At the faint risk of overegging (see the calls for yet more Baftas, and the meritorious Rachel Cooke already calling it “utterly endearing”), allow me, if you would, a quick appreciation of series two of Peter Kay’s BBC1 comedy series Car Share. Or more specifically, the marvellous fictional local radio station that features in every episode, whose millions of fans (so many that they broke iPlayer) are calling for a “real” Forever FM to be established.
Oh, that it could be so. Endless early Lloyd Cole and REO Speedwagon. Ingenious ads for life insurance (“For when tomorrow doesn’t come”). And a pants-wetting Guess the Year slot. “When was it?” challenges the breakfast-show DJ, “that Ikea opened its first store in the UK and Terry Waite was abducted in Beirut and tied to a radiator for four years?”
Quintessentially Bolton. A humour very distinct from Mancunian, which is more abrasive, metropolitan, tougher. Boltonians are more likely to combine self-deprecation with a love of the general silliness of people trying to get above themselves.
The brilliance of Forever FM sounds like an answer to all those who claimed that Kay was merely a nostalgia peddler, around the time that Phoenix Nights started going off the boil. (The pretend radio station in that show, Chorley FM, was a hoot, too. Kay for controller of BBC Radio?) The clear implication was that he was just one of those guys who talk about space hoppers and garlic bread at Wembley Arena. Less comedy, more “reassurance” and “chuckles” (the opposite of comedy, in fact). But Kay was always better than that. As backlashes go, it was about as inaccurate as when punk turned up and the Stones got lumped in with the Eagles.
Still, UK comedy, huh! Where’s the edge? Basically, we have Stewart Lee (untouchable), Frankie Boyle (there to say f*** off to everything) and the vaunted, super-aggressive values of Fleabag (surely too arrogant to be properly funny, as any of its jokes is about how charismatic and to-be-feared its writer/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge is).
I guess Kay might argue that edge is overrated. Listening to Forever FM, I’m mostly inclined to agree.
Forever FM, Peter Kay’s Car Share
This article appears in the 03 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Russian Revolution