Perusing all of the viewer feedback, reviews, and hot takes from critics in response to the streaming debut of Netflix’s new comedy Blockbuster must hurt the cast and crew who made the show.
A staggeringly awful 22% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. A not-much-better 42% audience score on the review site. Comments, one after another, along the lines of “The acting was bad, the writing was worse, but above all it was not remotely funny.”
To be sure, the response to this new workplace comedy is a bit of a head-scratcher all the way around. The two leads in Blockbuster — Randall Park and Melissa Fumero — might just be two of the most impossible to dislike humans on the face of the earth. The writers on the show had previously worked on gems like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Superstore. On paper, at least, you could have been forgiven for thinking this one might be a runaway sitcom hit for the streaming giant.
At least two things are going on here that I think are worth pointing out, by way of contextualizing all the bad reviews.
: There’s no way to say for sure how much this might have changed things in hindsight, but I suspect that placing the whole affair inside an (air-quotes) actual Blockbuster store — rather than, say, a generic video store along the lines of the big-box retailer in something like Superstore — might have worked against the series.
I think this decision meant that a lot of viewers came to the show intrigued by the novelty of Netflix making a show about the one-time rival that it pounded into the fine dust of irrelevance. They were perhaps surprised — or put off, even — to see that this is not really a show about Blockbuster. It’s a sitcom that just happens to be set in one.
Something else to consider
: I have, in fact, also seen a number of reviews from both critics and fans that either mention outright or allude to the fact that they only watched part of the season. Along the lines of — yuck, the first episode was awful, so I turned it off.
And that’s unfortunate, because you really can’t … do that, and honestly tell yourself you’ve gotten the full measure of something. Like, let me tell you — this new book was awful. Mind you, I only read the first chapter, but my decision has been made!
As someone who was looking forward to Netflix's #Blockbuster show, I hate to say this but it's genuinely one of the most unfunny shows I've seen in such a long time. It's so bad (or insufferable) that I unfortunately couldn't finish the first episode. #blockbusternetflix pic.twitter.com/Z0aX3aNefR
— A Holly Jolly Justin 🎄 (@IDontBeatGames) November 3, 2022
Who Blockbuster is perfect for: Having watched all 10 episodes, I can tell you that it checked a very specific box for me. It’s very much, in my opinion, the TV equivalent of comfort food, where I can zone out and just relax. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t have to aspire to Game of Thrones-level excellence.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that reviews and scores from a site like Rotten Tomatoes aren’t always a comprehensive guide to sentiment about a particular title. At best, they reflect the feelings of a subset of viewers — specifically, the most passionate viewers, the ones who watched and bothered to share some thoughts on a website.
Moreover, I found one Rotten Tomatoes viewer who wrote how much they hated the show, but gave it a 5-star score anyway. Others left terse comments about comedy being too woke these days, which seemed to be less aimed at Blockbuster and more so at the genre in general. Different strokes, I guess.
More Netflix news