‘Blockbuster’ loses focus of its main attraction

By Samuel M Acosta

When I found out that they were making a show about the movie-rental store Blockbuster, I was instantly in love. Blockbuster stores played a huge role in my childhood, as it was a weekly, sometimes daily, part of my life. Almost every movie I watched when I was in elementary school was something we rented from Blockbuster. With this deep love, I sat down to binge this ten-episode series… and I was incredibly disappointed. 

“Blockbuster” followed Timmy, played by Randall Park, the manager of the last Blockbuster video in the world. Without a corporate office to back him up, Timmy was now single-handedly responsible for the survival of the video rental store he had spent his whole life working in. Being a small business owner is hard, and there were tough decisions ahead. The rest of the store’s employees were ready to pitch in, especially Eliza, played by Melissa Fumero, a Harvard dropout whose failed marriage led her back to her high school job at Blockbuster. The fate of Blockbuster rested in their hands. 

This show did a good job of presenting itself well before it came out, starting with casting Randall Park and Melissa Fumero. These are huge names in comedy, with Park having made his way into the MCU as the comedic relief character of Agent Woo, and Fumero being one of the lead actresses in the hit sitcom “Brooklyn 99.” This instantly lent credibility to the show, promising an original comedy centered around one of the most public corporate falls in recent history. It gave the impression of nostalgia and freshness, something I was so excited to see. I was incredibly disappointed. 

Instead of utilizing the incredible concept that this show was built on, Netflix instead used it merely as a set piece, opting for forced romantic plots and cringey pop culture references. Nothing felt substantive. I didn’t feel the weight of almost any of the decisions, which is vital for any show, even a ridiculous sitcom. Instead, I just felt disinterested in almost every aspect of the show, with one exception. 

Percy and Kayla’s story arc was the most entertaining in the whole series

The plot of Percy Scott, played byJ.B. Smoove, trying to connect with his daughter Kayla, played by Kamaia Fairburn, was actually very heartfelt. It played on a typical trope of an older man being out of touch with his younger daughter but the chemistry between the two characters just gave it a sense of sincerity.  Seeing how Percy is a man who seemingly has it all yet the only thing he really wants is a relationship with his daughter was moving and seeing Kayla warm up to him after incredible effort on his part was the most satisfying part of the entire series.

This heartwarming plot was easily overshadowed, however, by the forced romance between Timmy and Eliza. As Eliza was separated from her husband after his infidelity, Timmy’s childhood crush on her was reignited and the whole series seems to be centrally focused on building up their potential relationship. The issue was that it was introduced almost immediately into the show, completely railroading the reason I wanted to watch the show: Blockbuster! I couldn’t help but sigh when I realized that this half-baked relationship arc was going to become the primary focus. Even when it all came to a head at the end and both characters break up with their significant others due to having feelings for one another, I honestly just couldn’t care less. 

While the characters are fun, their story arcs feel half-baked

Even though I enjoyed most of the side characters, their arcs didn’t really didn’t do much for me, aside from the Percy/Kayla one. I didn’t care about Carlos trying to get into film school, Hannah trying to follow her dreams or even Connie finding her old soul friend. It all just felt bland and everything didn’t fit well with the setting of running the last Blockbuster store. There were a lot of situations where so much is happening and all the characters seem to be doing their own thing that I was wondering- who is even running this store? 

I wanted to love “Blockbuster” with all my heart. I wanted to feel the nostalgia of going to pick out movies and the niche culture that comes with that. Yet, it was all soiled by scripts that seemingly care more about their set story arcs rather than respecting and playing to the strengths of the very thing that makes the show so marketable. Maybe the next season can find a way to balance things more, but as for this first season, “Blockbuster” was nothing more than an average disappointing sitcom.

I give “Blockbuster” a 5/10

“Blockbuster” is now available to watch on Netflix

Samuel M Acosta is a Senior Theatre Comprehensive Major and an Arts and Entertainment writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper and writing plays.

Images courtesy of Netflix

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