Roush Review: Modestly Funny ‘Blockbuster’ Is a Nostalgic Relic

Blockbuster - J.B. Smoove, Melissa Fumero
Review
Sergei Bachlakov/Netflix

Blockbuster

Matt's Rating: rating: 2.5 stars

No one knows DVDs are so yesterday more than Netflix, key contributor to the digital streaming revolution that put video-rental stores like Blockbuster out of business.

All but one. A wisecrack about the pervasiveness of Netflix opens this mildly amusing workplace comedy set at a fictional last Blockbuster outpost in a Michigan suburb. (The real store is in Bend, Oregon.) It’s a sweet and inspired setting for a show extolling the virtues of endangered small businesses as a rare locus of human connection. As the store’s primary cheerleader and hapless store manager Timmy (Fresh Off the Boat‘s affable Randall Park) puts it: “People need to interact with each other.”

Blockbuster Melissa Fumero and Randall Park

Blockbuster (Credit: Ricardo Hubbs/Netflix)

If only the humans inhabiting this Blockbuster made you want to shop there. I was hoping for an endearing Frank Capra–like humanism but instead found a tired retread of a silly not-so-Superstore. For instance, sweet-sad mensch Timmy carries the sort of torch you’ve seen hundreds of times for his unhappily married coworker Eliza (Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Melissa Fumero), adding a romcom element that underscores the entire season without hitting any new or original beats. Sam and Diane’s Cheers legacy remains unthreatened.

Eliza flamed out at Harvard after a semester but still brags about it, par for the delusional course of her socially awkward colleagues, each wistful and forlorn but falling short of making distinctive or authentic impressions. The most promising supporting character, young Carlos (Tyler Alvarez), is a bisexual first-generation immigrant son who dreams of Tarantino moviemaking glory, but even he seems to be spinning his wheels in this quaint, contrived company.

The ubiquitous JB Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm) earns his keep as Timmy’s blustery buddy and strip-mall landlord, whose snarky teenage daughter considers this store where she barely works as a “dusty time capsule.” Sadly, that burn also applies to a series that seems less a blockbuster than, sadly, a relic.

Blockbuster, Series Premiere, Thursday, November 3, Netflix