Squinters is – well, it’s not good, no denying that – but it’s also a show that manages to combine the worst of two worlds: the unchanging set-up of a bad sitcom with the repetitiveness of a bad sketch comedy. At barely over 20 minutes, there’s just enough time to re-establish the astoundingly boring set up –
– and seriously, this bears repeating: this is a show about ten or so people driving to work and back. It’s not a show about two or three people driving to work and back together so we really get to know their characters; nor is it a show with a range of people in various different comedy situations. By the time we’ve been reminded of the dynamic between each character, their segment is pretty much over; it’s a twenty two minute show where it feels like a quarter of the run time is spent telling us things we were told last week.
C’mon, one segment was literally:
“I’m sorry I got the job you wanted”
“You know I wanted that job”
“But the longer I have this job, the more money I will have for our joint business venture – now tell me comedy facts about people we will never see”
“Someone has two glass eyes, someone else is a hugger, a third someone is a spinster”
“Spinster is a funny word.”
“So is divorcee”
Roughly half of that was reminding us of what we were told last episode. Presumably we’ll be told it again in some form next episode, especially as nothing else actually happened with those characters.
And yet, reminding us of things we already know is vital because Squinters is a show based entirely on people sitting next to each other in their cars so the only possible source of comedy is the dynamic between them. There’s not enough time to do more than establish the various characters, yet establishing the characters is the only way anything going on here could possibly be amusing. It’s a sketch show where every sketch is the same and also the most boring set-up for a sketch imaginable; it’s like they actively worked hard to come up with a format that can’t possibly be funny.
That said, if you find Sam Simmons in and of himself amusing, then this show features a performance from Sam Simmons. We’re not being bitchy: he’s a performer who can make something out of nothing with his personal style of performance, and he’s definitely given nothing much to work with here. Tim Minchin is also someone in this show but again, with maybe four minutes of air time he’s not given the chance to do much more than get wacked in the nose.
We’re not saying that Squinters is produced by people who don’t know how to be funny. Who knows? Maybe they think that actual traffic reports and numerous shots of busy roads and highways are somehow making this show hilarious. Cutaways to boring stuff worked in The Office because treating boring stuff like it was interesting was the joke – and does anyone else remember that for a show seemingly set in a dull location, The Office was full of pranks and amusing visuals while also featuring broad characters with a solid comedy dynamic? In this we get jokes about forgetting to hang up your phone.
Best case scenario is, Squinters is a show written by people who think that television comedy begins and ends with a funny line. But even then, if the best description of Sam Simmons you can come up with is that he looks like “some kind of… Greek sex pest”, then you really need to work on the funny lines too. A joke that a bad painting of a woman reminds her of Salvador Dali – not his style of painting, his actual face – isn’t bad, but this format just throws it out there with no support.
Then again, if your idea of a great comedy character for 2018 is “humourless teen girl feminist”, maybe exploring your characters in more depth isn’t going to help matters.