Review: Gavin and Stacy

Just a quick glance at its ‘thumbnail’ on Netflix – and you’d assume it was a generic rom-com. Thankfully, it’s not, it’s about the coming together of two families from very different cultural backgrounds, and the hurdles they must overcome to remain united; it is an allegory about the nations of Wales and England. And how they cannot be divided over petty differences but must remain united. This show is iconic and memorable for presenting the interaction between the quirky extended family on both sides of the couple. It had been thirty-odd years since a noteworthy British comedy like Only Fools and Horses or Blackadder, but with Gavin and Stacey, the BBC writers once again caught our attention.

The show has a basic plot; an Essex lad (Gavin) falls in love with a Welsh lass (Stacey). That’s it. Both leads are dull and forgettable, and that’s the way we like it. Their actors delivered a stellar performance, but they’re only written in as a plot device to allow for the story. Once they’re out the way, the show can focus on characters people actually give a damn about. Characters such as Bryn, Nessa, Smithy, Pam, Mick, and Gwen (Not to mention Doris!). They’re all a bunch of lovable weirdos, yet not so bizarre that they’re hard to believe exist. We don’t feel the characters have an over the top and forced caricature-like persona. While they do stick to a set few catchphrases and are somewhat meme-able, do we not know people like that?  They’re the teachers who become known for using the same set phrases, they’re the friends who have embarrassing traits, or in Doris’s case – the creepy weirdos we avoid…

This show defines British culture. In all honesty, an international audience would find it completely unfunny – and justifiably so. Plotlines like the character Bryn having had some incestuous relationship with his nephew on a mysterious fishing trip wouldn’t be considered funny elsewhere, but us domestic TV viewers can’t help but find it hilarious. Or another time when the character Nessa gives everyone a single chocolate from a Celebrations box as a Christmas present; well, even to begin with there is the joke in that thinking a single celebration is a sufficient Christmas present to give someone as a fully-grown adult. Then they go round and see which celebration they’ve each been gifted; Not long after someone says they got a Bounty followed by Nessa responding “You’ve drawn the short straw there. I’m not going to lie to you. I’ll see if I’ve got some more on the bus.” You have to know of humanity’s universal hatred of the Bounty chocolate to find it amusing. On the other hand, when someone announces they have the Malteser everyone cheers, before coming to a consensus that it is the best one except for the Galaxy Truffle. It’s instances like this – where we can relate to the joy of picking out a Galaxy Truffle or have felt the disappointment of pulling out a Bounty that makes this show so bloody relatable.

The characters are interesting and layered; The show leaves the audience wanting to know more about its characters rumoured misadventures, like Nessa’s relationships with, John Prescott (former Deputy Prime Minister), Eddie Stobart of the trucking company, and the actor Om Puri. We enjoy having the screen time used on non-essential but all the while entertaining plots like Pam poorly pretending to be a vegetarian and Bryn learning about modern technology painfully slowly. Not only that, but the characters make us feel truly represented also. Perhaps no time better highlights this than when the character Smithy ranted about ordering takeaways. He states “What is it about a group of people ordering an Indian or a Chinese or something… that it is unacceptable to eat your own food that you ordered yourself”- “they’re all dipping into mine and going yours is really nice…and I’m like, yes, it is. THAT’S WHY I ORDERED IT!”. You can see yourself in Smithy’s character. What about the time Gavin and Smithy, who are best friends, are belting out Band Aid’s ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ together. By creating relatable characters like this, that belt out cringy 80’s Christmas songs with their mates as we honestly would, sends a message: no matter whether you’re from England, Scotland, or Wales, we should celebrate our commonality.

Sure, we may all speak with different accents, but if there is something that can bring us together it is a mutual agreement on two matters; ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ is in the ‘God tier’ of Christmas songs, and Bounty in the ‘Shit tier’ of chocolate celebrations. Further still, the show tells us all to take pride in the fact we are members of this island, and not to feel ashamed at our sometimes cringe-worthy and ungracious culture but be proud to be British.

Featured Image by BBC