When last we saw them, Kayleigh had fled John’s car in tears. She’d tried to coax a confession of mutual attraction out of the man she’d fallen in love with, only to be shushed into silence. In truth, John was trying to avoid conversation so that Kayleigh would hear the smooth DJ on Forever FM read out John’s sweet dedication to her, which would have told her what she longed to know. It came on after she’d left the scene.
It was a poignant end to a comedy series that was brilliantly conceived and wonderfully realised. Like millions of fans I was left wanting more, which is the way that all the most successful TV series leave us. Best to go before the concept grows stale and the whole programme feels as if it’s simply filling air-time.
The final two episodes of Peter Kay’s Car Share (this week’s unscripted story and a proper finale in a few weeks’ time) may or may not bring this glorious comedy to a happy end, but it will at the very least assuage its fans’ hunger.
For those who haven’t seen this Bafta- and NTA-winning series, John (Peter Kay) is an assistant manager and Kayleigh (Sian Gibson) a promotions rep at a supermarket that introduces a car share scheme for employees.
The two are not an obvious love match – Romeo and Juliet this isn’t. We know from the first episode that they’re in their mid-to-late 30s, with previous relationships that didn’t go well; that Diane “off non-foods” has spread a rumour that John is gay and we learn that he broke up with his fiancée because of his failure to commit.
In ten episodes we watch two people full of inhibitions and idiosyncrasies get to know each other from conversations on the journey to and from work. It’s the gentle process of dawning affection rather than the dramatic flourish of a passionate affair.
We care about John and Kayleigh and we laugh – oh, how we laugh – at their human frailties and the events that conspire against them. It’s the delicious interplay between Kay and Gibson that makes this so special, as well as the brilliant writing to which they both contribute. It’s compassionate and understated in what can often be a cruel and overstated cultural landscape and it’s steeped in northern humour.
They pass a vehicle with a sign reading, “No Pies Left in this Van Overnight”. When John has an outbreak of road rage against a builders’ lorry at a school crossing he suffers the indignity of having an egg sandwich thrown at him.
We find out so much about Kayleigh during the car journeys – her fear of water when they go to a drive-through car-wash; her frustration with her job when she has to dress as a blackcurrant for National Jam Week. We watch their relationship blossom to the soundtrack of classic 80s and 90s pop from Forever FM, the fictitious radio station that plays constantly in John’s Fiat 500L (a car so perfect for the show that it deserves to feature in the credits).
Car Share needs its very final episode, after which, like other comedy classics, we can savour what we have rather than complain about wanting more. To slightly misquote Forever FM’s catchphrase, Peter Kay’s Car Share will be a timeless hit, now and for ever.
Alan Johnson is a former Home Secretary. His book, In My Life: a Music Memoir, will be published on 20 September
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