moment in the entire ten episodes is the aftermath of a sixty-year-old drinking an energy shot, and the only thing that allows it to work is the performer’s commitment.
That said, what the series lacks in moments that will make viewers laugh, it makes up for in heart. When one thinks about a satirical sitcom set in a video store, you figure it would be mostly rejects and dropouts, but the series largely avoids the cynical cliches — with the exception of one character — and has an infectious sense of optimism and love for the cinema to it.
The cast is split between comedic heavyweights and fresh faces, but they do a mostly good job of charming the viewer. It’s nice to see Randall Park as the lead of something again, as he exudes such a natural charm and charisma. J.B. Smoove is also quite funny in his role, and Olga Merediz is just an absolute delight to watch. However, one can’t help but feel like Melissa Fumero is wasted in a role that is a lot of whining.
Admittedly, the series looks cheap, even for a sitcom. For example, many of the DVD cases that litter the shelves of the eponymous DVD store look like clip art. Sure, the generic cases in which the rentals are sent home look fine, but the promotional jewel cases look worse than some of the fan art you would find scrolling Reddit. And this is just one example of how the series doesn’t look great.
It’s certainly ironic that the streaming service that killed video stores is releasing a series based on nostalgia for video stores, and the result is about as dire as it could be. Blockbuster is watchable, but it’s nowhere near funny enough to make viewers want to save it from the same fate as its namesake.
Blockbuster is now streaming on Netflix.