Review | Forget ‘Seinfeld.’ ‘Tires’ really is a show about nothing. (2024)

Like so much on TV right now, “Tires,” Netflix’s latest sitcom, is fine. The six-episode comedy series follows the checked-out employees of an underperforming auto shop. Created by Shane Gillis, Steve Gerben and John McKeever, the show endorses and shares its characters’ laid-back approach to life and labor. The humor is broad (think bored dudes making crude sex jokes at work). The premise is simple. And the stakes are slim to nonexistent. The crisis of the first season is that Will — the owner’s nervous failson, played by Gerben — ordered too many tires in his capacity as branch manager.

It’s not a particularly urgent problem (though the shop smells). Gillis et al. clearly built a show around the shenanigans a particular kind of tedium inspires. Folks who have worked retail — especially this kind — will see that experience reflected, with familiar fodder ranging from nightmarish customers to upselling tactics to weird marketing schemes. And, most notably, people acting out because they’re bored. It’s tempting to bill “Tires” as a show about blue-collar haplessness, but — unlike other sitcoms that thematize workplace ennui and bad leadership, most notably “The Office” and “Party Down” — there’s no real misery in it. Everyone’s basically okay and cool with each other. Everyone’s running experiments on the customers. And nobody really wants anything to change.

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Nobody really wants anything, in fact. Except Will, the aforementioned manager and protagonist, who would like to get laid and kind of wants to impress his dad. But Will’s plight and ineptitude are secondary to his place in this troupe of silly tire guys. He isn’t really a misfit. Unlike “Party Down’s” Ron Donald, for instance — a try-hard boss who fancies himself a visionary and wishes he was everyone’s friend — Will (whose interest in management is minimal) actually is friendly with most of his employees.

Those expecting “Tires” to be a Gillis vehicle will probably be both pleased and disappointed. Gillis isn’t the star, which sometimes seems like a missed opportunity. But he is the standout slacker and the show’s only real source of chaos — or momentum, or conflict. The comic, who filmed a “Tires” pilot back in 2019 (the year he was fired by “Saturday Night Live”), brings a little extra spin to every line he reads as “Shane,” Will’s cousin and tormentor. The wittiest character by far, Shane merrily sabotages Will whenever the opportunity arises — particularly when Will is trying to impress someone. But never fear: Armed with a heart of gold, Shane always eventually does the right thing. “Tires” contains so little actual conflict that Jim Halpert’s pranks at Dwight’s expense look genuinely sociopathic by comparison.

Gillis’s role is also one of the few places where “Tires” sometimes surprises. His reactions are less predictable and usually a tick or two kinder or smarter than you might expect. He seems at first like a recognizable sitcom type — the workplace comedy’s resident funny guy. But because he’s also the sharpest character, it feels like he ought to fill the role of a Henry (in “Party Down”) or a Jim (in “The Office”) by supplying some sad, sarcastic edge. That doesn’t happen. Shane mocks people frequently, but he also seems to genuinely appreciate people we expect the show to roast. It’s baffling, for instance, that Shane seems straightforwardly impressed by a blowhard he knew in high school who comes into the shop to boast about how much he makes. But he does; there’s not even a shade of resentment. That’s kind of interesting! And when Will’s supervisor Dave (played by Stavros Halkias) says “Wanna watch me peel out?” as he climbs into his RX-7, Shane does want to. No condescension, no winks.

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At the risk of running these comparisons into the ground: Shane is Henry without the depression and Jim without the irony. That Gillis’s character is far more interesting than Gerben’s Will may or not be a problem. But the way that he’s deployed makes clear that “Tires” is more a conventional hangout comedy than a subversive workplace one.

The best and worst thing I can say about “Tires,” in fact, is that it’s so resolutely post-ironic it wraps back around to feeling not just sincere, or nostalgic, but like a supercharged version of the traditional sitcom — totally stripped of plot. A scheme or two does pop up close to the end, but by that point the viewer has absorbed the show’s commitment to remaining inconsequential, so there’s not much suspense. As with “Palm Royale,” which also featured a lineup of comedy powerhouses, you might expect a cast this stacked with comics (including Chris O’Connor and Andrew Schulz, as well as Kilah Fox as the show’s token woman) to do a little more than it does.

But it is funny! And it’s been renewed for a second season before the first even airs.

“Tires” sometimes feels like a very good idea for a recurring sketch — one that might not have needed to become a series. But it did, and if the result isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it matters, perhaps, that it isn’t trying to be.

Tires (six episodes) premieres Thursday on Netflix.

Review | Forget ‘Seinfeld.’ ‘Tires’ really is a show about nothing. (2024)
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