Peter Kay’s Car Share (Series 1)

carshareCONTAINS SPOILERS

This new sitcom starred and was directed by comedian Peter Kay. He also writes a lot of it, with other writers such as Tim Reid, Paul Coleman and his co-star Sian Gibson. The series was notable in they decided to put the whole series up on BBC iPlayer before it was broadcast on television. They broke BBC iPlayer records for a “box set” series and it didn’t have a bad effect on the television ratings either, far from it, as the viewing figures they were highest for a new sitcom since 2011.

Peter Kay plays supermarket manager John Redmond, who is taking part in the company’s car sharing scheme. As he later says “Apparently it’s good for the environment.  That and we haven’t got enough car parking space at work.” He is sharing the car with promotions representative Kayleigh Kitson (Sian Gibson). The series begins with John trying to find Kayleigh’s house, with his sat nav leading him around in circles and to dead ends. I think we can all recognise that! Already the episode shows subtle moments of well observed humour, such as the way people seem to talk to their sat navs as if it’s a real person.

When he picks up Kayleigh she wants her favourite radio show on, Forever FM (“Timeless hits now and forever!”).  The radio station has a big presence in the series for background jokes. It gets the style of local radio DJs and cheesy adverts spot on. The station had competitions like retro quiz “What’s in the Toaster?”, which they call “our legendary breakfast quiz”. One of my favourite adverts was one where a woman tells a doctor she’s down in the dumps, and the doctor tells her she needs… a new shed!

The first episode was, like most first episodes, mostly an introduction to the characters and setting. We got to know John and Kayleigh, and a bit about their pasts, such as their unsuccessful previous relationships, and what the series itself is like.

Episode 2 took a poignant turn with the death of trolley attendant Old Ted. As sometimes happens with a death, people begin to take stock of their own lives and how it will end someday. John talks about his father’s death, who had been ill for a long time. “What was he ill with” asks Kayleigh. “Everything” replies John. He notes that as much as we may want it to at the time “The world just doesn’t stop turning because somebody dies”.

Though there are a lot of laughs in this episode too. Kayleigh says of Old Ted that “He’d been collecting trolleys at our store since 1982”. “That’s dedication. We didn’t open until 1990” replies John. John laments that Ted never returned a snow shovel he lent him, and whether or not he should ask his widow for it it back. We also meet “New Ted”. Ted’s probably not even his name, but he’s a fit uni student who has taken over Old Ted’s role as a summer job, and Kayleigh seems quite taken with him.

In one of my favourite parts of the whole series, John and Kayleigh talk about different versions of songs and favourite albums. Kayleigh remembers ‘Dreams’ as a Corrs song, while John much prefers the Fleetwood Mac original, as Rumours is his all-time favourite album. Kayleigh’s is Now 48. (“It reminds me of that summer I worked in River Island!”)

This episode also features Kayleigh misunderstanding what “dogging” means. John is shocked when she casually mentions going “dogging” with her octogenarian next-door neighbour Ken, as she thinks it’s just a term for taking your dog for a walk.

In episode 3 when John picks up Kayleigh she is hung over. She sighs that she can’t handle it as well as she could when she was younger. She used to able to party all night and start an 8 hour shift with no problems, now it takes her 4 days to recover. Her hair is messy, stuck out and looks huge. It gets compared to Carol Decker by John and Amy Winehouse by Ray (Reece Shearsmith).

Ray is the fishmonger from work, and nobody wants to car share with him as he stinks of fish, he has the nickname “Stink Ray”. John and Kayleigh are stuck in a traffic jam and spot Ray waiting for a bus. They don’t want to pick him up and hope they can drive by without him noticing, but as the traffic jam holds them up they can’t really pretend they haven’t seen him, so have to pick him up.

Stench aside, Ray isn’t someone you’d want to be stuck in a long car journey with. He talks non-stop, very much, very loudly and mostly about himself. At one point he “sings” along to Ini Kamoze’s ‘Here Comes The Hotstepper’, even though he doesn’t know the words.

The fourth episode contained one of my favourite lines, Kayleigh mentioning that “The vending machine’s been stuck on scotch broth since the Olympics”. There was also a funny set of events where John reprimands a builder for crossing with the lollipop lady, when the builder is neither a child nor a parent. The builder wipes his bacon and egg burger on John’s windscreen, meaning John has to take a trip to a car wash, where Kayleigh becomes anxious, revealing she is aquaphobic.

The episode also makes fun of godawful business buzzphrases like “110%”, “pushing the envelope”, “closing the loop”, “the extra mile” when John is talking about management training and when Dave, a manager particularly prone to talking in that sort of way, phones John up. John has handsfree bluetooth, so Kayleigh can hear the whole conversation. John and Kayleigh have fun with this at first, but after Dave mentions an incident where Kayleigh incorrectly priced iceberg lettuces as cabbages it gets awkward… and even more so after they argue about it afterwards thinking Dave has gone when he can still hear the whole thing!

The fifth episode sees a reversal in who is in the drivers seat and who is in the passenger seat, as John falls and hurts his arm after rushing to post a card for his nana’s birthday which he should have posted yesterday. Kayleigh takes over driving, bandaging John’s arm in a sling made from a Peppa Pig towel. She also gets him a Creme egg to help the pain of his arm. The car later breaks down after it turns out Kayleigh filled the car with unleaded petrol, when it’s a diesel car!

Kayleigh is sad that her brother, who she lives with, is leaving to be stationed permanently in Cyprus, which means she can’t afford to pay for the house anymore. All her friends are married with kids, and she feels she hasn’t achieved much in her life. John claims he’s fine with his life as it is, is alright being single and has more or less given up on the idea of meeting someone, (though it’s debatable how honest he is being).

