Netflix UK TV review: Blockbuster: Season 1
James R | On 06, Nov 2022
“I don’t love the pattern that’s starting to emerge.” That’s Timmy (Randall Park) at the beginning of Blockbuster, Netflix’s new TV series set within one of the titular video rental stores. The irony of that sentence won’t be lost on anyone watching the sitcom on the streaming platform that helped usher in the end of the iconic international business. Sadly, the irony is lost on the TV show.
Created by Superstore and Brooklyn Nine-Nine veteran Vanessa Romas, the series takes place in the final throes of the Blockbuster chain, as the growth of streaming and digital media leaves the notion of a physical copy of a film that’s borrowed in person losing its once-popular appeal. But while that era of change was some time ago, this series is set in 2022, complete with references to Bridgerton.
That jarring sense of disconnect never really goes away, because all kinds of elements don’t quite gel together. Despite the series taking a defiant stance in its opening episode against the notion of people losing human connection in a late-capitalist society, it decidedly avoids any notion of criticising Netflix or making the streamer the butt of a joke – a tame move that leaves the whole premise of the show disappointingly undeveloped.
Instead, the programme swiftly moves into traditional sitcom mode, with an ensemble of work colleagues with their own eccentric qualities. There’s Connie (Olga Merediz), the older employee who’s keen to learn how to be down with the kids, there’s Carlos (Tyler Alvarez), who wants to be the next Quentin Tarantino, there’s Hannah (Madeleine Arthur), the kooky one who doesn’t know anything about films, and Kayla (Kamaia Fairburn), the sarcastic one who pretends that she doesn’t really want to be there. Before you can say “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation”, we’re also introduced to Eliza (Melissa Fumero), the married one who got away and whom Timmy still holds a flame for.
These familiar broad strokes are balanced out by a rapid-fire approach to one-liners, but the dialogue is so keen to throw in punchlines that it forgets to build the characters first, leaving everyone sounding like they’re speaking in the same register. And yet, while there’s no time for subtlety, the jokes also feel like they’re stretched out for too long – the kind of paradox that captures the uneven nature of the whole endeavour.
Subplots range from a giant inflatable gorilla to a dad trying to reconnect with their daughter, but whether it’s the surprising lack of a period setting or the absence of a pointed commentary on the current media landscape, this nostalgia trip never quite rings true enough to stay in the memory.