Revisiting: Gavin & Stacey
You know those television programmes that you don’t bother watching because they give off the middle-of-the-road vibe that only appeals to your parents? The ones that seem to do little more than fill 30 minutes of an evening in a rather beige, non-confrontational fashion? You also know how, sometimes, these preconceptions can be completely misjudged, right? Well, this was the case with Gavin & Stacey.
The show’s three seasons and Christmas special came and went and I had zero interest in tuning in. I’d heard the hype and had caught a few seconds of it here and there but found the Dad-rocking soundtrack irritating and James Corden even more so. It was only when a longtime friend convinced me that it was actually worth a deeper look that I gave it my full attention, and I’m glad I did.
Gavin & Stacey is actually a sharply-written, multi-layered sitcom which deserves repeated viewing. Also, just as The Office is a story about Dawn and Tim not David Brent, this show isn’t primarily about Gavin and Stacey. It’s about Nessa and Smithy as they take a strange journey into parenthood and beyond. It’s about family life, about regional differences, about loyalty, friendship and love.
The characters, one-and-all, are magnificently crafted and utterly believable. Gavin is your everyday young lad while Stacey, his beau, is lovely and bubbly and annoying as hell all at once. Then there’s Smithy – an overtly emotional bloke who probably saw Gazza cry in Italia 90 and considered it a green light for big boys to wear their heart on their sleeve all the time. As annoying as James Corden can be, he plays Smithy brilliantly. And then there is the mysterious Nessa – her string of lovers, such as “dirty boy” John Nettles, John Prescott and Richard Madeley – and her many careers (“she used to coach for Coventry City. She’s still really good friends with Steve Ogrizovic”). It’s hard to top Gavin’s mother, Pam, though. A mum whose desire for everything to be perfect results in her appearing utterly neurotic (and inadvertently turned her into a vegetarian), Alison Steadman judges the role to perfection.
We also have Gwen and her omelette obsession and the one-and-only Uncle Bryn. A wide-eyed Welshman (and an extension of Keith from Marion & Geoff) who finds joy in absolutely everything (not least James Blunt), who is protective of his niece and who is haunted by the memory of a fateful fishing trip with his nephew.
The riddle of what happened between the two men on the fishing trip is one of many repeated jokes that weave through the show. Another is Smithy’s young girlfriend, Lucy. She exists only in the conversations of the characters. And then there’s Nessa’s chequered past. It’s very clever stuff.
The situations in which the characters find themselves will ring true with anyone who has lived the smalltown life. Indeed, the reason the show works so well is that it evokes a genuine feeling of familiarity. You really believe that these characters have known each other for years, simply by their small, seemingly insignificant yet microcosmic interactions. The robot dancing greetings, the way the whole family joins in with a rendition of World in Motion without questioning it, the way that the very not-Chinese Alan is called “Chinese Alan” with no explanation. Everyone has a friend with a strange, hard-to-explain nickname, right? And anyone who knows a couple who interminably argue to the point that no-one can understand why they are still together will relate to Dawn and Pete (and his Puff Daddy ring).
But, clever social commentary aside, the main reason Gavin & Stacey works so well is – quite simply – because it’s really, really funny.
And whats occurring for Gav and Stace in the future? Well, rumours are that there may be an Alpha Papa-style film version of Gavin & Stacey coming out. Oh. Oh. Oh. That’d be lush.
Words by Bobby Townsend