Posted by: Ben Hopkins | 28/08/2009

Dagvaktin / Day Shift

Director: Ragnar Bragason
Year: 2008

It’s been a long road for our disparate group of friends since the end of
Naeturvaktin
. Individually they haven’t fared particularly well – Georg’s Swedish utopia ended in dismissal, Olafur’s dreams of anything ever going right for him have once again failed miserably and Daniel is initially conspicious only by his absence.

Fate has reunited them at
Hotel Bjarkalundur
in the remote north-west of Iceland. And so television’s finest petrol attendants are back as a team with one real difference; hotel hierarchy has promoted Daniel and relegated Georg to Olafur’s old role as the workplace whipping boy. It’s a grand comic irony given Daniel’s desire to avoid responsibility and Georg’s tyrannical desire to pursue a life of pedantic management.

The cast in front of the hotel

The cast in front of the hotel

While Naeturvaktin almost immediately encapsulated a realistic and welcomingly comic atmosphere, the first two episodes of Dagvaktin are a little underwhelming given their tendency to prioritise narrative developments over brilliant character comedy. The first quickly spans the gap in events since the previous series and the second episode strives to redefine the trio in their new environment. In terms of season structure it’s a necessary sacrifice although aside from a great flashback to Georg’s childhood (whenever either series has felt a little safe, there tends to be a sudden darkly twisted scene that would be deemed inappropriate in most ‘edgy’ British or American sitcoms), it’s a little flat.

But just as the fear that Naeturvaktin was a fluke begins to swell, Dagvaktin’s third outing proves to be not only the best installment of the show to date but also one of the greatest episodes of any sitcom. Without giving too much away, it utilises the show’s usual combination of profound social embarrassment with just about convincing levels of high farce to create comedy gold.

Dagvaktin cast2

Dagvaktin is evidently created with a higher budget than its altogether lower key parent; the cast is bigger (key newcomers being Gugga, a fan of sex, wine and shotguns, and the sour-faced father of Georg’s new special friend Odinn), the sets are more varied and the feeling is largely one of a fully realised production. Even Bjork contributes a brief cameo.

But the main reasons behind the Dagvaktin triumph are pretty simple. The writing breaks out of the simple observational sitcom style and evolves into a series capable of blending laughs with tense, unpredictable drama. Much of the season revolves around a dark turn of events that always threaten to crack the trio’s generally mellow existence into chaos. The tension ebbs and flows without release until Dagvaktin’s denouement, making its finale a truly compelling conclusion rather than just another episode.

Equally as important is Jörundur Ragnarsson’s evolution of Daniel. In Naeturvaktin, Daniel was really just a supporting oddity to lead oddities Georg and Olafur. The script has shaped him into an more convincing character, one that wants to protect his slacker ways while also evoking a sense of uncertainty over his unfulfilled potential. Yet Ragnarsson really pulls Daniel out of his earlier shell with a naturalistic flow of expressions that range from happily indifferent to utterly panic stricken and every angle in between – all the while maintaining the comic lines that define Dagvaktin. Oh, and he pulls one of acting’s greatest ever drunk faces.

Jorundur Ragnarsson as Daniel

Jorundur Ragnarsson as Daniel

And despite all that has come before it, the series ends with the most poignant shot of a gurning idiot that you’ll ever see.

The show’s popularity had lead to two further upcoming outings for Georg and co – a third series Fangavaktin / The Jail Shift, as well as a lead role for Georg in the film Bjarnfreðarson. It must be reaching an international audience too, given the amount of hits this site gets from people searching for Naeturvaktin or Dagvaktin to download free with English subtitles…

Dagvaktin / Day Shift is available online at Nammi.

“This must stop! We can’t let an average intelligent person and a drug addict control every move here.”

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Responses

  1. […] Check out Ben Hopkins’ review on The Night Shift here and The Day Shift here. […]

  2. […] Ævar Grímsson is one of the writers behind Næturvaktin / The Night Shift, its sequels Dagvaktin / The Day Shift and Fangavaktin / The Prison Shift, as well as the Bjarnfreðarson […]

  3. could anybody tell me where i can get Dagvaktin from on DVD for cheap? can only find it on icelandic sites which are charging about £25 for one DVD :S

    • I haven’t looked recently, but that was roughly the standard when I last checked it out. I think the main problem was the cost of postage.

      Usually I’ll order a bunch of things in one go which isn’t much of a solution but makes each item slightly better value for money. Nammi was narrowly the cheapest option.


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