mon 20/05/2024

Don't Forget the Driver, BBC Two review - trying to beat the Bognor blues | reviews, news & interviews

Don't Forget the Driver, BBC Two review - trying to beat the Bognor blues

Don't Forget the Driver, BBC Two review - trying to beat the Bognor blues

It's life in the South Coast bus lane in Toby Jones's new tragicomedy

Mustn't grumble: Toby Jones as coach driver Peter Green

Bognor Regis was once renowned for its restorative climate and was much favoured by George V (he awarded the town the “Regis” tag), but times have changed if Toby Jones’s new series is anything to go by.

The Bognor we see in BBC Two's Don't Forget the Driver is a crumbling ghost town, all run-down bungalows, pensioners and, it seems, an underclass of exploited immigrants. It looks like the London-luvvie invasion which has trendified other coastal towns like Hove and Broadstairs has passed dear old Bognor by. 

Jones, who also co-wrote the series with Tim Crouch, plays Peter Green with a carefully-detailed air of melancholy. He’s no relation to the wayward legend of the blues guitar, but instead a woebegone coach driver for Bassetts Travel. In this opening episode, his mission was to take a busload of pensioners across the Channel to visit the war graves at Dunkirk, then load up with booze and fags before legging it back to Blighty.

The heading “comedy” (under which Don’t Forget the Driver supposedly falls) seems to be a remarkably elastic category, because most of this programme was enough to make you weep. Green plays the central role in his own private sunset cul-de-sac. Separated from his wife, he’s been lumbered with his daughter, Kayla (Erin Kellyman, pictured below with Jo Eaton-Kent), who’s happy to raid the fridge and crash on his couch but can’t seem to grasp the concept of earning her own living. Peter’s mother Joy (Marcia Warren) is sliding into dementia. He likes to cheer himself up by having a natter with Fran (Claire Rushbrook), who runs the Phil-Me-Up Snack Shack (it’s a caravan parked in a lay-by), but she’s struggling to make ends meet since her husband died.

One of the show’s little quirks is that Jones also plays his brother Barry, who lives in Australia but keeps in touch via Facetime. It was Barry who tipped Peter off about the mysterious object on the beach by Bognor pier, which he’d spotted by logging on to Bognor’s live webcam feed. Pete went down to the beach to have a look, but was aghast to find that the object was a dead body, so he promptly turned and fled.

The full meaning of the mystery corpse didn’t come home to roost in episode one, though I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of it. What we did get was an oblique reflection of Brexit Britain, even if nobody actually said the detested B-word. For instance when Frank, Pete’s boorish yob of a co-driver, told their passengers that “we’re going back into Europe, ladies and gents,” it prompted a chorus of boos from the wrinkly travellers, while the issue of cross-Channel illegal immigrants looks like it’s going to be a recurring one.

After they'd seen off one African-looking chap trying to get a ride on their bus, Peter was aghast to see a mystery girl climbing out of the bus’s luggage compartment back in Bognor. He went to help her, but was pushed aside by an unsavoury-looking geezer who hustled her away into the darkness. All in all, despite some unfeasibly stylish wide-angle vistas of Bognor, it was quite depressing.

We got an oblique reflection of Brexit Britain, even if nobody actually said the detested B-word


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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