Those still grieving the passing of some 9,000 Blockbuster stores thanks to the convenience of streaming platforms will be disappointed to hear that Netflix has killed Blockbuster all over again.
This time it’s in the form of the original comedy series Blockbuster, cancelled after only ten episodes, according to Deadline. The show followed Timmy Yoon, a man determined to keep the last Blockbuster store in America open as the world moved on.
Unlike many of Netflix’s 2022 cancellations, this one is neither surprising nor — bluntly — particularly disappointing. Despite having a stellar cast featuring the likes of Randall Park (Fresh of the Boat), Melissa Fumero (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and JB Smoove (Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm), the show failed to break Netflix’s weekly top ten most-watched shows and was roundly panned by critics.
At the time of writing, Blockbuster's Rotten Tomatoes score sits at a lousy 22% fresh with the critics, and a barely better 45% with viewers. If Netflix’s intent was to kill any nostalgia for the pre-streaming era where picking out the evening’s entertainment would be an adventure in itself, then it’s definitely succeeded.
A show that essentially makes streaming platforms the villain was always going to be tough for a company like Netflix to do well, as pointed out by Variety’s review. “Unable to criticize the very entertainment model putting brick and mortar rental places out of business, but trying to sell a scrappy story of comeback kids all the same, Blockbuster quickly gets stuck in a low gear,” writes Caroline Framke.
“You don’t watch this show the way you watch other shows,” writes Chris Wasser of the Irish Independent. “You just stare at it every now and then and sometimes forget about it while it’s still playing.”
In other words, if the show existed in the era it parodies, “you’d likely return to the video store before you actually got around to finishing it,” according to Chase Hutchinson of Collider.
Even the positive reviews are on the lukewarm end of the spectrum. “If you’re looking for some comedy comfort food that will wash over you and then be gone from your mind, this fits the bill,” writes Pajiba’s Jen Maravegias, adding that “there are some laughs to be had and nobody involved is particularly objectionable.” Quite a low bar for a comedy show to clear.
I’ve written before that Netflix’s trigger-happy approach to killing off shows is something that makes me deeply uncomfortable. That’s both because some classics take a couple of seasons to bed in (Seinfeld and The Office to name but two) and because trial by ratings falls apart when viewers don’t take a chance on new shows for fear of cancellation.
But in this case, it’s hard to argue that Netflix had much choice. With no interest from viewers and a critical panning from those who suffered through it, recommissioning Blockbuster while quality shows like Warrior Nun, The Midnight Gospel and Archive 81 get axed would just be bizarre.