Toby Jones of the highly acclaimed BAFTA-winning Detectorists creates and stars in this new Bognor-set dark comedy-drama as divorced coach driver Peter Green. Peter lives a very routine, mundane lifestyle and each episode is set over a day with a different trip each time, this week to and from Dunkirk.
The series is written by Jones and playwright Tim Crouch, and in a recent interview Jones said that his idea of writing the series was inspired by working with Mackenzie Crook. Episode one begins with Green’s twin brother, played by Jones, discovering a body washed up on the shore. Twin Barry lives in Australia but sees the body in a livestream of the beach.
Rather than dark however, the tone is really quite sweet, and regularly lightens up even further in its comic moments. There’s definitely a place for levity in more melancholy programmes such as this, but delivery is key in whether they fit and how effective they are.
A plot about Green’s disaffected daughter Kayla (Erin Kellyman), a vegetarian, getting a job at a burger van felt very forced for example, as did the brief political references. At points the way the silliness is handled distracts from the type of feeling it’s mostly going for.
Don’t Forget The Driver sets out to portray both the beauty and ugliness of small-town Britain but in doing so separately can often feel like a mixed bag, when in real life, and in the series in its better moments, these things can overlap or even be one in the same.
But that isn’t to say that it isn’t more enjoyable than not, and often a real joy in conveying simple pleasures in life, à la Detectorists. Scenes such as one at the Dunkirk war graves, a visit to Green’s mum, and an undocumented immigrant staggering out of the side of the coach at the end of the episode, were subtle yet compelling, serious yet complementary to lighter moments.
Don’t Forget The Driver is on BBC Two at 22.00 on Tuesdays.