Be Kind, Rewind: 'Blockbuster' Comedy Revives VHS, DVD Memories

Do you remember your last video rental?

This nostalgic question arises from sampling a new Netflix comedy series dropping November 3 that is set in a Blockbuster Video store.

The show is only partly nostalgic, however. While it includes many references to the past glories of VHS and DVD rentals before the rise of streaming, the show takes place here in the present day, in the last Blockbuster store in America.

In the series, titled “Blockbuster,” the last Blockbuster standing is a fictional store located in Michigan,

But in real life, there actually is a last Blockbuster located in Bend, Oregon.

Whether or not the creators of the show were inspired by the real-life last Blockbuster cannot be determined from the information posted on the Netflix Press Center website.



In the first episode of the series that the TV Blog previewed last week, the store’s manager (or possibly owner -- the publicity materials do not specify), Timmy Yoon (Randall Park, above photo right), learns from Blockbuster corporate that all of the remaining stores are being closed, except his.

Not surprisingly, the news jars Yoon and his small group of employees as they try and make plans to survive in a modern world where no one rents videos anymore.

I would now delve into the qualities of the show in the manner of a review, but the Netflix p.r. department has placed an embargo on reviews of the show until the morning of November 3, which is the very morning the show will make its debut.

I will refrain from my usual speech complaining about these embargoes, but they strike me as counter-intuitive. 

Nevertheless, this particular embargo will not stand in the way of my liking this show. Sorry if that reads like an opinion, Netflix, but please don’t complain just now. I am placing an embargo on all complaints until November 4.

The show is really a rumination on the contrast between our interconnected, digital world -- in which we are not really well-connected at all -- and the pre-social media era when much of our interpersonal interactions were in person, or at least on the phone in actual conversation.

Timmy Yoon prefers the latter, and believes strongly that his video store, in which customers and staff members are united in their mutual interest in movies, is a bastion of old-school, face-to-face human interaction that is worth saving.

Before stumbling onto this show last week, I had no idea that there was a last Blockbuster store that was still in business.

It became the last Blockbuster in America just four years ago, in 2018, and the last one in the world in 2019.

A quick history, according to Wikipedia and other internet sources: Blockbuster, which once had as many as 9,000 stories, closed its last corporate-owned stores in 2014, after which 50 franchise stores remained open.

In the four years between 2014 and 2018, all of the other franchises closed, and the Bend store remained, and still does.

As for the question above that leads into this TV Blog, our last video rental must have happened around 2013 or thereabouts when we rented DVDs of the first two seasons of “Downton Abbey” (we were latecomers to the show) from a small video store in our neighborhood that we rarely ever used.

For all we know, it was the last one left in Manhattan, but whether it was the last is irrelevant. It closed years ago.

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