Television Revision: Gavin & Stacey – Season 1

Television Revision: Gavin & Stacey – Season 1. Starring Mathew Horne, Joanna Page, and James Corden. Rated M. By Andrew Williams.

Mathew Horne as Gavin, James Corden as Smithy, Joanna Page as Stacey, and Ruth Jones as Nessa.

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).

Now this is a story all about how… English lad Gavin Shipman (Mathew Horne) and Welsh girl Stacey West (Joanna Page) finally agree to meet after six months of phone-based courtship. Both nervous, they bring along their respective best friends – beer-loving Smithy and chain-smoking Nessa (co-writers James Corden and Ruth Jones) – for support, and sparks fly in unintended ways.

Rob Brydon as Bryn, Melanie Walters as Gwen, Jones, Page, Horne, Larry Lamb as Michael, Alison Steadman as Pam, and Corden.

Happy days? At six episodes (three hours in total), the first season of Gavin & Stacey is essentially a longer-than-usual Richard Curtis romantic comedy in television form. All the elements are there – big romantic gestures, colourful ancillary characters, plenty of awkward moments, dirty jokes – and often successfully executed. The supporting cast, for example, is just wonderful. Rob Brydon’s instant classic Uncle Bryn and Gavin’s lovingly over-protective mother Pam (Alison Steadman) are fantastic presences that are as familiar and human as they are hilarious.

Sadly, while the early romantic moments of the show are undeniably affecting, the first season of Gavin & Stacey burns through the romance of its central couple so quickly that they are soon left without much to do except occasionally bicker and react to those around them. Joanna Page is lovely but her Stacey becomes brutally bland, and Mathew Horne would suffer a crushing defeat to either Martin Freeman or John Krasinski in a reaction shot-off. Television is littered with primary protagonists the audience doesn’t care about and Gavin & Stacey threatens to add two to their ranks. Their ‘normalcy’ would be fine if they were charismatic straight characters but Horne especially just doesn’t have the chops.

The final frontier: Gentle, funny, and easy to love, Gavin & Stacey is worth your time, for the glorious Welsh accents if nothing else.

Jones and Page.

Top 3 Episodes: 1) The Meeting: A romantic comedy in 30 minutes, the first episode is a great introduction to the four leads and the series at its most romantic. 4) The Wedding Fair: Wherein the supporting cast come right into their own; some great lines and a Matt Lucas guest appearance highlighting the season at its funniest. 6) The Wedding: Entertaining, great character work, and a well-directed depiction of the way a glamorous wedding inevitably descends into a drunken shambles.

Worst Episode: 5) The Surprise. The writers choose to put a nonsensical roadblock in the way of Gavin and Stacey’s courtship that only serves to devalue both the characters and their relationship.

Season MVP: Rob Brydon. You may know him best as Steve Coogan’s offsider in The Trip, but he’s a wonderfully offbeat and hilarious presence here. I have to give an honourable mention to Larry Lamb as Michael Shipman, the kind of father most people want and the kind of straight man our leads should be.

Gavin & Stacey – Season 1 is now available on DVD. It can also be streamed instantly on Quickflix PLAY.        

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