Did we like it?
Given the hype for this show we were half-expecting the televisual equivalent of the Second Coming, and while it’s not quite as celestial as that we are sure that if God found this excellent newborn comedy abandoned in a dustbin He would wrap it in swaddling clothes and proudly raise it as His own.
What was good about it?
• Mathew Horne and Joanna Page as the eponymous Gavin and Stacey are utterly convincing, injecting their roles with the delirious euphoria of first love so it seems perfectly natural for Gavin to drive from Essex to South Wales on impulse, or for a mutual declaration of undying love after only a few dates. As the padlock at the heart of the comedy, they don’t receive their fair share of jokes but their empathetic relationship more than compensates for this.
• James Corden and Ruth Jones should be commended for both the superb script and for their performances as Smithy and Nessa, the scene-stealing best friends of the loving couple.
• Rob Brydon, as Stacey’s probably gay Uncle Bryn, pops up each episode like a favourite catchphrase. In the first of the episodes, he drops by to insist that for her journey to London to meet Gavin she accept his gift of a rape alarm as “they were out of pepper spray” and because “I don’t want anyone in this room to be raped, including me”. He goes on to explain why he has provided the rape alarm: “You come back Sunday raped and I showed you how to use it, I’ll rest easy in my bed. You come back Sunday raped, the fault will solely at your door.”
• While his efforts to ward off Gavin, after mistaking him for a badgering door-to-door Jehovah’s Witness, from calling on any of his neighbours, and later teaching Gavin how to use a route-planner to map his way back home were just as funny.
• The acutely observed, excruciating meeting between Gavin and Stacey in which they talk over one another and wander off to a world of their own until a put-out Smithy interjects.
• Nessa’s wonderful and hilarious rants that amble off into the distant sunset. One concerned her affair with the “boss of Harrods”, who eventually palmed her off to his son. But after she told him to “back off” she “hasn’t heard a peep in years”. While when she was worried that Stacey wouldn’t come back after visiting Gavin’s family in Essex she recounted the story of Carol Powell, who in 1982 went off with a bloke called Jocky and hasn’t been seen since. “For all I know she could have been sex-trafficked out of here,” mused Nessa.
• The brilliant Alison Steadman as Gavin’s mum Pamela. After Gavin and Stacey arrive at their home after Pamela and her husband Michael have turned in, the next morning she is shaking like a rattle to clean up their “pigsty” of a kitchen, and refuses to let Michael eat toast because of the crumbs: “You can have some Golden Grahams so long as you eat them over the sink.”
• And the moment when Pamela bids the copulating couple good night with “Just to say, you’re dad’s out for the count and I’m putting my ear plugs in so you let yourselves go” epitomised how the relatively mundane domestic situations are often given a hilarious twist, and how after only about 45 minutes you’re already laughing not so much at what’s being said but at the antics of the character who is saying it as they’ve become as embedded in your mind as an ice pick in the skull of a Russian émigré.
• The ridiculousness when Pamela confides to Michael as he’s about to leave that she thinks Stacey is wearing sunglasses to mask bruises from Gavin assaulting her (she’s actually got a huge zit). Incredulous, Gavin is summoned to the hall where, in camera, he protests his innocence, and then rather than everyone going back into the dining room, Stacey too is summoned to the hall where she whispers to and shows Pamela her acne.
What was bad about it?
• The telephone mix up after which Stacey thinks Gavin has dumped her when he is rude to her as his boss is standing over him was a little forced, and Stacey’s impetuous resolution that Gavin had finished with her seemed a little out of character (which, if anything, is a testament to how well the characters were introduced in episode one).
• While they might become more appealing in subsequent episodes, Dawn (Julia Davis) and Pete seem like wan facsimiles of Father Ted’s bickering John and Mary, without the respectable façade they pitched-up when they saw Ted.