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Shane Gillis & Steve Gerben’s Netflix Workplace Comedy

Shane Gillis & Steve Gerben’s Netflix Workplace Comedy

For a brief moment in Tires, Shane (Shane Gillis) entertains the possibility of a better life. His old high school buddy (Francis Ellis) has breezed into the auto shop where Shane works, bragging about his six-figure salary and smoking hot wife — and dangling in front of Shane the idea that he, too, could have it all, if only Shane would come work for him.

The offer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, however, and by the end of that episode, Shane’s made his peace with the idea that the shop is where he belongs. He might not be happy, exactly, but he’s comfortable, in a job that asks little of him and to which he gives even less. Ambition simply isn’t his style — and nor is it Tires‘. The Netflix comedy isn’t likely to impress anyone with the originality of its perspective or the sharpness of its wit. But it’s not really trying to. By the standards of the low bar it’s set for itself, it does just fine.

Tires

The Bottom Line

Just fine on its own very limited terms.

Airdate: Thursday, May 23 (Netflix)
Cast: Shane Gillis, Steve Gerben, Chris O’Connor, Kilah Fox, Stavros Halkias
Creators: Shane Gillis, Steve Gerben, McKeever

Fundamentally, this is a show about one guy who spends most of his time torturing another guy — albeit in a vaguely affectionate way. Will (Steve Gerben, who co-created the series with Gillis and director McKeever) is a nervous wreck who’s recently been hired to a failing branch of his father’s repair shop chain. The position puts him in charge of a small team that includes shiftless receptionist Kilah (Kilah Fox) and taciturn mechanic Cal (Chris O’Connor), and has him reporting to a manager (Stavros Halkias) who seems only slightly more put-together than Will does. Mostly, though, it serves to put him at odds with his cousin Shane, who seizes every opportunity to tease, prank, humiliate and generally undermine Will for his own amusement.

Shane’s tactics are only marginally more sophisticated than the stuff you’d find in any junior high school playground. He makes sexy noises over the intercom while Will tries to flirt with a female customer, mocks Will’s (admittedly terrible) ideas in front of a reporter, spreads embarrassing rumors to the other branches about Will’s addiction to chocolate milk or predilection for licking his friends’ nipples. So relentless is the torment that Will is unnerved whenever it stops: “If you’re gonna hit my penis, just hit my penis. Get it over with,” Will pleads after one otherwise unobjectionable interaction.

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In fairness to Shane, Will carries himself like a walking kick-me sign. Where Gillis defaults to a smirk, Gerben arranges his face in a constant expression of panic: eyes bugging, brow furrowed, mouth agape as he stammers his way through yet another protest. Shane might be a layabout who reacts to any suggestion that he might actually try, y’know, working, with a flat “no.” But Will’s hardly a model employee himself. The season’s loosely serialized arc concerns Will way over-ordering tires for the store, and scrambling to figure out how to sell them; his harebrained ideas include a half-assed “women’s initiative” that amounts to posters with slogans like “We got you, girl!” and a bikini carwash that offends an important business partner.

For all the time that Tires spends with Shane and Will, each remains stubbornly one-note — to the end, more a type of guy (Shane a boor, Will a nebbish) than a fully realized individual with motives or quirks that might extend past this slice of life. Their coworkers are even less distinctive. While Fox and O’Connor’s performances have potential, the scripts seem to forget half the time that these actors are on the payroll at all.

As for the world beyond this shop, forget it — the storylines rarely set foot outside the store walls, which on one hand probably allows Tires to make the most of whatever modest budget Netflix was willing to grant it, and on the other makes this universe feel claustrophobically tiny.

Will and Shane’s dynamic is the one joke that Tires is built around, with only minor variations over six half-hour episodes. If you don’t find Gerben and Gillis’ juvenile, slightly retrograde brand of bro humor to be funny, that’s a recipe for tedium. If you do — and it can be amusing, in the way that typing “80085” into a classic calculator can be amusing — that might be enough to pass a couple of hours. Their chemistry as old friends is believable, and when push really comes to shove (as when the gang are faced with rumors that the branch might be shut down), they’re even able to show up for each other in a way that’s ever so slightly sweet. But want for anything more, like emotional resonance or world-building or basic character development, and Tires is not your guy.

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