The final episode sees what John and Kayleigh say is their last car share together, as even though they are still going to work in the same place, she is going to have to move away. It also sees a new location, a cafe which John and Kayleigh stop of to for breakfast. There is a melancholy tone to this, as John notes the cafe is going downhill, and when he runs into an old friend of his dad, who says that generally the area is a bit of a ghost town nowadays. We find out that John took the retail job just as a way to make money, and is still there 22 years later. We also discover that he still pays in a band in pubs and clubs and has a YouTube video.

The end of the episode, and the series, sees John and Kayleigh saying goodbye at the end of their car share. John gets Kayleigh a present – a novelty heart lamp, and Kayleigh gets John one, wrapped in Christmas paper. It’s Now 48. There is very much a “will they, won’t they” feel to these last few moments. They kiss, but other than that they don’t formally cross the line from friendship to relationship. John drives away and reads a post-it note in the CD from Kayleigh telling him that track 2 reminds her of him. It’s ‘Pure & Simple’ by Hear’Say, and it’s on this rather sweet note that the series ends.

One part of the series I loved was Kayleigh imagining herself in pop videos while listening to the songs on the radio. In episode one it’s ‘I’m Outta Love’ by Anastasia, and they go further with the idea later in the series. In episode two Kayleigh imagines herself in a video for ‘True Colours’ by Cyndi Lauper. This pop video fantasy sequence is oddly quite touching, because the song is quite delicate and with it coming in the episode where Old Ted has passed away. It even features Old Ted himself playing John’s snow shovel like a guitar in the background.

To cope with being in the car wash, Kayleigh turns up ‘Mmmbop’ by Hanson loudly and imagines herself in a cartoon undersea world which looks a bit like the sequence in Bedknobs and Broomsticks and features among other things fish riding seahorses like jockeys and a fish version of Hanson.

With John in the passenger seat in episode 5 he is the one that imagines himself in a pop video, that of Cliff Richard’s ‘Devil Woman’, with the Devil Woman in question being the slightly vampish blonde Rachel from work, who has asked him out for a drink, dressed seductively in a red catsuit and devil horns.

The final episode sees John and Kayleigh in a pop video fantasy together for the first time, one which looked like it could be straight out of a film version of a musical theatre show. It was to the tune of ‘Rush Hour’ by Jane Wiedlin.

As episode 3 was the only one which didn’t feature a pop video fantasy sequence, I wonder if one was intended to feature but was cut for some reason?

Like all of Peter Kay’s work, Car Share has a lot of pop culture and suburbia references. A couple I really liked, as they were quite obscure, were to “the co-op late shop”.  I’m not sure if that’s just a Northern thing, but we do have a lot of those. Another one was to ’80s cartoon series Super Ted which I was a fan of as a kid, and seemed very popular at the time, but seems a bit forgotten about these days.

One of the great things about this series were the conversations between John and Kayleigh which were true to what people talk about in day to day life. Like how it’s strange that you can find out you were in the same place and the same time as someone you later become friends with, but at the time wouldn’t have noticed each other. In John and Kayleigh’s case, it’s seeing Cannon & Ball at the North Pier in Blackpool.

John and Kayleigh discuss what songs they’d have played at their weddings or funerals. John doesn’t really think about that sort of thing, but Kayleigh has both her wedding and funerals planned in detail in her head already. John mentions that he attended a wedding where the slow dance song was ‘I’m Not In Love’ by 10cc, and it did indeed prove to be a bad omen as they split up six months later.

While talking about funeral songs, Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’ comes up. Kayleigh says at school they always used to call that song “Sarah Way” (a mondegreen of the “sail away” lyrics) as a girl was named that at school.

The show has a great soundtrack and being a pop music geek myself I love how they become part of the series rather than just in the background. Some of my favourite songs on the soundtrack include:

‘Can You Dig It’ – The Mock Turtles
‘Birdhouse In Your Soul’ – They Might Be Giants
‘A Thousand Miles’ – Vanessa Carlton
‘Ordinary World’ – Duran Duran
‘I Believe In You’ – Kylie Minogue
‘A Little Respect’ – Erasure
‘Martika’s Kitchen’ – Martika
‘Xanadu’ – Olivia Newton John & Electric Light Orchestra
‘How Will I Know’ – Whitney Houston
‘Waiting For A Star To Fall’ – Boy Meets Girl
‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’ – The Smiths
‘How Bizarre’ – OMC
‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ – Tears For Fears
‘I Love Rock’N’Roll’ – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
‘Cherish’ – Madonna
‘This Time I Know It’s For Real’ – Donna Summer
‘Somewhere In My Heart’ – Aztec Camera

The romantic subplot was hinted at from the start, but it is built up subtly, and by the final episode I was rooting for John and Kayleigh to get together. It did leave things open ended, and leaves us as viewers wanting more. The series has been a big hit, so I think we will see another one.

For some viewers, this will have been an introduction to Sian Gibson, but she has appeared in other Peter Kay programmes, such as Phoenix Nights and Britain’s Got The Pop Factor….. She has been brilliant in this series, in several episodes outshining Peter Kay, so I hope we see more of her getting cast in other roles.

Car Share gets a perfect balance between humour and poignancy. The show is very much in the style of Peter Kay, very like Phoenix Nights, but it somewhat gentler than that or Peter Kay’s other Channel 4 shows. I suppose Car Share edges slightly more towards drama, though it is very much a comedy, and a very funny one. It also keeps in the tradition of a lot of BBC sitcoms, being a bit like The Royle Family and Early Doors. It is one of the best new sitcoms in a long time.

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