Workplace comedies are the backbone of light entertainment. Or, at least, they were. Like a franchise, they stretched across the terrestrial TV listings engulfing whole seasons.
Working in the physical space of others had universal relatability for jokes. In these days of working and streaming from home? Step inside Blockbuster and feel the end of an era in more ways than one.
What Is Blockbuster About?
Starring Randall Park as the manager of the last physical Blockbuster store, showrunner Vanessa Ramos draws on the familiar in heavy doses.
Timmy (Park, Always Be My Maybe) is frequently described as an irresponsible manager in arrested development. As the Blockbuster franchise collapses and withdraws all financial support, he is (in theory) forced to grow up and take his business, and his employees more seriously.
Under his wing is the motherly but batty Connie (Olga Merediz), snarky aspiring film maker Carlos (Tyler Alvarez), spaced out Hannah (Madeleine Arthur), and eyerolling Gen Z-er and daughter of Timmy’s landlord, Kayla (Kamala Fairburn).
Such a mixture of characters have minor flaws that produce minimal friction; this workplace is low level rental rather than full commitment purchase.
Also thrown into the mix is a will-they-won’t-they and a self-serving bro-down friendship. Eliza (Melissa Fumero, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) provides the former with a cheating husband reconciliation thrown in for good measure. The latter comes in the form of a long-standing friend, party store owner, and Timmy’s landlord, Percy (J. B. Smoove).
Ramos’ previous credits include being writer on Brooklyn-Nine-Nine and executive story editor on Superstore.
Blockbuster shares the soft relaxed DNA of the latter and only a cast member with the former. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s genuine man child in the form of Jake Peralta was a clearly defined wreck who became a more rounded person throughout the course of the show.
Blockbuster Official Trailer
As Blockbuster’s Timmy is never seen as his supposed immature previous self, all nods of admiration at his stepping up to the plate fall flat.
There is no denying that Park is a warm screen presence. His huggable sincerity provides Blockbuster with a cosiness that pulls you into the store.
Fumero’s comedy chops are not in question but even though there is a rumbling of chemistry between her Eliza and Timmy, her character is so defined by the love interest that she struggles to integrate with the wider show.
Is Blockbuster Worth Watching?
Blockbuster’s main problem is that it offers little in the way of surprises; it browses the shelves and then re-rents the same worn-bare comfort pick.
There isn’t enough conflict between the main cast to generate the required sparks and even when a little grind does build up – such as Timmy and Percy’s dynamic – it lacks the growth to get beyond typical sit-com reset where the same cycle is repeated in the next episode.
Despite Park’s enjoyable performance, his character – like all the others – isn’t strongly defined enough to keep pulling you back.
The smattering of movie jokes feel tired and even the draw of physical media in a physical space is barely mined for themes beyond a few one-liners.
What’s left is a husk of a show that trades so heavily on brand nostalgia that it fails to recognise the diminishing returns.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with spending the odd half hour there, but as the doors close behind you it’s only the obligation of settling your late fees that will bring you back.
Words by Mike Record