We take a look at Robert Llewellyn’s online car-based interview series, and its latest edition – featuring one Craig Charles…
We’ve been a bit lax in covering non-Dwarf stuff of late. Given that there has never been a new episode broadcast in the site’s lifetime, writing about the assorted extra-curricular activities of the show’s alumni (often with the most tenuous of connections) was G&T’s bread-and-butter throughout the years in which the movie repeatedly failed to happen. Right from the outset, an interest in Rob and Doug as writers and the cast and crew as performers and craftsmen, even outside of the context of the one shared interest we all have, has been something that’s tended to unite G&T and its readership, particularly in the days when only the really obsessively sad fans used to hang around.
But of course, since late last year, we’ve actually had exciting things to write about. Over the past couple of months there’s been something new to cover almost every day (and on days like yesterday, even more than that). Even when news isn’t leaking out of the Dave or GNP stables, the show is in the media virtually non-stop. It’s like being a Doctor Who fan circa February 2005, and it’s weird. As such, we’re naturally less in need of material to fill the site with. We’re still turning up and covering some related stuff – you’ll note our posting of episodes of Rob and Doug’s old radio series Wally Who? – but other projects have tended to pass us by in a way they might not otherwise have done.
And that does a bit of a disservice to people that are out there plugging away at other projects – most notably Robert “Bobby” Llewellyn, who’s been a self-produced online video evangelist for some years now, but whose ventures into this arena we’ve never really covered. Many of you probably know about his Youtube channel, and he’s been plugging away with his “Wet Liberal” series of videos for a while now. It’s all pretty decent stuff, but his latest project has attracted a bit more attention (and not just because everyone’s now following the Twitter page upon which he frequently talks about it). CarPool is a series of short videos – available in syndicated podcast form in various locations – in which Bobby, quite simply, gives someone a lift somewhere, and has a chat to them. That’s it. He’s got little cameras dotted around the car, and he records a general and unstructured chat with the subject – sometimes about their career, sometimes about their surroundings… and sometimes just the things you’d expect that two old mates sharing a car journey would chat about.
I’ve not watched every episode of the series so far, but I’ve seen its evolution throughout a range of editions, and even in the early days when it was rather less slick (having first spun out of the spontaneous recording of a conversation with David Baddiel, it began as a rather ad-hoc and slapped-together enterprise) it’s an entertaining and likeable programme. It benefits from the twin virtues of the personality of its host – he’s one of those people you simply can’t dislike, and his intelligence and sympathy make him a good interviewer – and the quality of his address book. Whether or not you like what they do in their day jobs, the likes of Baddiel, Jonathan Ross, Jo Brand and Nigel Planer are ideal fodder for something like this, and they each have a fresh angle to bring. At between twelve and twenty minutes long, the episodes don’t outstay their welcome – giving you enough of a sense of the personality involved without ever really dragging. The whole thing’s clearly an attempt by Robert to create a type of entertainment that revolves around his environmentally-conscious-tree-hugging-wet-liberal principles (he’s saving people using their own cars for a short while by driving them round in his Prius instead), but to his credit, this is only ever something you’d draw from the wider context, and is never forced on the viewers during the episodes themselves.
Of course, a number of the chosen subjects are of particular interest to Dwarf fans – the very first edition is a cracking chinwag with Ed Bye, with a similarly entertaining Arthur Smith also cropping up. And he’s not afraid to drag his boss and castmates into the Prius – we’ve already had Danny John-Jules (including an amusing mention of a certain bin-related scandal), and Chris Barrie and Doug Naylor are promised for upcoming editions. This week, though? None other than Craig Charles, getting a lift from his hotel to Shepperton – two lifts, in fact.
Thankfully, it’s an altogether more satisfying experience than the last time Craig was filmed being driven somewhere. Naturally, given that the recording took place during the shooting of Dwarf, the conversation immediately kicks off talking about the show, and you realise that the “anecdote mode” that Craig goes into for the DVD doccos and commentaries is basically the way he is generally, even with someone he’s known as long – and in whose company he’s as comfortable – as Robert. And it’s an entertaining chat – they take in Robert’s wife’s concept of “moasting” (prompting Craig to complain about wondering where to invest all his Corrie cash), some intriguing mentions of some of the action scenes and physical comedy (it sounds like the battle with the “unnamed monster”, as Robert calls it, won’t be played entirely straight), Sophie Winkleman’s ability with accents and upcoming marriage, Craig’s record collection getting pissed on by his dog, and more.
The second journey takes place three weeks later, after shooting has finished, with the pair driving from Memorabilia to the Beeb in Brum so that Craig can do his funk show. It’s a shorter segment, and despite coming at the end of a long day Craig seems a lot less dead than he had been during filming. It’s a slightly less interesting conversation than the first, since they don’t really touch on Dwarf as much – and certain G&T editors will be narked by certain comments about Birmingham – and it rounds things off rather hurriedly, but it’s still fairly enjoyable. What’s clear from this episode is that Robert’s been developing the series technically as it’s gone on – there are still occasional sound problems (by the very nature of the recordings taking place in a car), but he’s got a better mic setup, and Craig can even answer his phone without it causing the awful interference noise that sadly characterised earlier episodes such as Ed Bye’s. The new and rather lovely CGI title sequence helps add a more professional gloss, and you can see bit by bit that he’s edging it towards something that could be considered a decent telly proposition.
CarPool doesn’t exactly set the world on fire, but it’s an entertaining little diversion, and just the sort of thing to have automatically plonked onto your iPod from time to time to pass a train journey. Certainly, Robert’s a great host for this kind of thing, as he knows how to gently nudge a conversation into the sort of areas that’ll make it interesting for the viewer, and his strong selection of guests means the chats are nearly always worth an eavesdrop. It’ll be interesting to see where he can take it from here – and even more interesting to see what Messrs. Barrie and Naylor have to say in upcoming weeks…
CarPool is available to watch RIGHT NOW on llewtube.com, and the easiest way to get the feed syndicated is to subscribe on iTunes (just search the Store for “carpool”). If you’re not yet beholden to Steve Jobs’ Glorious Socialist Revolution, then Robert has helpfully put together this infomercial explaining all the different ways you can watch. Jolly decent of him.