Peter Kay sitcom Car Share is hit before it’s been on TV

Mark Jefferies applauds a gentle comedy and an experiment that has already won over millions of viewers on iPlayer

Peter Kay’s Car Share starts tonight but it’s already a hit – thanks to an idea the comic came up with.

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In his new BBC sitcom, John (Kay) and Kayleigh (Sian Gibson) are experimenting with a new scheme to share lifts to where they work in a northern supermarket. And actually, Car Share itself is an experiment by the BBC. I’m told by someone senior at the BBC it was actually the idea of Peter Kay to put the entire six-part series onto iPlayer a week before it started on TV.

By the time you read this it will be disappearing from online, which is a shame as it is a brilliant, warm and gentle comedy. It’s typical Peter Kay material with great attention to detail, especially the hilarious Forever FM on the car stereo.

But whilst it is being removed from iPlayer, enough people have watched it in the last week to send all six episodes into the top 20 most requested shows on iPlayer (2.8m requests to date and 1m requests on day one.) And the positive feedback it has achieved on social media should ensure that millions more will watch it on BBC1 each week to see what all the fuss is about. Some of the common phrases being used by fans are “genius”, “triumph” and “heartwarming”.  

Asked why it was going on iPlayer first, Kay said: “I like to binge on series and watch more than one episode at once which I know I lot of people like to do, so I thought it’d be a great to launch the whole series on iPlayer and give viewers a chance to watch them all at once.” 

Kay, who plays John in the series, may be onto something. The BBC now have a sitcom thousands of people love and are talking about before it goes on air. The trial has provided free advertising for the show, without anyone needing to do any promotion. Far from damaging the show, I can’t see it affecting ratings too much at all.

For anyone who has not got around to seeing it yet – I watched the series in two days myself – don’t get too disappointed if you don’t love the opening episode this week despite the hype. The show really hits it’s stride and gets funnier and funnier in later episodes, so stick with it and you will be in for a treat.

Although nothing has been announced yet, I would be amazed if Car Share, Peter Kay and brilliant co-star Sian Gibson are not all back for another series in 2016 on iPlayer and on screen. Kay is an old hand at steering a TV show to make it a success.

* Mark Jefferies is showbiz editor at the Daily Mirror.

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Car Share begins tonight (Wednesday 29th April) on BBC1 at 9.30pm