Created by Vanessa Ramos
Release Date: 4th November 2022
There’s something rather dispiriting in watching a television show where everything seems to be brilliant on paper not quite come together in its execution. Then again so much about Blockbuster feels so strange in its intent that you’re left wondering just what it is the series really wants to be.
It seems apt that it opens with a meta-joke and commentary on Netflix and the algorithm. At the end of the day, Netflix is somewhat responsible for the death of Blockbuster, lightning the flame for the culture of streaming services and effectively killing off the video store as a result. It should be a neat joke with which to begin things, and yet even this supposed piece of subversive satirical comedy feels like it’s been dictated by a note from the corporate behemoth that is producing and streaming the show.
While this takes the form of a workplace comedy and is very much playing in an aesthetic pool similar to Superstore, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and any workplace sitcom that has been produced in the US within the last fifteen-to-twenty years, the series is also somewhat romanticising with nostalgia a business that not only did Netflix effectively kill, but a business that itself was solely responsible for chewing up the video rental market and effectively killed numerous independent video stores as a result.
Netflix may have killed it, but you can also see the corporate heads of one of the world’s biggest steaming services looking back at it, their enemy that they have vanquished, and think to themselves ‘what a rival we had, huh? Let’s celebrate it’. It has the same aura of someone killing someone and then stuffing the carcass and putting it on full display for horrified visitors to see upon entering their home.
Of course, that might be reading too much into it. This is, after all, a light fun romp through ten episodes that run for no longer than twenty seven minutes, and makes for an easy, inoffensive binge. However, it’s not particularly memorable, and that makes it something of a low-key bitter disappointment.
Blockbuster boasts talent in front of and behind the camera who have worked on some of the best US comedies of the last decade and yet everything comes together here to create something that is far from magical. In fact, you might be left with an urge to watch any other series that this is putting you in mind of; there is a whiff of wanting to be the next Superstore and yet it has none of the gentle observations of class and character that made that series such a joy.
There is a clear attempt at making the audience love these character and become invested in their stories, but it never quite reaches the heights that came from watching similar story trajectories on Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Parks and Recreation and everything just cruises along into a trajectory of never ending blandness.
Like all mainstream workplace comedies, there is an attempt at a central romance with obstacles in the way for the two leads, but weirdly Randall Park and Melissa Fumero don’t have the chemistry to make it work. It’s a shame because in previous series that wasn’t a problem for them opposite the likes of Constance Wu or Andy Samberg, but the lack of chemistry here just reminds you of how much very little of Blockbuster is working and how mechanical and corporate fuelled so much of it is.
It has the whiff of a series created not by humans but an actual algorithm or a computer program, where the questions that are posed to it are ‘how does one create a hit US workplace comedy?’ and Netflix basically put it together based on the writers and casts that was recommended to it.
It could have opted to say something profound and dressed in comedic wit about how employees are left to fend for themselves in light of a big corporate entity going bust, but instead it coasts along on a plethora of movie references that aren’t very funny, dialogue and set-pieces that are clearly aiming to become viral memes, and a gifted cast that truly deserves better than this.