You know how Squinters has directors listed in the credits? Ever wondered what they actually do? Because when you watch an episode of Squinters you rapidly notice that there are only ever three camera angles – a shot through the windshield, then shots through the drivers and passengers windows – and all you’d need to do to film a segment is set up cameras at each point and let them roll. There’s no deciding what to focus on in a scene or figuring out how to frame a shot. It’s just the same three angles, over and over and over and over and over and…
(okay, that guy did get hit by a bike at the end of tonight’s episode)
Look, Squinters has been more of the same since the second half of episode one season one, so pretty much all we’re here to tell you is that fuck-all has changed. Oh, plenty of superficial shit has changed, obviously: all the big names from series one have left, some of the cast have chopped and changed, the show seems slightly more aware that Sam Simmons is probably the best thing it has going for it, and Kirsten Schaal is here to make it clear that even really really good comedians struggle when all they’re given is a car seat to sit in. But the core of the show? Same old. Same old.
That’s always been the problem with Squinters, a show seemingly made on the cheap which also has to be filmed in both Sydney and LA: it’s rotten to the core (concept). Oh sure, the basic idea seems reasonable: let funny people talk and the funny will flow. But pretty much every single example of “let funny people talk” outside of shit talk shows lets the funny people talk for a reasonable length of time: Squinters chops its conversations up into segments under five minutes so all you get is a couple of near-random jokes and we’re off to the next couple.
Worse, the series’ fondness for improvised dialogue means that while there are plot lines that develop across episodes and the series as a whole, they move at a glacial pace. Pretty much all the real developments take place between episodes, leaving this feeling like a series that deliberately wants to be boring; meanwhile, whatever story does happen on the actual show is buried under a bunch of wacky riffs.
If you really do think that people sitting around talking is the funniest thing you can put on television – and not, just for example, radio – Squinters seems designed to do so in a way that’s been clinically proven not to work. Stand up comedy, AKA people being funny by talking, is usually either a bunch of different people doing short sets, or one person doing a lengthy performance. You don’t bring the same people back again and again and again to do short sets that are basically the same thing over and over again. Because it’s boring.
And if all that sounds a little vague and technical, let’s talk about Anne Edmonds doing her usual “I’m totally normal no wait I’m a shouty person” bit a full minute into her first appearance. Let’s listen to Sam Simmons repeating the word “man” over and over again until it loses all meaning. You want Genevieve Morris being Aussie as? Is this a show that features a chilled dude with a clucky girlfriend telling him he’s got to lay off the wanking because she just might want to have a baby? This isn’t a show serving up ground-breaking comedy.
All the other TV series that have used this basic idea of car-based comedy – there’s been lots, feel free to google them – have gone “well, this is a very cheap way to make a television show” and have used that as a strength. We’re talking two-handers between people with established comedy chemistry (or even a solo act in the case of Rob Brydon in Marion & Geoff), the kind of thing where you can honestly say “watching these particular people talk is the whole point of the show”.
But with Squinters, it’s like they’ve taken that basic idea and gone “let’s throw some crud on it”. All they’ve done is added things that take away from the concept’s basic strength: instead of two really funny people in one car, now there’s a whole bunch of cars featuring a range of performers, none of whom have any real A-grade comedy chemistry (imagine how much better this would have been if even a B-list team like Hamish & Andy were in the car; then imagine if Working Dog were making it and staffed the cars with established commercial radio duos). The entire business of movies and television is based around filming in a cheap, boring part of the world and then pretending the story is set somewhere exciting and glamourous: why on earth would you film a show in LA and pretend it’s the western suburbs of Sydney?
It’s not to entertain the audience, that’s for sure. Which sums up Squinters as well as anything.