Icelandic comedy series Næturvaktin (The Night Shift) was aired on BBC 4 last Monday to mixed reviews from both critics and viewers alike.
The Night Shift revolves around three characters working at a gas station, and employs a combination of cringe humour and pathos as we follow their working nights. After airing in the UK, reactions have proven to be rather mixed.
The Independent’s Brian Viner said of the series, “Turns of phrase, and language generally, tend to be pivotal in what makes us laugh, so The Night Shift, an Icelandic comedy with subtitles, is something of a risk. It is set in a petrol station, and if you come from Reykjavik it’s probably very funny indeed. But I don’t. Incidentally, it took me five minutes to work out that it was an import, there being so many impenetrable foreign languages behind the tills of our petrol stations these days that at first I assumed it was set in Woking.”
A review from The Arts Desk took it a step further in a lengthy review which reads in part, “The acting was good and the atmosphere authentically unsettling. There were some nicely evocative moments which captured the weird, dislocating experience of being awake in the middle of the night … However, unlike obvious influences such as The Office and Flight of the Conchords, genuine laughs were thin on the ground. Some of the set pieces were entry-level examples of the comedy of embarrassment.”
However, Vísir found a number of viewer responses to the series on Twitter which were more positive, among them, “The Night Shift, Icelandic comedy on BBC 4: totally compelling in its bizarre humour.” and “Who’da thought Icelandic sitcoms were damn funny?”
The Grapevine encourages our readers to check out the series for themselves. As someone who speaks both English and Icelandic, I can personally attest that the subtitles are quite good.