Posted by: Ben Hopkins | 10/05/2011

Reaction to Næturvaktin / The Night Shift on BBC4

Næturvaktin / The Night Shift finally made it to UK television last night and it certainly seemed a little odd to see Georg, Daniel and Olafur staring back at me at a time when Family Guy, repeats of Eighties darts quiz show Bullseye (it’s an English thing) and true crime documentaries would usually dominate the screen.

Given BBC4’s weekly market share of 3.8% of the television audience, it’s no surprise that reviews of the show are somewhat thin on the ground.

An especially succinct preview courtesy of The Guardian was positive, admitting that it’s not an obvious ratings winner but that it comes to these shores with a fine reputation.

The Independent is at the time of writing the only national paper I’ve found to have run a review, albeit almost entirely negative. Admittedly, the series is a slow burner that takes a while to unfold, but Brian Viner’s review is undermined by dedicating half of his word count to his own “joke.” (Not that I spend much time frequenting petrol stations, but I would assume it’s a dig at Polish immigrants).

Away from the broadsheets, The Arts Desk’s review was equally scathing but at least much more eloquently argued. In their mind, the show’s negatives (glacial bleakness, a lack of general laughs, Georg’s unpleasantness) outweighed the positives (its strange charm, good acting and unsettling atmosphere).

As for previews, a brief interview with Ragnar Bragason featured in daily free newspaper Metro who generally have a greater than average interest in covering alternative film, music, television and comedy. Bragason discusses comparisons with The Office, the Icelandic sense of humour and the upcoming American remake.


  1. I enjoyed Episode 1, will definitely be sticking with it! I worked in a similar kind of petrol station one summer in the UK. I really enjoyed the film Jar City, too 😉

    • Glad to have found another fan. Despite the mediocre reviews, there’s been a fair bit of interest from what I’ve read elsewhere and the hundreds of searches I’ve had for it in the past few days.

      Hopefully it’ll do well enough for the BBC to pick up the subsequent two series (which really evolve the characters and the story btw). And the film too, if only to save me the extortionate cost of getting a copy posted over here…

  2. I thought this was brilliant, will have to buy the DVD.

  3. Great series. Well written, well acted and very very funny. Hope the BBC show the follow-up series.

    There’s been mainly positive reactions on the DS TV forums

    • Excellent, seems people are getting it even if the initial reviews were mixed.

  4. My wife and I are absolutely loving the series. Funny stuff. Hope they release the shows on DVD in the UK

    • You could buy this series (and the others if you’re eager / flush) from Nammi.

  5. I watched the first 8 episodes on BBC iPlayer and think the show is great. It took a couple episodes to develop the characters, but the payoff is fantastic. I love it!

    • Keep watching – the ending is great.

  6. I must admit I have found this engaging and entertaining. It is a little dark but that is very much in its favour. With this and the insanely depressing subtitled Wallander films I am beginning to feel some affinity with Nordic culture….

    • I want to get into Wallander, but don’t trust myself to commit to all twenty-six (?) episodes.

  7. Utterly brilliant, I loved it, loved it. Stupendous, brilliant, hilarious, tragic, comedic, each character revealing a little bit of themselves every time and we learn something new about them and I am absolutely hooked and I want more! That poster is fabulous and so iconic.

    • I’d forgotten all about that poster – there’s got to be some money in selling them for someone? I’d buy one for sure.

  8. […] which will go into shooting this summer. Click here for the piece. Also on Iceland On Screen; a summary of the reaction to The Night Shift which has just finished its run on […]

  9. Is this the same Brian Viner who wrote off Father Ted after the first episode?

    Personally, I loved it. This is what I have been missing from TV since the early 90’s. The lack of quality European imports is at last being redressed by BBC4.

    Can wait for the next 2 series and the film.

  10. Re reviews being thin on the ground, I wrote a positive blog post about the series after watching the first two episodes on BBC 4 and the BBC have linked to it on their page about The Night Shift, so I hope that will help publicise the programme.

    It is unlikely to come with Icelandic subtitles, but may I recommend the DVD of 1990s UK sitcom Nightingales? It takes a similar situation – three security guards in a deserted office block – but travels lunar distances beyond the naturalism of The Night Shift …

    Tony aka Pismotality

    • Good review, thanks for the link.

      Funnily enough, I don’t recall Nightingales at all despite it having Robert Lindsay in it – although I guess Channel 4 used to have lots of short lived comedies around that time that didn’t reach much of an audience. It sounds like an old school Brit sitcom with a bit of the surreal side of The Mighty Boosh and Spaced – would you agree?

  11. If you enjoyed the night shift can you please show your support by posting a comment on the BBC4 “your say” page.
    Feedback on that page does get back to BBC4 management and having positive comments posted there could help with getting the other “shift” series shown.

  12. Darker and more disturbing than either, I’d say. It’s currently available on amazon for 7.99 (both series) and is well worth taking a chance on.

  13. My partner and I are both loving Næturvaktin on BBC4 – very funny, extremely well acted and amazingly well written. We’re both hoping that BBC4 decide to show the two follow-on series and the film. Fabulous stuff.

  14. I wouldn’t be depressed about initial press reaction ; its a quiet storm and gathering pace .. great stuff .. I can guarantee you’ll be hearing and reading more positive notices in future.. I love it, love it, love it.. another series and a film ; can’t wait

  15. Loved both Naeturvatkin and Jar City – both very atmospheric. Can’t wait to catch up with Georg, Oli & Daniel.

  16. I loved Næturvaktin, the humour is right up my street – I’m so glad we spotted it channel flicking one night. I’ve ordered the DVDs of Dagvaktin & Fangavaktin already!

    Can anyone tell me what exactly the Icelandic word is that Ólafur uses when the subtitle translation is ‘Right!’

    • I’m way late to this, but the word is “sæll”. Which actually means more like “hi”; he uses it in a way I’d have translated like “Aw man!” (esp. when he says “Sæll maður!” – maður = man) . One of my favorite parts (which my bf and I still joke about with each other) is when he’s listening to music and singing a song whose only lyrics are “Já fínt! Já sæll!” over and over (Já = yes; fínt = fine).

  17. ‘The Night Shift’ was great late night viewing. The three main characters are brilliantly drawn and the scenarios that allow the madness of Georg to flourish are hilarious and embarassing at the same time. The inclusion of the Georgs’ son as silent embarassed witness to his fathers’ madness (while hero worshiping Olafur) is a great added touch to the ensemble. I hope BBC show the next series.

  18. I absolutely loved the Night Shift, and suffered withdrawal symptoms when the series finished. Please BBC4 bring on the next series soon and make a lady in her seventies very happy.

  19. You can buy them all here at shopicelandic and as Iceland DVD’s are region 2 they’ll play ok in the UK. mind you they’re not cheap and I didnt even look at p+p cost but well worth it im sure.

    Hope this helps somebody.

  20. Hello! Where could I find music of those episodes? I found one great song, but I dont know which song is on it 🙂 It was in the end of “The day shift” or “Dagvaktin”, in season 2 episode 7 🙂

  21. Its Minimal by Andri Karel !!

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