TV preview: Peter Kay's Car Share (BBC1, Tuesday 9pm) makes a welcome return journey

Plus: The Knowledge: The World's Toughest Taxi Test (Channel 4, Wednesday 9pm), University Challenge (BBC2, Monday 8pm), Our Friend Victoria (BBC1, Tuesday 9.30pm), Spectacular Spain with Alex Polizzi (Channel 5, Friday 9pm), The Trip to Spain (Sky Atantic, Thursday 10.10pm)

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The Independent Culture

It’s easy to spot the TV highlight of this week – the new series of Peter Kay’s Peter Kay’s Car Share (forgive the pedantic duplication there, but I wanted to point up the idiocy of all those show titles where the performer has obviously insisted on having their name embodied in it).

This first episode of the new run finds John Redmond (Kay) still commuting in his red Fiat, but separated from fellow supermarket worker and car-share buddy Kayleigh Kitson (Sian Gibson). Well, sort of. Kayleigh has gone to live with her sister and has sated getting public transport into work. Tellingly, though, like lots of close friends, couples, lovers or whatever, they make up for their physical separation with near-constant contact via mobile phone (hands free in the Fiat, of course). 

It’s as sweet a series as it ever was, with the same studious eye for the comic potentialities of everyday life, and Kay’s characteristic and unfailing flair for language, which, without sounding unduly pretentious, is not so far off Dickensian in its acuity. The highlight of this highlight is John’s road-rage encounter with an extremely irritating, smug, arrogant cyclist. The poignant low point is seeing Kayleigh having her head turned by some hunk of man doing the gardening outside their offices. The contrast with eh crinkle-cut-eating chip enthusiast is too painful to bear.

Whether the all-too obvious represents any kind of threat to the homely little relationship between John and Kayleigh, pregnant as ever with promise but not much else, remains to be seen. (If you can’t wait, then the other three episodes of the series will be available on BBC iPlayer immediately after episode one airs on BBC1.)

I once had a colleague who came up with one of the greatest put-downs of an unpleasant boss I’ve ever heard – “I’d rather drive a taxi than work for him”. The Knowledge: The World’s Toughest Taxi Test demonstrates that, in the London black cab trade at any rate, driving a taxi is much easier said than done. The “green badge” is treasured and worn with understandable pride by the one-third of students of the London Knowledge who manage to pass some formidable exams.

The London cab trade, for good or ill, has been going for 350 years, and the Knowledge exam has been in pace since 1865. In order to pass you need a pretty intimate knowledge of some 25,000 streets and 100,000 landmarks in the capital – about the same challenge to assimilate detailed information as required by a degree in law or medicine.

A team of four cabbies could probably thrash Balliol College, Oxford or Wolfson College, Cambridge in this week’s University Challenge final. You should never really lose the sense of shock and awe when witnessing the brain of a black cab driver – one of them even won Mastermind a few years ago, I recall – but I’d have liked to hear more about what they think of Uber. Then again, maybe not...

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Victoria Wood (centre) and her brilliant cast – Julie Walters, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie – in ‘Acorn Antiques’ (BBC/Chris Capstick)

You should also find a little time to catch Our Friend Victoria, another celebration of the life and work of Victoria Wood, hosted by her comedic other half, Julie Walters. It sounds harsh, but not everything Victoria Wood did was brilliant, as some of the early obits claimed, but there was enough genius there to make her one of the greats. Acorn Antiques remains the finest soap satire ever made. 

Topically, and I suspect accidentally, Alex Polizzi takes on Spain for Channel 5. I say this because she starts this third episode of her six-part odyssey, Spectacular Spain with Alex Polizzi, with the words: “As a nation, the British have a love affair with Spain.” As with Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan’s The Trip to Spain (Sky Atlantic), this show was obviously filmed before our tabloid newspapers starting running headlines such as “Up Yours Senors” and “Next Time Send an Armada”.

Ms Polizzi, who boasts no special connection with the country (her heritage is Italian as a member of the Forte dynasty), and springs no great surprises by telling us that the reason 12 million Britons come to worship its “sun-kissed shores”, and a couple of hundred thousand expats have made a home there is that superb climate, stunning landscapes, mad architecture, superb food and delicious wines. Can we give it all up for the sake of Gibraltar?

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