Saturday, 2 May 2015

Peter Kay's "Car Share" and the Question Time leaders debate - reminders that real English people are still out there

I caught a few minutes of Radio 4's Any Questions while doing the washing up last night. I say "minutes", but it was actually more like 40 seconds - just long enough to hear one stupid left-wing question, one stupid left-wing answer, followed by a standard BBC audience packed with Labour Party activists baying their approval. They make a strange noise, these people - menacing and self-satisfied and resentful at the same time: you can almost see them bouncing up and down on their little plastic seats, desperate to signal their moral superiority, their utter intolerance of anyone who don't share their opinions, and their fierce aversion to free speech and common sense.

But when I'd dried my hands and switched the radio off, I wondered if anyone involved in producing this dreary little programme realised that their standard bullshit about how BBC audiences are politically balanced had been well and truly blown out of the water by the Question Time leader debate programme just the night before, during which a truly balanced Yorkshire audience had gleefully ripped the knackers off Ed Miliband by asking him a series of probing questions of which Andrew Neil would have been proud.

Where have these people been hiding for the past forty years as the BBC have turned their "live" debate programmes into pure Labour Party PPBs by stuffing the audience with far-left airheads who seem to inhabit a planet in which the average Briton is a racist, sexist homophobe; where the police and the military are despicable, oppressive thugs; where all businessmen are tax-dodging criminals; where every teacher and nurse is a cruelly underpaid saint; and where all immigrants are exploited victims of colonial brutality, without whom the country would grind to a halt...

Toby Young underlined the bizarrely even-handed selection process employed by Question Time on this - probably unique - occasion in an article entitled "Forget Left-wing bias - this was the most Conservative BBC Question Time audience ever", in which he rated every question put by members of the audience in terms of the political direction it was coming from. The results, which you can read here, are extraordinary. (Obviously, the Labour Party have complained - I'm not surprised, given that this has never happened to them before: what's the world coming to when they can't rely on a helping hand from their mattes at the BBC?)

What struck me about the questioners was how many of them were the sort of sensible, skeptical, clear-headed, tax and mortgage-paying English types we rarely see on our TV screens in the context of politics - or in any context, come to think of it. I was beginning to think they'd all retired, died out, or emigrated.

A similar thought crossed my mind as I watched Peter Kay's new BBC comedy series, Car Share, earlier this week. Here are two Mancunian co-workers who barely know each other sharing a car to and from work because their company is running out of parking spaces (but pretending it wants to help the environment). I've no idea if Kay can keep up this standard, but the opening episode was a little gem of comedy writing and acting: I've seen the first five minutes of the second episode, and it looks even funnier. Peter Kay making a funny programme isn't a surprise - but the characters are, because they're so classically, traditionally English - they're not (so far) racist, homophobic or sexist or political in any way. They're reticent about their emotions, and they're easily embarrassable - especially when it comes to sex - but they're not repressed. They bicker in a humourous way, as we all do. They're lower-middle class, live in ordinary little houses and lead humdrum lives - but they're not victims. They just get on with their lives. They are EveryBrit (well, EveryBrit before the Scots went mad) - and charming and funny and sceptical with it. They're the kind of people we meet all the time. They're the kind of small "c" conservatives who make up the bulk of this island's population. They're the kind of people we are. It's just "we" don't get represented on the TV that often.

In case you wonder what I'm banging on about, take a gander at Car Share on BBC iPlayer (here), or on YouTube, where it looks a bit weird, but at least everyone can see it:


  1. I will make a point of catching Car Share, thank you for the recommendation - I didn't see it first time around because I gave up watching any new 'comedy' output on the BBC several years ago.

    As for the QT audience, the interesting question to me is, if they are capable of finding such an audience, how do they explain never having been able to do something similar for the past decade?

  2. After writing that comment, I watched the first two episodes of Car Share last night. You're right, it's very funny and quite unlike anything else currently on British TV.
    Possibly because of the relationship that is developing between the two characters, it put me in mind of the last British comedy that I thought hit the mark - Spaced - and look how long ago that was!

    Sian Gibson is particularly good - she'd make a great Rita if they are thinking of remaking that.

    Thanks for the alert.

    1. I'm always a bit wary of recommending comedy, so I'm delighted I seem to have got this one right. The bit where she insisted Kay stop the car so they could confirm the meaning of the word "dogger" will long remain in my memory. Sian Gibson has already got both hands on a BAFTA, I reckon.

      I hear reports of people having trouble commenting and getting stuck at the "prove you're not a robot" stage - sorry about that, but I have no control over it - it's a Google problem, if anything. Please keep trying!