I’d heard about Gavin & Stacey in passing a couple of years ago but didn’t really know what it was about. All I knew was that Rob Brydon was in it and I liked him whenever he was on QI, and that it’s a comedy series from the BBC.
Fast forward to the big UK trip Neil and I took in early July when I found the complete series, all three seasons plus the Christmas special, on sale at HMV for £20 (roughly 30 Canadian dollars at that time). I still didn’t know much about it so I wasn’ t sure if it was worth it, but we talked to Neil’s friend James and bought it after he described it as having some of the tightest writing he’s seen on television.
So what’s it about?
Gavin Shipman is a guy from Essex who’s been talking regularly on the phone at work with Stacey West, a nice girl from Barry, Wales (they have sort of a vendor/customer relationship). After six months of talking, they’re finally going to meet, and when they do, they fall in love. But as the creators James Corden and Ruth Jones say in the extras, their relationship is really just an excuse to get the incredible group of people that is Gavin and Stacey’s family and friends into the show.
Other characters include Gavin’s best friend Smithy (played by Corden), Stacey’s best friend Nessa (Jones), Gavin’s parents Mick and Pam, Stacey’s mum Gwen, and Stacey’s uncle Bryn (Rob Brydon). There’s a wonderful coming together of the families throughout the series, plus complicated relationships like Smithy and Nessa’s–they have a child together after a couple of one night stands despite actually being disgusted with each other and have to negotiate parenthood as Nessa gets into a relationship with Dave Coaches (who drives the coach bus).
Each season has a fairly simple plot with the real force being driven by the characters. In the first season, Gavin and Stacey meet, get engaged and at the end, get married. Nessa also reveals at the end of the season that she’s pregnant with Smithy’s child. The second season features two storylines: Nessa’s pregnancy, her relationship with Dave and the birth of baby Neil at the end of the season; and Gavin and Stacey’s negotiation of where they live (they start out at Mick and Pam’s, Stacey eventually moves back to Barry, and they’re back together at the end). The Christmas special features all of them together at Mick and Pam’s for the holidays, Gavin and Stacey’s announcement that they’re moving to Barry and Dave’s proposal to Nessa. And in the final season, Gavin and Stacey are trying to have a baby and Nessa and Dave are planning their wedding, with the wedding episode as the finale.
Rumour has it that there will be another Christmas special, and even though the story is really well wrapped up at this point, I’m still glad to hear it because I’d love another visit to that story.
Gavin & Stacey is hands down one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. James was right–the writing is incredibly tight, and the performances are excellent with every phrase, look and action loaded with meaning. The show does so much more than follow the typical sitcom form and despite having only a half an hour to work with per episode, most episodes walk that fine line of being funny, sharp, poignant and occasionally heartbreaking. It does a great job of taking everyday situations, like a wedding, and making them recognizable, funny and lovely.
I’ve been spending the day deconstructing my response to this show because it’s been so strong and what it really comes down to is that I developed a very emotional response to the show in a way that I’ve never been able to with any other sitcom. I love 30 Rock and firmly believe it’s one of the best shows on television at the moment, but I’ve always felt an intellectual connection to it. And after watching all the extras for Gavin & Stacey, I think the reason I’ve had such an emotional response is that the creators and everyone involved have an emotional investment in it. They’re not just there for the paycheck, they truly love these characters and their stories.
So watch it. Not only that, but find it and buy it if you can. It’s a show that’s not only worth watching, but worth owning. You’ll thank me later.