Category Archives: Gavin & Stacey

Gavin & Stacey: Do you, Nessa? Do you love him?

At last, it was Nessa and Dave’s big day. But we all knew that Smithy was going to burst into the church at the eleventh hour, and play his part in a ferociously annoying Graduate/Four Weddings pastiche, from which only Dave Coaches emerged with any credit.

I kept losing concentration due to plunging into plot holes. When Stacey told Gav she was pregnant, she did so via a shoe-box full of positive predictor tests. I forget how many she said she’d done – how much wee can she do? – but it was something like 34. Against my will, I started to work out how much she’d spent. Let’s say the cheapest reliable test is a tenner for two. That’s, good lord, 170 quid! How come Stacey has that sort of money to chuck about? That’s surely more than a week’s wages in the sandwich bar! By the time I emerged from my calculations, Smithy was in the church telling Nessa he wanted to stop her marriage even though she repulsed him, and I had no idea how we’d got here.

Nessa looked interestingly strange in her bronze wedding dress. I went off her a bit this week though. First, there was her meanness to Gwen, which went from being not very amusing to just plain horrible. Even her little speech about how Gwen was like a mother to her was undermined by an awkwardly ambiguous kiss on the lips.

Then, it should have been Nessa’s finest hour at the altar. But when Smithy accused her of not loving Dave, she stubbornly denied everything. It was left to Dave to stand up and be counted; it was rather moving when he said sadly that he knew she didn’t really love him. This was a chance for Nessa to show a bit of emotion at last, and certainly not be buffeted about by two men making decisions for her. But she didn’t have the balls. I fell into another plot hole thinking about what would have happened if Dave had said nothing and they’d got married. I wrote a new ending, and though I say so myself, it was a considerable improvement.

I did enjoy some of it. Every scene with Nessa’s Dad, for instance. Give the man his own show! ‘Played it straight’, he said modestly, of his TV extra work as a man in a coma. ‘Just laid there, you know.’

I also loved Mick’s face when he realised the Auden poem he was reading mentioned coffins. But this was yet another hole – had he not glanced at it before he stood up ? And really, did they have to include that poem, just so everyone could so, ‘Ooh it’s just like Four Weddings innit, ha ha’?

Best bit by a huge margin was Dave greeting John Prescott at the door of the church. Even from the couple of words he uttered, we could see JP is a terrible actor (actually we already knew this from his political work), but what a lovely understated little moment. All those mad stories of Nessa’s past were played out in this one blink-and-miss-it scene. Oh, if only the whole thing had been like this, what a masterpiece it could have been.

We were left with a cop-out ending: Stacey pregnant, Gav dead-eyed, and Nessa and Smithy… well who knows? A couple, or just co-parents? As with so much of this series, the audience was left to do too much of the work, and not in a good way. Much as it saddens me to say it, this really was a good time to pull the plug. I missed these characters after Series Two ended, but I don’t think I’ll miss them any more.

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Gavin & Stacey: Larry’s a peach on Barry Beach

In clear defiance of the Christmas Telly Rules, Gavin & Stacey was set on the beach, in as close to blazing heat as Wales ever gets (watery sunshine; goose-bumps; most people fully-dressed). Everyone was there, of course, continuing this series’ unbroken streak of contrived situations.

Mick and Pam turned up in Barry unexpectedly, but the whole street knew it before they’d stepped from the car, thanks to a nosey neighbour’s mastery of Twitter and texting. I grudgingly admire the programme’s assumption that middle-aged people talking about Facebook is amusing. On the one hand it’s kind of patronising to assume that everyone over 22 is foolishly excited by new technology; yet on the other, Bryn and Gwen do talk exactly like the middle-aged parents of my acquaintance. Actually – oh god – let’s be honest here: I am a middle-aged parent of my acquaintance, who only today was boasting about my mastery of certain i-Phone apps.

