21st century where the British sitcom is at a low in both brilliance and
output, Gavin & Stacey is one of the very few that proved that
mainstream comedy can be both well written and appeal to a mass audience. The
love story between an Essex Boy and a Welsh girl and the constant presence of
their bizarre family and friends developed from a cult BBC THREE hit to a
prime-time BBC ONE phenomenon.
The creation of Ruth Jones and James Corden, the two met on the ITV drama Fat Friends and they decided to write something together. Inspiration came from real life as Corden was at the wedding of his friend Gavin who met his wife over the phone at work. Initially developed as a one-off play, the BBC saw potential in the premise and commissioned a series for BBC THREE.
The romance between Gavin and Stacey is a whirlwind after they meet up and the two are married in the first eight weeks of their relationship. However, their love is not all plain sailing as conflicts such as Stacey's homesickness after moving to Billericay is a cause of tension between them. There's always a level of drama at the end of each series, whether it's Stacey not being honest about her previous engagements, her home sickness or Gavin's low sperm count preventing them from having a baby.
Matthew Horne and Joanne Page were well cast in these roles as they portray the various emotions of their unique situation with such sincerity. Whether they're loved up one minute and arguing the next, they seem well suited despite the various issues that arise.
What solidifies the series is the brilliant supporting characters and, more importantly, the cast. Corden played Gavin's best friend, the loveable Smithy who's a big kid but with a heart of gold. Gavin's parents, the normal Mick and the domineering mother Pamela make for a brilliant duo thanks to the choice of casting of Larry Lamb and Alison Steadman. And on Stacey's side is her best friend, the morose and malevolent Nessa. Ruth Jones created an iconic character with her striking appearance and deadpan delivery. And of course, Stacey's family including Gwen, Uncle Bryn and Jason are equally eccentric but loving.
quirks and individual qualities of all the characters are well observed and
performed that the audience
can't help but feel a connection and love for them; something that only the
best sitcoms achieve.
criticism of the series is that the supporting characters are seen as more
interesting and funnier than the titular duo. Indeed, along with Nessa, Smithy
has become a popular character in his own right. The fiery relationship between
them and the added complications due to their occasional one night stands
resulting in Neil the baby, is by far the most interesting storyline in the
series. Even Pamela has become somewhat of a cultural icon with her eccentric
quotes and sayings becoming the stuff of memes and social media shares. She
perhaps has more one-liners than Gavin and Stacey combined.
While this criticism is slightly justified, ultimately, Gavin and Stacey are the glue that brings together a group of people who would otherwise never meet.
humour is adult, observational, random and occasionally dark with the two
characters sharing the surnames
of serial killers Harold Shipman and Rosemary West. There's even a character
called Peter Sutcliffe!
Humour also derives from the culture clash between Welsh and Essex stereotypes
which may be seen as non-PC today but was always good natured. The series also
has a warm heart and feel good quality that uplifts the audience. Even just
hearing the opening of the theme tune, Run by Stephen Fretwell, relaxes you
into this mad and fun world.
with the characters and humour, catchphrases, including "What's
Occurin’?" and "Tidy" have become
staples of British popular culture.
While the series graduated to BBC ONE for the 2008 Christmas special and the final series, which pulled in 10 million viewers, it never lost its charm or the eccentric humour that made it popular. And as such, the series ended on New Year’s Day 2010 and never outstayed its welcome.
In the decade since it finished the cast and crew have moved on to further success in their careers. Ruth Jones created and starred in six series of the hit Sky One series Stella and recently became a bestselling author. And of course, James Corden succeeded where so many have previously failed by fronting his own smash hit American chat show, The Late Late Show with James Corden.
Despite their individual successes, the cast have never forgotten Gavin & Stacey, and neither have the fans. Since concluding in 2010, the series has become a classic with a following that has grown and grown thanks to high DVD sales and appearing on streaming services. Barry Island, the setting for Stacey's hometown, has also become a popular tourist destination with fans all over the world visiting the town and the famous locations such as Stacey's house and Nessa's booth. As soon as the series ended, fans were desperate to know what happened to their favourite characters and rumours have been ongoing about a potential reunion special. Due to the cast's busy schedules and the passage of time, it seemed like that ship had sailed.
Therefore, fans were ecstatic when James Corden tweeted in May 2019 that a one-off special had been commissioned for Christmas of that year. When it finally aired on Christmas Day, the special was viewed by nearly 12 million viewers and became one of the most watched TV events of the decade. It was a triumph and lauded by fans and critics who praised the balance of nostalgia, natural character development and retaining all the ingredients that made the series so loved. In a very depressing era of British history, the warmth of this show was welcomed and also, with a massive cliffhanger, left the door open for future episodes.
While still considered only a recent series, Gavin & Stacey looks set to stand amongst the best British sitcoms of all time as its popularity, judging by the 2019 special’s viewing figures, shows no signs of slowing down.
About the reviewer
J.D. (as in John David and not Jack Daniels) is an admin assistant by day and a writer, dog owner and hologram by night.
He wants to clarify that he has not got an unhealthy obsession with The X-Files despite owning dogs called Mulder and Scully and being the author of the Amazon Ebook "Reviving the Truth: A Critical Binge of The X-Files Post 2002."
J.D. can be found on Twitter;
Published on December 28th, 2019. Written by J.D. Collins for Television Heaven.