“Maybe some things are worth going out of your way for,” admits John in the opening episode of Car Share Season 2 – and just like that, the series wins your heart.
Peter Kay’s show, which sees John (Kay) and Kayleigh (Sian Gibson), two employees at a supermarket, forced to commute together, first premiered way back in 2015. With its familiar everyday chatter and jokes about social media, it felt often dated and cliched – not helped by the fact that James Corden was starting Carpool Karaoke at the same time. But fast forward to 2017 and the show has found its gear. Gone are the gags about poking people on Facebook, replaced by more up-to-date nods to YouTube, while the repetitive routine of their morning travel has been disrupted – not by cameos from supporting characters, but by life itself.
There’s a notable acceleration of wit and sharpness to the writing, perhaps helped by the fact that this season is only four episodes long, compared to Season 1’s six. What initially felt more suited to a string of quick episodes in a web series has now become concise enough to justify its half-hour running time, while simultaneously adding enough emotional weight to fill the trunk of John’s red Fiat 500.
Season 2 begins with our couple separated, with Kayleigh living with her sister, miles away from John. Their journey to work instead becomes one conducted solely by phone – and it’s testament to just how good Gibson and Kay’s chemistry is that they can sustain their back-and-forth charm without being in the same vehicle, especially after building an entire show around the sight of them both in adjacent seats. Bad mobile reception, rude cyclists and accidental butt dialling were all obstacles to them getting back together – and it’s no surprise that they do, or that John drives an extra hour every morning from then on just so they can chat.
He claims, of course, that it’s partly because he likes talking motorbikes with Kayleigh’s brother-in-law, Steve (Elbow’s Guy Garvey, doing brilliantly in his acting debut as a once-macho petrolhead), but it doesn’t take long for their blossoming feelings to come to the surface. After six episodes of likeable friendship, Car Share’s decision to ramp up the romance is a smart one, raising the stakes and giving the overall season a structured plot. Even the musical choices, once a throwaway gag, now carry more significance; following Kayleigh buying NOW 48 for John as a season-ending gift, particularly for Track 2 (Hear’Say’s infectious song of loyalty, Pure and Simple), the decision to open Season 2 with that number is a sign that things are heating up – by the time that our duo are going full-on Carpool Karaoke, the Fiat’s practically a sauna of steamy hormones. (REO Speedwagon’s Can’t Fight This Feeling is a highlight.)
But, of course, the course of TV romance doesn’t run smooth, and the two-hour catch-up with our couple sees them veer either side of honestly confessing their burgeoning love – from an amusingly awkward third wheel after an office party to an impromptu day trip that manages to both remind us of the innocence of John and Kayleigh’s relationship (compared to a bawdy co-coworker) and find room for a selfie with a giraffe. There’s just the right balance of variety and everyday observation, which makes up for any periods without laughter; even if you’re not chuckling, they are, and every giggle from one of our duo feels like it’s a genuine smirk earned by the other.
By the finale, the series has even extended its new-found momentum to its fantasy music video sequences, which almost become an imaginary world in which our couple can interact without having to worry about the real world, with its nine-to-five hours, vulnerable car roofs and gossiping colleagues – a place where people can snog, climb over vehicles and make grand romantic gestures, before hitting the brakes with a bump and remembering that they have to be at home waiting for a parcel delivery. Released all-at-once on BBC iPlayer, the box set speeds by at a nifty pace, rewarding those who binge-watch it with a rush of blossoming of romance that never feels false or contrived. Find two hours in your daily schedule to race through it – some things really are worth going out of your way for.
Season 2 of Peter Kay’s Car Share is available as a box set on BBC iPlayer until 6th June 2018