Review: Carpoolers 1.1


Once upon a time, I imagine this was a cracking idea. Something like The Smoking Room or Phone Booth. “Imagine a low-budget comedy set entirely in a car being driven down the freeway by a bunch of guys in a car pool,” the idea probably went. “They’d talk about life, their lives, their feelings. It could be an illustration of the ordinary working man’s lot in life in the early 21st century.”

I imagine then that some network suit thought that a bigger budget and a bit more activity was needed or else no one would watch, certainly not during primetime.

And thus this version of Carpoolers was born. It is, in a sense, the partner programme to ABC’s Big Shots. While Big Shots is about rich idiots who are supposed to represent men but who are in fact misogynistic morons, Carpoolers is about middle class idiots who are supposed to represent men but who are in fact misogynistic morons.

Plot (shared with the ABC web site to cut down on CO2 production)

Four guys who carpool to work every day come to savor their commute as the only safe time to commiserate about jobs, families – and secrets. Even though “what happens in the carpool stays in the carpool,” they’ll go beyond the boundaries of this fast-moving commuter confessional to get involved in each other’s lives and develop friendships.

Gracen (Fred Goss, ABC’s Sons & Daughters) is the unofficial leader of the carpool pack. As a professional mediator, he thinks he’s a problem solver, but more often he’s a causer. He seeks fairness in an unfair world, and so finds himself in the middle of situations because he’s compelled to be there. In the pilot, Gracen is stunned to learn that his wife makes more money than he does, which sets his resolve to assert his manly authority.

Laird (Jerry O’Connell, Crossing Jordan) is Gracen’s playboy dentist neighbor and best friend. He thinks his life is an unending quest for stories – and women. In the middle of a messy divorce, he allows himself to live a little and taunts the other carpoolers with the freedom of his near-single status. He would never admit that he secretly misses marriage. Laird constantly leads the carpoolers into adventures, but once there, he isn’t sure what to do.

Aubrey (Jerry Minor, Mr. Show) is a sweet but intense pushover at the bottom of the family food chain. The daily ride has become the only peaceful time in his life. Forty-five minutes, two times a day – he needs the carpool the most. Always quick to come to the carpoolers’ aid, he believes in the brotherhood almost to a fault. Only the carpoolers know he’s boiling inside, because “in the carpool lane, no one can hear you scream.”

Dougie (Tim Peper, The Guiding Light) is the eager newlywed. He doesn’t know all the rules of the Carpooler Society, often breaks them, and has to have the ways of the world explained to him by his tribal elders, the three other carpoolers. He and his wife, Cindy, are the perfect modern couple, but as you get to know them, you start to see their cracks. Dougie is the guy who seems to have it all together, yet he’s drawn to the carpoolers for a little excitement. The carpoolers will both instigate problems for Dougie and help him deal with the realities of life to come.

Additional stars include Faith Ford (Hope and Faith) as Leila Brooker, Alison Munn (That ’70s Show) as Cindy and comedian T. J. Miller (The Standard Deviants) as Marmaduke Brooker.

Carpoolers is created and executive-produced by Bruce McCulloch (The Kids in the Hall). McCulloch also wrote the pilot. Marsh McCall (Just Shoot Me), Justin Falvey (Las Vegas), Darryl Frank (Las Vegas), David Miner (30 Rock) and Anthony and Joe Russo (Arrested Development) are executive producers. Carpoolers is a production of ABC Studios.

Is it any good?
Unfortunately, although we have a high concept idea, we have a low concept implementation. Apparently, all that’s on the modern man’s mind is how much he hates women. Either

  • he’s getting divorced because his wife cheated on him
  • feeling emasculated because his wife earns more than him
  • is emasculated because of all his responsibilities or
  • is practically a single father because his TV-addicted wife takes advantage of him

Not a pretty sight, is it? Most of the supposed comedy is farcical, revolving around the men acting like complete idiots in order to help him get to grips with his life. And I mean idiots. A guy’s depressed because his wife earns more than him? Then let’s break into his house at night and steal his toaster. It’s only amusing that someone came up with this idea, not to look at.

The cast is somewhat wasted, to say the least, and former Slider Jerry O’Connell does a good job of making you forget the part was clearly written, yet again, with David Spade in mind. The camaraderie between the men is also reasonably pleasing.

But it’s not funny, it’s tedious, and it’s mostly offensive. Unrecommended. Here’s a YouTube clip to prove it.

Gracen (Fred Goss)

Laird (Jerry O’Connell)

Aubrey (Jerry Minor)

Dougie (Tim Peper)

Faith Ford (Leila Brooker)

Alison Munn (Cindy)

TJ Miller (Marmaduke Brooker)


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.