Known as Næturvaktin (2007-) in its native Icelandic, The Night Shift is a workplace sitcom chronicling life at a gas station's night shift. The setting is very limited, taking place almost exclusively at the gas station itself or a nearby drive-through.
On the surface, the show is about the boss from hell making the two timid employees under his command miserable in absurd and ridiculous ways. Underneath the surface, however, the characters have a surprising amount of depth and realism, and in the end the series is as much a slowly unfolding character study as a comedy.
The principal cast consists of:
Georg Bjarnfreðarson - At a glance, simply the boss from hell. He torments his underlings relentlessly through insisting on enforcing inane bureaucratic procedures, dishing out seemingly innocuous but cruel punishments for minor offenses, and being passive-aggressive. Later in the series he turns out to be an impressively Rounded Character with an elaborate backstory and childhood issues that reveal his behaviour to be surprisingly well-founded in realistic psychological complexes.
Daníel Sævarsson - A medical school drop-out who applies for a job at the gas station at the beginning of the series as he tries to find himself. Very shy, introverted and an Extreme Doormat, he mostly tolerates Georg's abuse quietly.
Ólafur Ragnar Hannesson - Shares given names with the president of Iceland, which is part of the comedy of his character being a rather naive, simplistic loser whose attempts to be a cool cat are laughably pathetic. He manages a band in his free time, but isn't very good at it. He has been working at the gas station longer than Georg, but is still on the receiving end of the worst of his abuse, and though he occasionally protests, Georg's overbearing manner is quick to shut him up.
The series enjoyed enormous success in Iceland and was followed by two sequel series, Dagvaktin (The Day Shift) and Fangavaktin (The Jail Shift), before being wrapped up with a movie, Bjarnfreðarson. All the sequels have a considerably less limited setting than the first series. In May 2011, the series started airing subtitled on BBC Four. A possible American remake has also been discussed, which would turn Georg into a survivalist and Daníel into a playboy.
Tropes used in all three TV series and the movie include:
- Accidental Murder: Georg kills Gugga in self-defense when she makes sexual advances on him.
- Can't Hold His Liquor: Daníel.
- Cerebus Syndrome: At the start it's a sitcom about some guys working at a gas station with a horrible boss. The second series has rape and murder, not played for laughs. The third takes place in prison. The movie's main plot is a full-blown exploration of how abused children go on to abuse their children, the lasting consequences of such abuse, and how the characters find themselves in life. It never stops being funny and the characters had depth from the beginning, but the focus shifts considerably towards the drama side.
- Character Title: The movie is called Bjarnfreðarson, referring to Georg's last name. Notably, last names in Icelandic aren't used the way last names in English are, so the use of his last name (a matronym) symbolizes the way that Georg is defined by being the son of his mother.
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted. Óli is raped several times by a drunken Gugga in Dagvaktin; he does his best to pretend he's fine and it was no big deal, but it obviously screws him up, and once Daníel has gotten drunk enough to have the courage to talk about it, he identifies it as being rape and is appropriately horrified.
- Extreme Doormat: Daníel.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Georg tends to be this.
- Momma's Boy: Georg.
- Mushroom Samba: One episode of Dagvaktin.
- My Beloved Smother: Bjarnfreður to Georg.
- New Season, New Name: Season two of Næturvaktin is called Dagvaktin; season three is called Fangavaktin.
- Snowball Lie: In Dagvaktin, Georg lies that Gugga was killed by Daníel, not him and gets Daníel to help him with the cover-up under the pretense of helping him.
- Stealth Insult: Georg loves to 'encourage' people on the basis that they're of 'average intellect'.
- Worthless Foreign Degree: He's not a foreigner, but Georg supposedly has five university degrees from Sweden... and yet he works at a gas station.
- Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: Bjarnfreður was bummed, and so by extension was Georg.