I was concerned the whole beach thing was going to mean one of those episodes where we sit round watching the cast having lots of fun without us. I was right to be worried. There were sandcastles, and log flumes, and predictable longeurs about which cans to buy. Then suddenly, reminding me in the nick of time why I keep watching, there were Nessa and Smithy, squashed hip to hip in a dodgem car, coming face-to-face with a hollow-eyed Dave. This programme’s ability to wrench genuine emotion from everyday situations is the reason we all loved the first series, and if it has lost its way lately, this at least was one of those moments. It was, sadly, undermined shortly afterwards by Nessa being more concerned about the barbecue than the state of her relationship, just for a cheap, and not even very big, laugh.

Gavin and Stacey’s boring anxiety about not being able to have boring babies bored me to bored tears; and Doris, who I know is heading for national treasure status, was simply irritating.

But Mick was splendid as ever, and it was so nice to see less-than-perfect bodies being admired, something that never happens on telly. Mick’s in good shape for his age – not movie-star shape but, you know, not bad (as I’ve hinted before, I’m always happy to take a call from Mr Larry Lamb; he knows where I am), and everyone said so. Bryn was never happier than rubbing oil slowly into Mick’s chest, brushing aside Mick’s objections with the classic line, ‘I’ve got cream on my hands now – what can I do?’ What indeed, Bryn?

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Gavin & Stacey: The new Terry & June?

There was a pleasing amount of Dawn in this episode, as it centred round her renewal of vows with the grimly awful Pete. The more Dawn the better, though this was another episode which felt strained, as everyone was forced together in biblically unnatural circumstances.  Even the characters acknowledged this, Dave Coaches saying, ‘I don’t know why they’ve invited me’. Because the writers don’t have the courage of their convictions, Dave. They think they’ve got to have everyone into the same room. But they really don’t need to: one of the best things so far this series was Smithy’s reaction on receiving a text from Nessa.  Jones and Corden are like your decrepit old uncle, the one who refuses to use email or even the phone because face-to-face is so much better. But, as you keep telling your uncle, there are lots of methods of communications these days. Gavin & Stacey would benefit hugely from a bit of imagination in getting the main protagonists to connect without them having to be actually in the same physical place.

There were a few gems to enjoy this week, in addition to Dawn’s wonderful facial expressions. Smithy’s mother, failing to take charge of her two terrible kids; Ruth on her heelies; and Smithy in a suit – good lord, he was almost handsome, in an outsize department sort of way. Mick, when he saw Pete’s bling ring and said, ‘Whodya think though you are, Puff Daddy?’  Mind you, I love every second Mick is on screen, and would happily pay to watch him reading his Visa bill. If that doesn’t sound too weird. Was I the only one who actually liked Pete’s gangsta ring? I thought it gave him a bit of much-needed bit of dash.

But the terrible pregnancy storyline was embarrassingly underwritten. It was completely obvious from the word go that the lack of sproglet would be Gav’s fault, purely because Gavin and Stacey – unbelievably – didn’t consider that possibility. They both assumed it would be Stacey, which meant the whole story just tumbled headlong in pursuit of the incredibly boring, seen it a million times before pay-off , of hearing that Gav had a low sperm count. I was suddenly transported back to watching a shit 70’s canned laughter sitcom, accompanied by a twinge of anxiety that I hadn’t finished my homework.

Also disappointing was the personality change of the lovely Dave Coaches, from gentle and solicitous to mean and selfish. All done, presumably, to make more of a black and white distinction between him and Smithy, thus freeing up Nessa to choose Smithy over Dave. But this crassly ignores the interesting dynamic between the three of them, and the fact that they have all been, till now, complex characters: sometimes nice, sometimes not so nice. I don’t want Dave to be a baddie just so the other two get together by default. I want Dave to be considerate, as he was, so that if Nessa chooses him we can see why, and if she chooses Smithy we can believe that there must be a true bond between them.

