Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fall in Love with Gavin & Stacey

Fall in love with Gavin & Stacey when it premieres in America on BBCAmerica tonight on Tuesday (August 26th) night at 8:40pm (are they trying to imitate EVERYTHING European including odd start times?) The show is probably one of the most romantic shows EVER but somehow it's all countered by the fact that the show is VERY British and thus also comes off as realistic with that tinge of depression/sadness the Brits do so well (think The Full Monty, Billy Elliot, The Office, Extras) and it has quickly become one of my favorite shows and is near perfection (and Televisionary too).

I fell in love with Gavin & Stacey this past summer and devoured all 2 seasons (only 6 episodes in Season 1, and 7 episodes in Season 2) all in about 2 sittings. The show follows the whirlwind romance between a boy from Essex named Gavin (a charming Matthew Horne) who finally gets to meet Stacey (a pixieish Joanna Page), the girl from Barry, Wales who he met on the phone at work and had been chatting up with for a few weeks. The pilot itself is like a mini-romantic comedy when they finally first meet and it can totally stand alone as an amazing hour of perfection (I don't want to give away too much but seriously, I had tears in my eyes) but lets just say by episode 2, we've already gotten extremely far along in the relationship that while Gavin & Stacey is a fairytale story, it is still full of true-to-life bumps and obstacles that Gavin and Stacey must deal with in making their relationship work for real in the real world, that the show comes off grounded and genuine and like a true life story.

Along their sides is Gavin's best mate Smithy (James Corden from The History Boys) and Stacey's best friend Nessa (Ruth Jones from Little Britain (she's the bar maid in the village with the only gay)) who hate each other at first sight and continue to despise each other even after their first sexual spark creates some hilarious and naughty moments that help put a little dirty into this very sweet romantic show. Nessa is terrifically all-knowing and knowledgeable and a total cut up who looks constantly annoyed at the world and annoyed at herself for accepting all those annoyances, yet has this forgivingness to it all. Smithy is secretly all heart despite his Britboy exterior and both Nessa and Smithy add a sarcasm and cynicism to the whole proceedings that is funny and balanced. Of course, it helps since Corden and Jones wrote the show themselves!

On top of the central love story, the sitcom quartet that frames the main part of the show, is a bevy of characters that surround the lives of Gavin in Essex and Stacey in Barry, Wales.

Gavin Shipman comes from an upper middle class family in the burbs with mother Pam (an indispensable Alison Steadman) trying her spirited best to make everything better in that meddling yuppie mom way, where her heart and intentions are usually more positive than the outcome. There's a hilarious running joke about her vegetarianism that she mentions to make someone feel better, despite the fact that she's a big meat eater who intended to eat 3 steaks on her Atkins diet.

Gavin's father, Mick Shipman (the solid Larry Lamb) is a loving, simple, upstanding man who loves his wife, loves his son, and is a strong supporting type, but also can spit out a loving yet annoyed look when Pam does something silly. Pam and Mick are full of pokes and prods as they joke and make fun of one another but ultimately, theirs is one of the most loving parental relationships that feels real yet refreshingly isn't dumbed down.

Over in Barry, Wales, Stacey West lives with her widowed mom Gwen (a sympathetic Melanie Walters), a simple unassuming housewife who is taken care by their neighbour and Gwen's brother-in-law, Uncle Bryn (the wonderful Rob Brydon), a VERY VERY VERY strange man who is lovable and endearing that would almost be creepy if played by another actor, yet here comes out as a very naive but overly-enthusiastic person. In the first episode alone, there is a spit-funny moment when Uncle Bryn insists that Stacey takes the rape-whistle with her to London on her first encounter with Gavin, and that he wouldn't feel right if she got raped and didn't take the whistle, but would feel much better if she had had the whistle with her.

There's also some cameos from Samuel Anderson, Andrew Knott and Russell Tovey, a few boys from The History Boys as Gavin and Smithy's mates, a hilarious turn by Julia Davis (Nighty Night) and Adrian Scarborough, who play Dawn and Pete, Mick and Pam's friends who are the exact opposite type of couple as the loving Shipman's. They argue, they make fun of each other and they infuriate each other and it's all very very funny.

While Season 1 is a glorious dream that speeds along like a whirlwind pace, then Season 2 screeches to a halt when reality REALLY sets in after the big ending of Season 1. (I'm really trying to explain it without doing spoilers so I apologize if it's all a bit cryptic). Season 2 is a bit sadder and more struggling, and it mirrors Gavin and Stacey's pains but gives the show an even further depth that rarely is seen in a "sitcom".

If there was one flaw, I would almost have to say that with only 6 episodes for the first season (and 7 in the second), sometimes things speed along SO fast that things are assumed by the next episode that we never get to see on screen, which would have been nice. On American TV, the 6 episodes probably would have been stretched over 22 episodes, (which NBC is doing by the way, buying the rights for the remake that Corden and Jones have not been asked to be a part of, which is a HUGE shame) but while sometimes American TV stretches things too long, a good 10 - 13 episodes would have been good to fill in some blanks. Especially between episodes 5 and 6 of Season 1 which makes a huge jump/assumption and continues the story when a good dramatic twist could have been explored further.

That being said, it's a minor comment on a show that hits both my romantic sensibility as well as my cynical intelligence and rare is a sweet show able to balance the two (think Pushing Daisies without all the fantasy and bright colours and plopped into a downtroden real world and then pumped full of Britishisms).


Esther said...

I remember my first trip to England, in the early '80s, being amazed by the odd start times. Also, you had to pay an annual television tax, which struck me as equally odd in those pre-cable and satellite days. I mean, isn't television supposed to be free? Now, of course, I pay way too much for tv!

sarahXxX said...

I love smithy SO MUCH!!!HE LOOKS SO CUDDLY!!

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