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Beep Beep, Yeah! Paul McCartney On Corden's 'Carpool Karaoke' Is TV At Its Best

By now, James Corden has set a very high standard with his Carpool Karaoke TV pieces. Only a million or two viewers watch him on CBS' The Late Late Showwhen it's broadcast, but YouTube and other social media sites extend Corden's reach phenomenally.

When he was in London two years ago, Corden took Adele on a karaoke car ride, and their spontaneous singalong and conversation has been viewed on YouTube — as of this week — almost 182 million times. Few things on TV or the Internet can generate as much pure joy as a solid Carpool Karaoke segment.

But even by those standards, a new one showcasing Sir Paul McCartney stands above all others. In only a few days, it's been viewed on YouTube more than 14 million times — and with very good reason. Not only does it have all the happiness and goofiness you expect Corden to deliver, but this McCartney karaoke is also unexpectedly tender, touching and meaningful.

Most Carpool Karaoke segments stay in the car and on the road, but Corden takes McCartney to his hometown of Liverpool and on a trip down memory lane — or, in this case, down Penny Lane.

And while Corden drives down that famous street, McCartney's Beatles song of the same name plays on the car stereo, and the two men happily sing along. McCartney enjoys himself so much that he plays tour guide during the song's instrumental breaks — and ends his patter with the expert timing of a veteran deejay, stopping just before the lyrics resume.

The mood switches when Corden asks McCartney about the inspirational positivity of so many of his songs. McCartney tells the story of being visited in a dream by his late mother, who advised him that things would be all right, and to let it be. McCartney wrote the song "Let It Be" as a result, and as he and Corden finished singing along to it in the car, Corden was wiping away tears.

In the car, McCartney also sings a few verses from the first song he ever wrote, then teams with Corden for an energetic duet of "Come On To Me," a new song from McCartney's forthcoming album, Egypt Station. And, of course, since they were driving in Liverpool, they also sang along to "Drive My Car" — with Corden providing perfectly timed car-horn blasts.

All that would have been enough for a Carpool Karaoke segment, but this nearly 24-minute piece was just getting started. Using "Penny Lane" as a jumping-off point, Corden took McCartney to old places from his childhood, including a barber shop, a florist and even his childhood home, which is now a tourist attraction run by the National Trust.

McCartney stepped inside for the first time since he moved away, and gave Corden, and us, a time-travel visit inside his home — including his memories of the bathroom, where he sat and strummed guitar and sang as a kid, because of the echo from the bathroom tiles.

And finally, McCartney and Corden descend on a local Liverpool pub for a surprise appearance. On cue — and the cue was the opening chord of "A Hard Day's Night" — the curtain opens, and McCartney and his band stun the unsuspecting pub patrons with a five-song set. It was like the Beatles on the rooftop in Let It Be-- an unexpected, unbilled, amazing moment of musical history.

The Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke ranks, right now, as my favorite TV moment of the year. And on behalf of Corden, McCartney and the band — with a nod to that famous rooftop concert — I'd like to say they all passed the audition. Fifty-four years after appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show, Paul McCartney is still making exciting, unforgettable television.

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

David Bianculli is a guest host and TV critic on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. A contributor to the show since its inception, he has been a TV critic since 1975.