BBC TV review: Peter Kay’s Car Share
Ivan | On 26, Apr 2015
Peter Kay’s Car Share drives on to BBC iPlayer this weekend, with all six episodes available to stream at once. This is the first time a BBC One show has premiered online before its linear broadcast – a typically forward-thinking approach from the digitally-aware Beeb.
The sitcom follows Assistant Manager John and Promotions Rep Kayleigh, who have to travel to work together under their company’s new car share scheme. And so we hitch a ride with them and watch these strangers gradually become friends.
It’s hardly a ground-breaking idea and writers Tim Reid and Paul Coleman prove happy to stick to routes well travelled: within the first couple of episodes, we coast between gags about female urine and being gay. Over the three hours, the laughs remain in the same, sadly familiar, gear – confusion over the word “dogging”, for example, makes up the most of one chapter.
If the humour is firmly in cruise control, though, Car Share’s engine is given a boost from its two performers. Peter Kay and Sian Gibson are instantly likeable, in the way that new car smell is automatically appealing; as soon as they slip into the seats, it feels comfortable.
They interact naturally, from her singing along to the radio – the stream of 90s classics by Hanson and B*witched are a treat on their own – to his flustered swearing. As the ice thaws, it’s not just the personal lives and emotions that are shared between Kayleigh and John, but giggles too; Kay’s braying guffaw may not have you in stitches at home, but it’s a pleasant sound, because it feels like Gibson’s companion has earned it. That affection, rather than any amusement, is what keeps you engaged. (It’s no surprise to see both Kay and Gibson given co-writing credits: they’ve either helped with crafting the characters and dialogue to fit their own style, or they’ve ad-libbed lines along the way. The fact that it could be either is testament to their easy, genuine charisma.)
The show comes to life most of all when other people join them behind the wheel, whether it’s the brash, smelly guy from the fish counter (a scene-stealing Reece Shearsmith) or rude, unruly kids mocking John. It’s these moments that highlight what Car Share could have been: a roulette of different characters pushing our main couple (and the show itself) out of a swiftly established comfort zone. With 30 minutes to fill every week, things can veer towards the repetitive with just two people on camera – you wonder where John and Kayleigh could go in a second season – while daydream sequences of them performing in imaginary music videos do more to fill out the running time than develop character.
There is a formula here, though, that works. The programme’s low-key style suits the subject matter and, moreover, its release model: with its largely fixed camera and small cast, Car Share feels like a web series disguised as a BBC One sitcom. With all the episodes coming down from BBC iPlayer on Tuesday, the notion of seeing one a week suddenly feels as old-fashioned as some of the jokes (watch out for a one-liner about poking on Facebook). You wish the BBC would go one step further and try releasing shorter, trimmed-down episodes online every morning with new passengers – not unlike Jerry Seinfeld’s web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, or YouTube’s #HeyUSA – because, humour aside, the thought of commuting with these characters and seeing their relationship progress day-by-day does appeal.
As an experiment with BBC iPlayer, Peter Kay’s Car Share is a glimpse of the innovation the BBC could offer. As a sitcom, it’s happy being in the middle of the road.
Car Share is available on DVD and on pay-per-view VOD services, including BBC Store, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, TalkTalk TV Store and Google Play.