That ownership continues with creator Vanessa Ramos’ “Blockbuster,” a cute, affable, and fairly forgettable workplace comedy that takes place inside the last remaining of the stores, and uses it mostly for general shenanigans that would work any other place. But here, the employees are a pseudo dysfunctional family who talk about movies a lot (more on that later), and don’t have to worry too much about their store’s relevancy. The corporate headquarters shuts down in the first episode, making it an “independent” store along with everything else in the Michigan strip mall in which it resides. (Netflix has a few jokes in this episode that wink at how the viewing market has changed, and it’s tacky if not crass.)
Randall Park plays Blockbuster manager Timmy in the show, and his sincere comic performance provides an anchor to the wackiness that ensues around him involving his employees. He works alongside Eliza (Melissa Fumero), who is looking to get out of the business while stuck in a bad marriage; Hannah (Madeleine Arthur), who doesn’t understand movie references; Carlos, a film student who helps make a viral video that puts Timmy’s Blockbuster into the public eye and keeps it open after a freak accident involving fireworks; and Connie (Olga Merediz), the kookiest and most comical of the bunch, which can make for some of the series’ more eye-rolling character threads. And then there’s Kayla (Kamaia Fairburn), who can’t wait to leave, but is pressured into keeping her job by her father Percy (J.B. Smoove), who owns the strip mall and depending on the day can be Timmy’s biggest friend or foe.
The dialogue is extra sitcom-y, limiting its wit more or less to characters always exchanging movie references like Mad Libs. Here’s one: “You may be slower on a computer than a DMV sloth in ‘Zootopia’ but you’re all I got!” The show tests your sense of whether characters talking about movies so openly is funny—as with that quote, I found it a little draining, but at least it’s consistent. And then every now and then it’ll batch references in a manner that can best be called impressive, like when a single sentence mentions both “Escape Room 2” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” And as a film world-savvy show, it did get a big laugh from me when some said “There’s no worse sound in the world than a man describing film terms.”