Næturvaktin (English: The Night Shift) is an Icelandic television show. It is the first in a trilogy, its sequels being Dagvaktin (The Day Shift) and Fangavaktin (The Prison Shift). The series was first shown in 2007 on Stöð 2, on Sundays from 16 September – 9 December. In the same year, the series won an Edda Award for Best TV Series. It was also selected The Most Popular TV Series by a direct audience vote.
A film, Bjarnfreðarson, concluding the trilogy, premièred in December 2009. It was met with wide success in Iceland, beating Avatar at the box office on its opening weekend. It was watched by over 20% of the Icelandic population, a record for an Icelandic film, and was nominated for 11 Edda Awards.
Næturvaktin revolves around the lives of three employees working at a petrol station on Laugavegur in Reykjavík. The eccentric supervisor and communist Georg Bjarnfreðarson (Jón Gnarr), has a fond admiration for Sweden and Swedish culture, and is the focus of the series. Ólafur Ragnar (Pétur Jóhann Sigfússon) is a regular employee and a simple, well-meaning guy. Daníel (Jörundur Ragnarsson) is a former medical student who starts working at the petrol station at the beginning of the series.
The series follows the various happenings at the petrol station, as the power-hungry Georg orders Ólafur and Daníel to do inane, unusual and sometimes dangerous jobs. For example in one episode, Georg stages an assault on the petrol station with Ólafur as the assailant. This very quickly results in his injury as Georg sprays him in the eyes with antifreeze and wrestles him to the ground. Georg uses his catchphrase, "it was just a misunderstanding", to explain the staged assault to the area manager. Georg's "misunderstandings" are not limited to his colleagues, as later on in the series he gets into conflict with customers over use of the toilet in the forecourt shop and the deposit of cans in the recycling bin on the forecourt.
Georg Bjarnfreðarson (Jón Gnarr) is the eccentric nightshift manager at the Shell garage on Laugavegur, the main road through downtown Reykjavík. He is a power-hungry Communist inspired by Soviet ideals, yet still lives at home with his mother (as we find out in Dagvaktin). He claims to have five degrees: psychology, sociology, pedagogy, political science and a teaching qualification. A fan of bureaucracy, he enjoys putting his subordinates through ordeals over trivial matters, such as how to spend the staff holiday fund (staging an official vote inline with the general elections). He also is insistent on the use of walkie talkies, addressing his colleagues as "personnel on the forecourt" (another of his catchphrases). He is unable to accept defeat in the face of any situation, no matter how stupid. He has one son, Flemming Geir, an obese 11-year-old whom he neglects and leaves to steal chocolate from the stockroom.
He is the central focus of the trilogy, and the film Bjarnfreðarson focuses on his upbringing and the reasons for his eccentricity.
Ólafur Ragnar Hannesson (Pétur Jóhann Sigfússon) is the longest-standing employee at the petrol station. He has aspirations of becoming a band manager, and is often trying to organise gigs for his friends' band, Sólin ("The Sun"). The band quickly becomes fed up of his inability to book gigs and complete lack of knowledge of the music industry, and dump him as manager. He becomes the subject of mockery from Georg when he enters the Icelandic X Factor in pursuit of his musical ambitions. Stupid and gullible but well meaning, Ólafur is often on the receiving end of bad situations, becoming involved in advance-fee fraud with a man from Nigeria, and falling foul of a Chinese protein shake which induces lactation. He is submissive and often follows Georg's instructions, no matter how unusual, without question.
Daníel Sævarsson (Jörundur Ragnarsson) is a medical school drop-out who begins working at the petrol station at the beginning of the series. He is shy and introverted, and unsure of what he wants to do with his life. He suffers from anxiety and depression, and has cut off completely all connections with his family. Unlike Ólafur, he recognises the stupidity in Georg's decisions and often challenges him when things seem unfair. His ex-girlfriend and family appear numerous times in the series, attempting to get him to resume his studies and become a doctor like his father and grandfather. He is bright and is often able to humiliate Georg, for example by identifying a recent stroke victim whom Georg tars as a drunk and assaults. To Georg's annoyance, Daniel is much better at chess than he is, managing to beat him on several occasions. He is susceptible to mood swings and storms out whenever Georg makes him sufficiently angry.
The opening song is Kyrrlátt kvöld ("Tranquil Evening") by Icelandic punk band Utangarðsmenn. The song Jón pönkari ("John the Punk") by Bubbi Morthens (a former member of Utangarðsmenn) closes each episode, and is used consistently throughout each series, unlike Kyrrlátt kvöld, which is only used on the first series.
American production company Reveille Productions are currently in negotiations with the producers of Næturvaktin to remake the show for the U.S. market. Howard Owens, the managing director of Revielle, said:
In January 2010, the screenplay for the American adaptation was completed by screenwriter Adam Barr. Whether a pilot episode will be made has yet to be decided. Nevertheless, the screenplay includes American adaptations of the characters. Ólafur Ragnar's name has been changed to Tommy, but otherwise his character is the same. The other two main characters have undergone more significant changes, however. The character of Daníel keeps his name and is still a drop-out of medical school, but his introverted personality has undergone a complete inversion and – according to Iceland Review - he will be "a hunk playing the field". Georg Bjarnfreðarson's character has undergone a complete transformation, into a survivalist.
Næturvaktin began broadcasting in the United Kingdom on BBC Four on 9 May 2011 as part of the channel's Wonders of Iceland series of programmes.