Sitcoms and big-time comedians are far from strangers to one another, but it’s a delicate pairing that requires careful consideration. Peter Kay hits that nail bang on the head with BBC One’s Car Share, where the veteran comic stays true to his style of humour while creating a hybrid of his excitable, child-like effervescence and The Office-style comedic feasting on the mundane.
It’s been two years since the first series. Two years since Kay, playing John Redmond, and his co-star Sian Gibson, who plays Kayleigh Kitson, were paired together for their work’s car share scheme. Viewers were reeled in with the menial “how was your evening/weekend” small-talk of relative strangers, which quickly grew into the familiar territory of a blossoming, unlikely friendship between Kitson and Redmond, propelled by the enigmatic chemistry between Kay and Gibson.
The first episode of the second series quickly sets the scene for what’s to come: a romantic turn in John and Kayleigh’s friendship. Despite moving 45 minutes away from John, Kayleigh only has to commute on public transport for one day before John offers to keep up their car share. “Maybe some things are worth going out your way for”, he tells her.
Series two carries forward the little consistencies the sitcom managed to turn into idiosyncratic touches in a mere six episodes in series one. There was the blink-and-you-miss-it detail; the adverts from Forever FM radio in the background and Kay’s incredulous sideways glances at Gibson. The blue supermarket uniforms Kay and Gibson wear throughout, the traffic jams, and the quick glimpses of the public as they go to and from work in fleeting shots synonymous with working-class, northern life.
The comedy in the second series is delivered in an undulation of clever winks and subtle nudges, and explosive, slapstick bursts. For example, just after the pair sit talking while Kayleigh mindlessly chews on a Curly Wurly, they find a monkey on top of their car. Then there’s the opening scene of the series, where John, singing along to the radio, lowers his voice an octave when the music gets too high. The humour oscillates between the hidden social commentaries of the most highbrow comedians, and cathartic Basil Fawlty-style farces.
A highlight of the series happens in episode two, where John goes to take a selfie with Kayleigh while they’re dressed as Harry Potter and Hagrid. He holds up the phone and says, “Say Quidditch,” and his phone flatly says “Quidditch”. Ingeniously timed and refreshingly understated, yet bolder than series one. It’s moments like this where Kay’s comedic input shines through like early morning sun on the dashboard of John’s Fiat.
But while the second series stays centered on the car, it deviates from the daily commute grounded in the first. The pair go to a work party, and they bunk off work and go to a safari park. But neither of them are seen venturing more than a few metres from the trusty four wheels.
Kay fans will be glad to see his character expand from the reserved, repressed northerner he was in the first series, to the slightly less reserved, still repressed northerner he is in the second. John is slightly more alive, in-between his blank driving face, and more reactive to what’s going on around him. His expression when the monkey urinates in his car is all the more treasured because of its rarity.
In the four episodes that make up the second series, John and Kayleigh’s relationship quickly escalates from a friendship to a will-they-wont’-they potential romance, and we all know this can be the quickest death for comedy. But the tension is well balanced, and the ending favours comedy over a romantic conclusion.
New sitcoms rarely retain the classic feel of 90s and 00s comedy, but Kay stays true to his generation, providing a much needed antidote to the plague of newer sitcoms without a real funny bone in their lifeless bodies. Car Share doesn’t pander to broadcasters’ patronising impression of Generation X: there’s one mention of a viral YouTube video, but it comes in the form of a jab at both the tech-savvy Gen X and technophobic older generations.
Car Share is a welcome remedy to modern-day burnout. It’s new, but it’s comfortingly behind the times. Best suited for nostalgic comedy fans, homesick northerners, and anyone who stubbornly believes in the second series curse and wants to be proven wrong.Reuse content