Still, it was almost worth sitting through this tired and complacent writing to get to the last scene, in which Smithy told Dave that he and Nessa had recently woken up in bed together. Everyone’s face was a picture: Nessa’s when she realised she’d been outed, Dave’s when he realised she’d been unfaithful, and Smithy’s, when he realised he’d pushed it all just a little bit too far. More of this, please, and less of the sort of stuff I last saw when there were only three channels and Ab Fab was but a twinkle in June Whitfield’s eye.

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Gavin & Stacey: I don’t know if it’s nice, but I like it

Rather gawky, and completely spaced-out; nonetheless, Deano stole this week’s episode. I don’t remember him being in it before, but what a fine addition he was. In a show which is running the third-series risk of becoming too predictable, everything Deano said was a surprise. Pam offered him tea or coffee, and he asked for ‘half-and-half’, which meant tea and coffee in the same mug. Mick, always urbane, asked him if it was nice, to which he replied, with great honesty, ‘I don’t know if it’s nice, Mick. I like it.’

When introduced to Gwen on a lad’s outing to Barry (number three in increasingly desperate storylines to bring everyone together), Deano spoke in fluent Welsh, though Gwen doesn’t speak it herself. Bless him, he’d been on an intensive Welsh course to prepare for the trip. Few more chaps like him around and there would be no wars. He did very well, actually. I learned Welsh for nearly a year, and all I could say was, ‘dim licio rhaglenni pop’ (‘I don’t like pop programmes’). It would come in handy if I ever discussed the X Factor – briefly – with someone Welsh.

Anyway, despite poor Deano’s smooth Welsh he still lost out on the girl to the handsome Fingers. Admittedly Fingers and the girl (my addled memory has misplaced her name), had already shagged at Gavin and Stacey’s wedding, and there was a lovely moment when Deano asked angrily if they knew each other and they shared a secret smile. Meanwhile Bryn, in entirely appropriate scout-leader shirt and tie, was in his suppressed homosexual element, with all the lads crashing round his place. Like the girl with no name, Bryn liked Fingers best, we could tell from the way he hugged him. Bryn is a sucker for a good-looking lad of colour. I love that he had prepared his house as a bachelor heaven, including putting out a subbuteo table and sticking a page three pin-up on the wall. But the funniest throw-away scene was of one of the boys, sitting happily in the middle of the living room with his feet in a foot-spa. Bryn sure knows how to lay on a good time.

They all went clubbing in Cardiff, and there was some tedious business with Stacey thinking she was pregnant but not being; only redeemed right at the end by her revealing she’d actually been trying to get pregnant all year. How many more of her batty schemes can Gav forgive? If it’s not five fiancés or insisting on moving back to Barry, it’s lying about being on the Pill. About time Gav had a little break-out behaviour of his own, I reckon.

I enjoyed Smithy’s freak-out over Nessa texting him. It never, quite, tipped over into self-parody, and was nicely revealing of Smithy’s inner struggles. In particular, the scene where Smithy got a throat-hold on poor old Owain and insisted on reading him the text (‘Hope you’re all right’ it said, in its entirety), was a joy. I laughed out loud, for the first time this series, when Smithy, clutching Owain to his considerable bosom, said drunkenly to Gav, ‘He’s more a friend to me than you’ve ever been’. Smithy had only just met Owain that minute. It reminded me of many a crazy night I’ve had in Cardiff, except, thanks to Deano, there was considerably more Welsh spoken than usual.

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Gavin & Stacey: Is a korma boring?

Things always perk up when Dawn and Pete hang round the Shipman’s kitchen. Their discussion this week, about the text service ‘Any Question Answered’ – Pete had asked it if he should divorce Dawn – was splendidly deadpan. On the basis of the brief SMS reply, they’d decided to renew their vows. Who am I to judge? It’s as good a way as any of making decisions: more specific than the I-Ching, cheaper than couples counselling.

