TV review: Gavin and Stacey


I'M not going to lie to you: I don't really get Gavin and Stacey. I can definitely appreciate all the effort that clearly goes into it – it is well observed, decently acted, fairly original, all that. The characters are immediately identifiable and realistic. They don't do or say random, unlikely things just for the sake of a funny scene (unlike, say, the inexplicable Miranda).

I can absolutely see why it's been such a big success, particularly for those fed-up with over-the-top sitcoms or sketch shows full of vulgar catchphrases and nothing else. And it really has been a smash, with the inevitable American remake due and the BBC so in love with the show that they'll clearly reserve the old Only Fools and Horses Christmas slot for it for as long as its creators, Ruth Jones and James Corden, want to continue – specials are promised after this third and final series.

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So why does it never make me laugh? Most of the time I can't even tell where the jokes are supposed to be, unless they're as obvious as having Rob Brydon's Uncle Bryn solemnly perform Something Inside So Strong at the christening of "Neil the baby" (as he's oddly always referred to) in this latest episode. That wasn't actually funny, but it was clearly meant to be.

Elsewhere, though, it's like a game of Hunt the Joke. Is it funny that the baby's middle names are Noel and Edmond? The running bit about the old lady next door not having made the salad for the christening buffet, is that something? What about Nessa hearing the baby cry on the baby monitor, saying she'll get him in a minute, then rolling over to reveal that he's actually just lying on the other side of the bed – is that meant to be a joke, or simply a surreal non-sequitur?

"Oh, what's occurring?" isn't just Nessa's perennial greeting. It's the cry of a confused reviewer.

Of course, comedy is subjective and no doubt these same baffling moments made many viewers howl with laughter, which is great. But despite the hype, the multiple awards and the US remake, there must be others out there who find this show perfectly pleasant but deeply strange.

Even the fans, though, must understand why this is the last full series, as there's only so much mileage that can be got out of bringing the two families, and their hangers-on, together for umpteen social occasions. The sickly sweet central couple are now living in Wales, but it doesn't really matter since Gavin's parents and best friend Smithy are clearly going to be visiting as constantly as Stacey's mother, uncle and best friend Nessa did when they were previously living in Essex.

Gavin has a new job, which provided an endless scene where all his various relatives and friends proceeded to phone him in front of the (strangely understanding) new boss, five minutes after he'd walked in the door. His new colleague insists on introducing himself to everyone as "Owain Hughes – and no, I don't!" a Welsh joke which leaves the English Gavin utterly confused. Well, now he knows how I feel.

And maybe that's the appeal of Gavin and Stacey: if the funniest comedy is the private running gag between family or friends, then this is like eavesdropping on a series of in-jokes between its characters – and everyone wants to be in on the joke.

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