‘Blockbuster’: Netflix comedy on a tired old store relies on tired old plots

Likable cast can’t save bland series set at the video chain’s last shop.

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Melissa Fumero and Randall Park lead the ensemble cast of “Blockbuster.”

NETFLIX

Netflix doing a sitcom about the last Blockbuster in the world is like a college football powerhouse throwing the ball downfield while already pummeling a small school 63-0 late in the fourth quarter. Come on man, you’ve already killed us, why you gotta rub salt in the wound!

Despite the seemingly petty setup, “Blockbuster” is actually a benign, upbeat and even affectionate sitcom that plays like a fictionalized version of the 2020 Netflix documentary “The Last Blockbuster.” That film told the story of the real-life Blockbuster that remains in operation in Bend, Oregon, while “Blockbuster” is filmed in Vancouver but set in the fictional town of Iron Creek, Michigan, with a likable cast starring in a conventional, bland and disappointing workplace comedy with the obligatory “Will they or won’t they?” romantic subplot, a la “Cheers” and “The Office” et al.

The reliable Randall Park stars as Timmy, who manages the Blockbuster store where he has proudly worked since the seventh grade. (“That is not the flex you think it is,” says a teenage employee.) In the premiere episode, a prodigal customer returns after three years but Timmy welcomes him with open arms, noting that everyone is busy, “But like Ferris B said on his day off, life moves pretty fast, if you don’t—”

“Netflix,” says the customer. “I’ve been doing Netflix, like, you know, everybody.”

“Zing!” comes the reply from Timmy.

‘Blockbuster’

Untitled

A 10-episode series available now on Netflix.

We’re quickly introduced to Timmy’s staff, including:

  • Melissa Fumero’s Eliza, with whom Timmy has been in love forever, though he’s never told her.
  • Tyler Alvarez’s Carlos, an aspiring filmmaker who believes working at the Blockbuster puts him on the Tarantino path to success.
  • Olga Merediz’s Connie, the workplace matriarch.
  • Madeleine Arthur’s innocent and wide-eyed Hannah.
  • J.B. Smoove’s Percy, who is Timmy’s best friend and landlord, and operates a party store.
  • And Percy’s cynical daughter Kayla (Kamaia Fairburn), who is always ready with a putdown, cuz teenagers.

It’s a wonderful mix of skilled veterans and relative newcomers, but “Blockbuster” is an exercise in tiresome premises (Carlos is threatened by a know-it-all intern, Timmy has to lay off one of his beloved employees, there’s always some obstacle popping up just when Timmy and Eliza are going to admit their true feelings for one another). Making matters more tedious, there’s a steady barrage of dialogue that’s laced with pop culture references and sounds nothing like the way real people engage with another.

Timmy: “Rise and grind, that’s what the sports guys say on Twitter.”

Carlos: “Do the sports guys on Twitter also dress like Justin Bieber’s pastor?”

Timmy: “Not just dress like him, I too released a statement after Justin Bieber’s monkey incident.”

When Timmy is ready to give up on something, Percy says, “You can’t just quit in the middle, this isn’t Season 3 of ‘Empire.’ ” This after Timmy notes, “The last time I dated, we all hated Anne Hathaway for some reason.”

Oh come on. “Blockbuster” also can’t resist meta humor, as when Timmy and the gang vow to keep the store open even as Blockbuster’s corporate offices are closing, and Eliza says, “Isn’t it ironic that the small business taking a stand against the big corporation in this scenario is actually a former franchise of a once-huge corporation named after the exact type of big corporate movies that killed off smaller movies?”

Ironic, maybe. Funny? Eh.

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