Netflix’s “Blockbuster.” The Most Basic Version of Itself

It’s time to autopsy the failed Netflix “Blockbuster Video” sitcom. If one wants little in the way of creative concepts beyond watching a mega-corporation coast on a vague very tired concept across 10 tired sitcom episodes it’s this final product. When this project was first announced beyond the inherent meta-level of Netflix initially killing Blockbuster and now profiting off its demise. Along with the personal reverence and nostalgia Netflix could on paper bring certain audiences while making content for their streaming service. There were all sorts of things that could be done The only guideline within the premise is that it’s a set at real or fictitious the last Blockbuster Video. One could create a fictionalized account of the actual last Blockbuster in Bend Oragen taking some inspiration from its own 2020 documentary. . You could have it be a period piece set in the mid to late 90s height of video store culture. The branch focused on getting into all manner of creative high jinks and potentially interesting comedic dynamics with the other big box retail stores in and around their area. One could set it around 2008. The physical media rental market is in decline and your show is about The employees finding new revenue streams and markets to supplement their declining main business. This comes the closest to describing some actual content within the 10 episodes themselves but these story elements aren’t given enough screen time to have any major impact. Critically this author doesn’t think any of these potential premises involve thinking massively outside the box. They could be very salable to a mainstream audience with the right creative team. Unfortunately, none of these is the show Netflix produced.
The ultimate backhanded thing to say about the season of Blockbuster that we did get is that it is just a standard workplace sitcom. This is not to say it needs to be something with a huge amount of narrative depth or thematic analysis. Ultimately those kinds of audiences take any variety of fun or subjective enjoyment of something In an attempt to get audiences to see all the hidden depths in the latest niche “Media Twitter” golden goose. That said it’s alarming how much Blockbuster the Netflix show does not harvest any of the potential creative energies or paths it could take with a very simple premise. It just takes said concept plonks it into the modern day to enable the cast to reference contemporary culture and leaves it to that. The writing and performances are some of the most “plain white bread” feelings within the sitcom tropes in 2022. The sort of inoffensive 2.5/5 out of material that has its predetermined forgettable destiny stamped on it as soon as it arrives and is then permanently memory-holed. Having watched the opening episode the weekend it premiered as the credits rolled this viewer’s impression was that it was disappointing but more forgettable than outright awful. That said there’s potential in the premise and a potentially hugely nostalgic audience that hits multiple demographics if the show was any good. The final show is the sort of thing to immediately get branded the worst new internet punching bag for effectively being the most basic version of itself it possibly could be. This viewer has a suspicion that this 10-episode season will show up on future “worst TV ever” lists where it blatantly doesn’t belong. Having watched the first episode but in need of a filler slot within his show rotation that was unchallenging and inoffensively easy to watch this viewer ended up sitting through the full season. The show did not get any better. Critically it also did not do anything unforgivably atrocious that would truly place it among some of the worst Netflix shows. It features none of the hilariously out-of-touch cultural stereotypes of Emily in Paris (perfectly primed for hate-watching.) It’s nowhere near as disgusting, morally questionable or bizarrely successful as Big Mouth. It’s not some weird vanity project to massage the ego of spoiled celebrities like Jaden Smith and Ezra Koenig’s bizarre Neo Yokio. Nowhere near the world of Netflix’s live-action Resident Evil. The latter of which features a certain scene involving a Dua Lipa needle drop so baffling it has to be seen to be believed. It’s more tolerable than the one episode of the Meghan and Harry soapbox this writer gritted his teeth through. Blockbuster won’t inspire this level of hate-filled venom in anyone beyond those already enamoured with distinctly watching and hating this brand of basic Doug Walker adjacent reference and geeky sitcom comedy over genuine creative energy effort. All well they of course they, of course, contribute to their favourite overwritten video essayists’ Patreon.
Even in the context of having to defend Netflix’s Blockbuster from being not quite as unredeemable as sections of the internet will tell you there are still odd creative choices sprinkled throughout. Why are there distinctly more employees than customers in the store at any one time? Why is it so rare that we see anyone rent anything given that in this show’s universe the store represents the last opportunity to do this? Why it’s a character implied as bisexual at one point only for it never to be brought up again leaving the entire dropped thread feeling vaguely tokenistic? All of these questions are things the show doesn’t grapple with in service of feeling like an inoffensive and occasionally immediately amusing but somewhat stilted sitcom. It would be otherwise presented as a 22-episode season on what remains of the corporate and flailing husk of US network TV.
This viewer was left with the distinct suspicion that the one season of Netflix’s Blockbuster will turn up on future “worst TV of all time lists”.It does not deserve this distinction not precisely because it is any good but because it takes what might have been an interesting premise and executes it in the most basic and inoffensive way one can with no creative ambition whatsoever. For some, this will be enough to revel in its awfulness. In this writer’s mind, this shows it’s an aversion to any creative risk or automatically disqualifies it from planting itself anywhere near the camp of memorably atrocious. Sitcoms like this are a dime a dozen. Add Blockbuster to the pile. If you excuse this viewer he is off to see if Emily in Paris Season 3 has anything as mind-meltingly unredeemable as that atrocious cover of Falling Slowly from Once. John Carney should be metaphorically allowed to shoot one vile of undiluted rage venom in whatever form he chooses at the creative team
5/10.

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