Well hey howdy hey, my beautiful bi babies! Well, I know you’re not babies. For one thing, I don’t want to be ageist. For another, many who are newly out can find the term bi babies to be a patronizing term, and I totally get that. Also, babies can’t read. So please know that that is a term of endearment for you, dear readers, and not one of discernment of age or experience.
Now then. I, like many of those reading this, are children of the 80s, 90s, and before and just a bit after that that have a visceral reaction to the name Blockbuster Video. For me, I was more of a Captain Video girl, but I still vividly remember wandering up and down those aisles of racks with blue and white boxes on heady Friday nights with high school friends, trying to find the perfect video we could enjoy or troll together. The drop box! The late fees! The impossibly stale candy in the checkout line! Yes, the video store had it all — until, of course, streamers took over and pretty much ran them out of business.
All but one, of course — the last remaining Blockbuster store up in Bend, Oregon. It remains a fount of nostalgia and the last of the video-old guard. I remember reading that there was a documentary about the old workhorse, but was surprised when I fired up Netflix and saw in a preview a few familiar faces of comedy doing some expositional dialogue. I figured the stalwart had inspired not only a documentary but a dramatization of its feel-good story and moved on to finishing a binge of whatever I was tuning in for. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that a friend from my bi support group mentioned that there was something interesting about the series. So I decided to investigate on behalf of this column.
First and foremost, I should note that there will be a few SPOILERS in this review, in order for me to fully discuss any and all queerness on display in this 2022 comedy. This is also where I would normally convey any content warnings, but to be honest, there isn’t too much that’s alarming and needing a heads-up. But if you wanna make sure, this site is good at checking for triggers (including stuff I wouldn’t typically think to warn about). Finally, if this is your first time around these here parts, cowpoke — and by “parts” I mean the Unicorn Scale — you can find out all about the metric at this handy-dandy little link.
Blockbuster is a workplace comedy, setting the final video store in Michigan instead. When Timmy (Randall Park), the manager and cheerful leader of his motley crew of workers, gets word from corporate that they are closing the final branches and that his is the last store standing, he makes it his life’s mission to keep the business afloat in a world used to the convenience of streaming content.
What I Liked:
There are a lot of excellent elements to this fledgling comedy, but I want to highlight and zero in on one of the main characters, Carlos (Tyler Alvarez), a sarcastic but ambitious director who utilizes his filmmaking skills to best benefit keeping the store going. At first, I wasn’t particularly impressed by his character — probably because I live in Los Angeles and have met too many male wannabe creatives who think Quentin Tarantino just about hung the moon — but there was much more to his character than met the eye in this pilot.
Around the third episode, Carlos’ jealousy of a plucky male intern quickly turns romantic, leading him to stop mid-makeout to make it explicitly clear that he’s an out and proud bi man. Yay!
There’s so much to love here about Carlos. Here we have a character that is a bi man of color — something all-too-rare in the queer offerings of modern television, other than the spectacular Gael on Good Trouble. We also have the added bonus of Carlos being played by Alvarez, who came out as gay in 2021 and can bring real-life experience to the character.
But there are other things I really appreciate about how Blockbuster treats Carlos. Yes, he’s bi and uses the word to describe himself liberally, but that’s not the only interesting thing about him. He has hopes and dreams of getting into a filmmaking program. He has a female friend in Hannah (Madeleine Arthur) whom the writers never take the shortcut into putting them through the friends-to-lovers pipeline that often happens with workplace comedy — especially with bi men. Carlos is also a son of immigrants and talks often about how that is both a source of pride, a specific viewpoint, and how that can hinder him in the pursuit of his dreams.
Perhaps most importantly, Carlos’ bisexuality is never really made to be the butt of a joke. There is an episode where he gets the B storyline of coworkers Hannah and Connie (Olga Merediz) trying to nail down his type, but that’s about figuring out the personality he’s attracted to rather than figuring out the percentage of the time he’s attracted to men or women. (In fact, the storyline makes sure to not work in a gender binary and has Carlos finding himself attracted to a nonbinary character who uses they/them pronouns.) It ended up being a refreshing way of turning a stereotype I’ve seen for years with bi characters getting turned on its head.
What I Didn't Like:
As far as bisexuality? Nope, ticked just about every box I can think of.
While Blockbuster may not tickle everyone’s funny bone — either with nostalgic jokes or its particular flavor of comedy — I can find no fault with how it treats its queer characters. Carlos gives us a queer man of color who is both proud of his bisexuality and so much more than his sexual identity. I only wish we had more characters like him I could see in forms of entertainment — both analog and digital.