Blockbuster Episode 2 Review: “Blockbuster Daddy” Is Alarmingly Limp

After a stunningly disappointing pilot, Blockbuster‘s second episode “Blockbuster Daddy” seems a natural opportunity for a do-over. Framed around Timmy’s reluctant attempts to find an employee to fire, which will be extremely familiar to anyone who’s seen The Office‘s “Halloween” (just replace Rainn Wilson with JB Smoove and you’re most of the way there), “Blockbuster Daddy” smartly provides itself a premise where it can begin to explore its ensemble a bit further through its main character, a natural avenue for a young sitcom to being forging its identity… and maybe even be a little bit funny (crazy idea!).

And yet, “Blockbuster Daddy” is does none of this, an episode that relies way, way too much on JB Smoove riffing to cover up for some strikingly limp, unfunny storytelling. By leaning even harder into its dissonant character dynamics and clearly miscast characters, Blockbuster‘s second episode feels strangely content relying on an unrewarding combination of flat dialogue and lifeless storytelling choices.

Blockbuster Blockbuster Daddy

Timmy having to step up and make a difficult professional decision should be a layup for the young series, one that forces him to embody the former cold, corporate attitude of Blockbuster instead of the cool, indie video store guy he wants the store to represent now. Instead of embrace that, “Blockbuster Daddy” has its titular Daddy spent as little time with his employees as possible after the cold open; it doesn’t allow anyone but Smoove’s Percy to have a lasting physical presence around him (save for Eliza here and there, to remind us of the lame rom-com subplot forced into the proceedings), which doesn’t allow us to see the world as Timmy sees it.

This lack of understanding our protagonist’s perception beyond “his parents died young, so he never left his hometown”, or willingness to allow audiences to experience it and draw their own conclusions, is really holding Blockbuster back from finding a way to connect with its audience. It is clearly not trying to be a meta-heavy comedy about The Age of Streaming, the death knolls of physical media and community spaces – or even something lesser, like a limp-dicked version of Superstore poking light fun at its corporate, shareholder driven destiny. It wants to be a show about Characters and Emotion – but all Blockbuster has offered is detached nostalgia, with so much of the episode either spent reminiscing about events that took place decades before the pilot, or trying desperately to establish itself as Culturally Relevant in some vague, dismissive way (here, it’s Percy telling his daughter to leave a meeting with Timmy with the bait of yelling at someone about their privilege; “you love to do that, baby” he says to her).

But it wants to be a show about characters without understanding what makes them interesting. Timmy could be an interesting character, even in an ironic sense: a past-his-prime burnout who has a wrongheaded intention to re-establish a corporate entity as a small business is a more interesting Timmy – or even a corporate fuck boy left to fend for himself would be a more interesting blueprint than “guy whose personality traits are Earnest, Earnest, and Too Earnest”. And boy, does “Blockbuster Daddy” feed into that strange dichotomy with even more dissonance between character and performance, in what’s unfortunately shaping up to be one of the biggest disappointments of the year.

Blockbuster Blockbuster Daddy

It’s no fault of Park; all three stories of “Blockbuster Daddy” – which include Eliza screaming “I’m a terrible mom!” because her daughter is a terrible songwriter, and this weird runner about Carlos mourning the death of a local film critic because he had no friends growing up – follow the same emotional tenor, even though they are ostensibly three completely different stories and emotional journeys. There’s no connective thread between the three – and even more strangely, no real overlap between the plots and characters themselves, which makes for a strangely paced episode oscillating between Timmy sighing, Eliza being obnoxious (and everyone responding in kind), which doesn’t leave a ton of room to establish the other characters of the series – which is what Blockbuster so desperately needs.

Anyone whose read me before knows how I feel about judging a sitcom after two episodes; a young comedy needs some good filler, some time to just hang out and let us get to understand the dynamics between its characters. Blockbuster‘s stilted, half-hearted (and often misappropriated) stories have failed to do this in its first two episodes, and its aggressively unfunny attempts at humor are not endearing me to its potential for growth – I’m certainly not giving up on the series yet, but an extremely underwhelming first hour does not portend well for the season to come. Here’s hoping I’m wrong!

Grade: D

Other thoughts/observations:

  • This episode ends with Percy… just agreeing to pay his daughter’s salary? Ok, sure!
  • The real joke is that this episode opens with Timmy trying to figure out how to save his employee’s benefits – as if they actually would have any benefits.
  • There’s a hint of a good story with Connie’s monologue about escaping life’s monotony by working at a video store…. but it is so short and forgotten so quickly, I thought I had fever dreamed it until my second viewing of the episode.
  • Timmy jokes about being at work at 8am to “rise and grind like the sports people say”, and also jokes about Justin Beiber’s “monkey incident”. What are we even doing here?
  • “You and Harold are like a platonic rom-com” is the kind of wooden dialogue this show offers in scene after scene.
  • Speaking of Harold, it is revealed at the end that the dead film critic abused ferrets? On a weirder, looser series this would be a great, ironic punchline – here, it just feels out of place, played with a tightness that squeezes any comedy or pathos out of the moment.

Randy Dankievitch

Randy is the founder of Processed Media and The Mid-Season Replacements Podcast, and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved TV critic. He's written about TV and culture across the internet since 2010, and also writes for UpPortland Magazine and Goomba Stomp/Tilt Magazine.

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