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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.
Maureen Rees was the undoubted star of the series. Her determination to pass the test despite six previous fails had viewers hooked and helped to confirm the popularity of the docusoap genre.
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.
Maureen’s phenomenal popularity after Driving School was the subject of a follow-up documentary, which charted the impact of the series on her life. The success of Driving School led to a boom in docusoaps and reality programmes.