The extended gag about ordering curries was annoying and unoriginal, but there was lots to love this week, not least Bryn and Gwen giving Stacey a mock interview to give her confidence for the real thing. This quickly plunged into a dark subtext of antipathy towards Stacey’s fickleness, and it ended with them turning her down for the nonexistent job. I thought Stace took it rather well. The way she bounces back after people are mean to her is easily the best thing about her character. She got the real job anyway, on the basis of being able to make sandwiches, bless her teeny little brain.

Gav’s naturalistic handling of Smithy and his sister singing an entire song into his mobile was nicely done, too. He didn’t just put the phone down or look bored; he listened a bit, got on with some work, listened a bit more, then congratulated them on a good performance when it finally came to an end. I like to think I would have been as generous, but suspect if Smithy was my bezzie mate I would have long since changed my mobile number and emigrated rather further than Barry Island.

My favourite bit was the extended sequence which began with everyone getting royally hammered after the curry, and doing dad-dancing to House of Fun. This ended on a perfect visual joke. Gav’s phone buzzed by the side of the bed; a sleepy Stacey read the text, reacted, and showed it to Gav, who looked shocked. Seconds later, in a different room, Nessa’s phone beeped, and she picked it up and read the message from Stacey. Her face a perfect blank, she rolled over in bed to see a stunned-looking Smithy, holding his phone after texting Gav. The thing had come full circle with everyone messaging everyone about the fact that, yet again, Smithy and Nessa had done the dirty.

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Gavin & Stacey: Series 3’s what’s occurring

Don't fancy yours much

I can’t believe I thought Gavin was dishy in the last series. Doris, the lecherous old lady next door thinks so, but what sort of judge is she, with her inability to make salads and her excessive swearing? 

I can’t decide if her bad language is really hilarious, because she looks like a sweet old lady, or whether it’s a tired and patronising old gag. I’ll have to have a think about that. Anyway, I realised this week that Gav actually looks like a Lego man, with his sculpted black hair and staring eyes. By crikey, even Smithy looks good in comparison.

The problem they’re going to have with this series is how to get everyone together, without making it look contrived. This episode it was baby Neil’s christening, which was fair enough, but I hope they have the courage to run separate storylines which don’t require Smithy and Nessa to be in the same room. I’m not buying the hidden subtext of will they won’t they. They just shouldn’t be together. They don’t like each other. End of.

Steadman in quiet repose

Perhaps I was in a grump due to hearing my first ‘I wish it could be Christmas every day’ of the season, but everyone’s funny little ways seemed like annoying tics. Doris’s foul mouth, Stacey’s stupidity, Smithy’s man-love for Gav, Uncle Bryn’s innocence, and especially Pamela’s, well whatever it is that she does. I suddenly realised I haven’t much cared for Alison Steadman since she was in Abigail’s Party. Heresy, maybe, but she invariably turns in such over-the-top performances that she unbalances whatever she’s in. I still have nightmares about her Mrs Bennett in Pride & Prejudice. Everyone else remembers Colin Firth in his wet frilly shirt; I only recall Alison Steadman chewing up the scenery.

I’ll tell you who I did like: Baby Neil – a class cameo from a dashed handsome-looking baby. And Gav’s Dad, played by Larry Lamb. I have a thing for the silver fox look, and sister, he’s got it in spades. I also love the way he carries on with his realistic and understated performance despite being cast against Alison Deadman. I always enjoy Nessa, especially with her wearing a back sling for Neil so she can smoke more easily. And Dave Coaches is masterfully played. His scenes with Nessa have real chemistry.

But everyone else got on my nerves. They wasted tons of air-time with Rob Brydon singing; with a lame gag about everyone phoning Gav at his new job; and with Smithy’s Mum, who despite being played by Pam Ferris, verged into Steadman territory as more caricature than character.

Of course I’ll carry on watching. I love Gavin and Stacey. Everyone loves it. For now.

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