One of the many things that makes television reviewing such a disreputable profession is that television reviewers rarely have to stand by their judgements. Usually they review an upcoming show with some variation of the phrase “check it out, it’s worth a look” and then move on – some might say flee the scene – without ever having to face the consequences of their recommendations. Book and film reviewers at least cover the entire thing with their review, so if they decide to praise a turd they have no escape; television critics almost never bother returning to see if a show really was worth all that praise they ladled out.
Fortunately, Squinters was no good right from the start. And it was no good in a way that should have sent alarm bells ringing rather than having most Australian critics handing out the kind of fullsome praise that promises little and means even less. Previous car-based sitcoms at least focused on a handful of characters; with a cast in double figures and a run time barely double that, there was barely time for Squinters to set up sketch comedy jokes, let alone anything character-based. And then everyone was doing the exact same thing in every episode – driving to and from work – which meant all the sketches were the same.
It was a show seemingly designed to stymie any attempt to make it funny. Broader, sillier characters would have been funnier at first, then rapidly annoying over six episodes; more character development would only have been possible with less characters, and presumably the big names on the show – only they weren’t really names big enough to make this a must-see – were only doing it because it didn’t ask too much of them.
The list goes on. Driving to and from work is not funny; sitting next to someone in a car isn’t funny; traffic reports aren’t funny – and why were the traffic reports on Squinters played straight anyway? Who sat in the writers room and said “this show about people driving to and from work is only going to work if we make the experience of commuting as realistic as possible – only clearly none of us have ever commuted to work in our lives and the show isn’t about the actual real experience of commuting anyway so lets just bung in some traffic reports. Don’t make them funny though”?
When you watch a classic sitcom, one thing is clear: they’re trying to be funny pretty much all the time. Even the bits that don’t seem funny at first are setting up jokes for later on. With Squinters, a show so doggedly lacking in humour that referring to it in any way as a comedy is a breach of the trade descriptions act, the joke being set up was on everyone who watched it.
After all, they should be announcing a second series any day now.