BritBox serves up another
Toby Jones gem.
Don’t overlook this one.
Since I absolutely loved Toby Jones in the marvelous TV movie Marvelous on BritBox, I was intrigued to discover him co-creating, co-writing and starring in another quirky Brit series, once again to critical acclaim.
Don’t Forget the Driver is officially a dark comedy, although I think the Guardian's label of “sad-com” is much more appropriate. This is a bleak, tragic tale of post-Brexit Brits based in Bognor, where smiles seem in short supply and any sign of a bright future looks like a no-deal.
Jones plays Peter Green, an unremarkable man of quiet routine. The highlights of his life include clip-on ties, limp packed lunches, his stroppy teenage daughter Kayla and a mum with Alzheimers who’s convinced he’s actually his twin brother. Peter’s job as a coach driver involves transporting Japanese tourists to Hampton Court, singing Baptists to a donkey sanctuary and a bus-load of grumpy pensioners on a day-trip booze cruise to Calais. His unassuming life is aptly reflected in the title of the series, as Peter is a man often overlooked. But the tide turns abruptly when a body is washed up on Bognor beach and Peter discovers a stowaway asylum seeker in the luggage compartment of his coach. His dull life will never be the same again and there’s no going back.
The script is a bit sweary, with frequent typically British “bollocks” and a few F-words too. But if you can bear the language, the dramatic story-line and impressive character studies make this must-watch telly. There’s Kayla’s mate and fellow misfit Brad, with his sick sense of humour and eccentric fashion sense, who is training to be an undertaker. Peter’s friend Fran runs the Phil-Me-Up Snack Shack where he buys his bacon butties before hitting the road. Kindly Fran gives vegetarian Kayla a job flipping burgers, while secretly wishing Pete would pay less attention to her disabled son and more attention to her. And then there’s his decidedly dodgy yet charming colleague Lech, the Polish mechanic, who is living on Peter’s coach. Each of these characters grow and develop as the story unfolds, and with Jones playing a double part as his twin brother Bazza too, the acting all round is outstanding.
BritBox is teasingly releasing only two of the six episodes per week, which just adds even more to the tension and intrigue. The first episode started slowly but soon had me hooked, and the brilliantly unexpected ending of episode two totally took my breath away. There’s pain, pathos and anguish as Pete is unwillingly thrust into the world of illegal immigrants, refugees and human trafficking. No wonder Don’t forget the Driver has won awards and already been commissioned by the BBC to make a return trip.
Don’t be fooled by the deceptively “ordinary” appearance of this drama: it is in fact extraordinary television on so many levels. As the hopeful tip basket on Peter’s coach gently reminds his passengers, don’t forget the driver. And definitely don’t forget to watch this one.
Don’t Forget the Driver is streaming now on BritBox.
Living and loving life
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