Don’t Forget The Driver
Hard To Please OAPs
Toby Jones stars in a new comedy-drama about… oh, never mind. That’s all we need to know: ‘Toby Jones.’ It’s going to be a good ‘un.
And in fact, Don’t Forget The Driver (BBC2) was even better than expectations. Poignant, dark, topical and peppered with explosive laughs, the opener in this half-hour six-part series made us feel more connected to its characters than many shows manage in an entire run.
Why the Beeb tucked it away in the pre-Newsnight slot, when Martin Clunes’s disappointing Warren was showcased on primetime BBC1, is hard to fathom.
Jones not only stars as overworked single dad Peter (and his feckless, insensitive twin Barry in Australia), but he co-wrote the script. It’s the actor’s first production as writer, and he’s evidently been inspired by Detectorists — the outstanding bucolic sitcom in which he starred with its creator, Mackenzie Crook.
Toby Jones plays an overworked coach driver in this poignant, dark, and topical BBC comedy
Both shows give us a view of a fading England, where national glories (be that idyllic landscape or quaint seaside resort) are declining into squalor. Don’t Forget The Driver is set in Bognor Regis, looking out over the Channel, but instead of happy holidaymakers on the pier and sandcastles on the beach, a despairing pallor lies across the town.
Front lawns have been paved over. Bedraggled St George’s flags hang in folds from bedroom windows. Even the garden gnomes have been kicked over.
The story begins before dawn, as Barry calls from beside his Aussie swimming pool. He’s been staring at Bognor seafront via an internet webcam, and wants his brother to investigate something he has spotted. He thinks it might be a dead porpoise.
It’s not a porpoise. One human arm protrudes from a shapeless mass of waterlogged cloth. Jumping back in his car, Peter hurries away, desperate not to get involved, and spends the rest of the day fretting over what he’s seen.
He’s got enough to worry about, what with his cantankerous, lonely mother whose dementia is getting worse, and his pot-head daughter unwilling to lift a finger, not to mention his demanding work as a coach tour driver.
But there’s no escaping the bigger problems of the outside world. After a long run to Dunkirk — part homage to the war dead, part pensioners’ booze cruise — he arrives back at the depot to discover a shivering refugee hunched over the rear wheel arch of his coach.
And before he can do anything to help her, a menacing man with the look of a people trafficker drags her away. If you’re wondering where the laughs are in that, or even how anyone could bear so much bleakness, remember one thing. It’s Toby Jones.
Like a gang of grumpy oldsters setting off by coach for Calais on a supermarket raid for vino, the superannuated celebs on Hard To Please OAPs (ITV) were determined to have a dreadful time and enjoy it to the full.
Ruth Madoc and Lionel Blair set off in the pouring rain to drive to the seaside in an electric car, with John Sergeant at the wheel. Just in case that seemed too easy, the producers gave them a flat battery.
Some of the stars of ITV’s Hard To Please OAPs were seen struggling to cope with modern technology
June Brown and theatrical agent Michael Whitehall joined Harry Redknapp in unwrapping an Amazon snooping device —sorry, an Alexa digital assistant — which June called: ‘One of those things that tells you what to do.’
She asked Alexa to give her a recipe for ‘making scones’. The machine responded with instructions for Mexican chicken.
Why call these things ‘artificial intelligence’? What they are is ‘actual stupidity’.
Queasy close-ups of the night: Viewers needed strong stomachs to watch the drill cutting into a patient’s skull as a brain tumour was removed on Surgeons: At The Edge Of Life (BBC2). Next came open heart surgery. Nurse, I feel ill!