1 9 9 7 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes
Driving School started on the BBC on 10 June 1997. The participants’ willingness to be filmed – via a fly-on-the-dashboard camera – as they experienced the failures and triumphs of learning to drive, made for compelling and entertaining television.
The documentary ran for six weeks but was edited more like a soap opera. Like Airport (1996) before it, Driving School proved an instant success, securing audiences of up to 12 million. The ‘docusoap’ boom had begun.
Maureen Rees was the undoubted star of the series. A full-time cleaner from Bristol, her determination to pass the test despite six previous failed attempts had viewers hooked. Often impatient with instruction and frequently terrifying behind the wheel, she provided the series with its most memorable moments and her phenomenal popularity after Driving School was the subject of a follow-up documentary, which charted the impact of the series on her life.
Besides Maureen, Driving School followed Joan Rodwell, who had to sit in the back seat as her husband took her out for test drives, and 17-year-old Danny Waring, who wanted to pass his test so he could visit his girlfriend.
All the participants eventually passed.
The programme also followed instructors Paul Farrell and Pam Carr and Thames Valley Police as they learned advanced driving techniques.
The success of Driving School led to a boom in docusoaps and reality programmes.