What’s it like working at the last Blockbuster in existence? Well, it’s just like any other workplace comedy, really, except the employees have a bit of a distaste toward Netflix and its algorithms — which might be odd for a series that’s literally a Netflix original. But according to executive producer Vanessa Ramos, the streaming giant was more than onboard with poking fun at themselves; they encouraged it.
In “Blockbuster,” now streaming its entire first season on Netflix, store manager Timmy (Randall Park) is informed that he is now the manager of the last Blockbuster in existence. Even corporate has gone under, so he’s a sole owner of his store. This means a whole lot of freedom for Timmy, but also a lot of stress, knowing that he’s now in a streaming age.
There’s no shortage of jokes at the expense of Netflix and other streamers in the premiere episode, and in the first season at large. And as Ramos tells it, those jokes were actually a priority for her and for Netflix at large.
“Honestly, like, they were pretty onboard. The execs they have over there are great, and we were on the same page like ‘OK, it’s super weird if we don’t address this,'” Ramos explained to TheWrap. “It’s like way worse than like, people, you know, wearing the blood of our enemies. It’s amplified if we just pretend like nothing, you know?”
But how exactly is Timmy supposed to compete with the all-knowing algorithms of the streamers? Well, he has help. His righthand woman Eliza (Melissa Fumero) has some ideas, despite being begrudgingly back in the job she had in high school, and supports Timmy along the way. Because what Blockbuster has that streamers don’t is a human element.
When a customer comes in, devastated from a breakup, he admits that Netflix’s algorithm only made things worse for him by suggesting “The Great British Bake-Off.” Turns out, his girlfriend left him for a pastry chef from Manchester. Enter Timmy, with the perfect post-breakup recommendation.
“It was just, I think, finding playful ways to do it,” Ramos said.
That said, Ramos also had to figure out how to make her cast stand out. With Fumero’s character in particular, Eliza needed to be “more of a mess” than Fumero’s past characters.
“Since I had worked with her on Brooklyn , I was very careful to not — I was like, ‘OK, this feels different than Amy Santiago,'” Ramos explained. “Like, Amy Santiago was put together and polished, versus Eliza is like rolling with the punches and… it was just sort of this, sort of like a more of a mess.”
Meanwhile, Randall Park’s character came to her instantly. According to Ramos, he was who she envisioned for Timmy while writing it.
“[Timmy] never comes across as fully like, you know, loser-y,” Ramos said. “He’s just like, likable and winning, and you’re inherently on his side. I don’t know, I can’t even describe what Randall brings to the show. Because it’s just, he has these great moments, both like, his choices and delivering lines.”
Thinking on it a moment longer, Ramos knows exactly what Park brings to “Blockbuster”: Special Guy Energy. You can watch TheWrap’s full interview with Vanessa Ramos in the video above.
All 10 episodes of “Blockbuster” are now streaming on Netflix.