Video, video and more video. Everywhere I turn, it seems as if I’m queuing up some sort of moving image to watch. Whether it’s movies from my Netflix queue, downloaded video podcasts, iTunes purchased TV shows – I always feel as if I’m behind in catching up on watching media. My OCD kicks in immediately when I add a new piece of media to watch and it just makes me feel as if I’m losing ground. So, you can imagine my displeasure when a good friend of mine dropped an entire season’s worth of a DVD series on my desk. (It’s one thing to hit me with a movie – that I can knock out in a sitting or two. But a television series??) Luckily for me, it was a BBC series.
The Brits really know how to do some things incredibly well. Making a television series is one of those things. With The Office, they only gave us twelve episodes and a Christmas special and it was golden. Probably the funniest and most heartfelt media I’ve ever seen.
Something told me to pop in the Gavin and Stacey DVD. After all, like The Office, it was only a six-episode season with each episode only a half-hour long. I thought one night I’d watch the first one and then return it. I ended up watching the entire six episodes and kept it to see the director’s commentary. I proceeded to search for the Season 2 DVD and the Christmas Special (like The Office, they did a Christmas special as well, although not nearly as satisfying). After having caught up on the entire series, I am glad that I didn’t push it to the back of my queue. It has to be one of my favorite series of all time now.
What makes Gavin & Stacey such an incredible triumph is hard to explain in a single thought. But if I were forced to explain the one thing that drew me in is how colorful and well defined the characters are. Everyone is so animated and comical in their own way that it makes a half hour go by like ten minutes. These are people that you’d enjoy getting to know. While the plot for both seasons focuses on one main event (a birth and a wedding), these folks are so much fun to watch that you don’t really care much about how the plot is moving along.
OK, so just to give a tiny taste of the plot, two twentysomethings (Mathew Horne and Joanna Page) from very different parts of the U.K. have a chance meeting on the phone while at work and after several conversations, they decide to meet in person. Of course, from the title of the show you might be able to figure out that they embark on a relationship. I think one of the show’s creator/writers (and also one of the main cast members), Ruth Jones, explains it best. During an interview she mentioned that when a relationship happens, it’s more than just those two people who get together, but this series explores the interesting happenings when the people that they bring with them (their families and friends) begin to merge. And it’s that notion that this show explores so beautifully.
While the relationship between Gavin and Stacey seems to be the primary draw, what’s great about the show is that there are so many other interesting sub plots. But none seems to have grabbed me like the plot between Gavin and Stacey’s respective best mates, Nessa and Smithy. You see, both Nessa and Smithy are overweight. (Coincidentally, they are the creators of the show.) Upon Gavin and Stacey meeting, Nessa and Smithy decide, sight unseen, to make it a double date. And without spoiling anything, their interesting love-hate relationship (if you can call it that) ensues from there. For me, it’s their story that is the real draw. While Gavin seems like a good bloke and Stacey is attractive and vivacious, their characters are driven primarily by this new love disease that they’ve been stricken with. However, it’s their mates seems to be much more complicated and complex characters. Nessa is a very strong, certain and sure-of-herself character. Her jet black hair and leather facade are intimidating to most who don’t know her. But in many ways, her appearance is quite deceptive. In the moments where she shows her femininity, it’s incredibly touching. In one scene she expresses her insecurity about being in a maid of honor dress in a wedding because of her slight insecurity about her weight.
Smithy (played by James Corden) is probably my favorite character on the show. Coincidentally, he’s probably the most flawed character. He’s overweight. He appears to have few prospects in life. Yet it’s his extended childhood relationship with Gavin that seems to give him energy to keep moving. On the surface, he’s crass. He’s a messy drunk and his irresponsible living makes it both funny and tragic to watch him. But at his heart, he’s a lovable guy. (For some reason, I see a lot of myself in Smithy. Minus the ‘lovable’ part.)
The series leaves quite a few empty plot holes (even after having completed the Christmas special). At this point in the series, there’s uncertainty with regard to everything that will happen – especially the future of Gavin and Stacey’s relationship. I can’t wait to see what a Series 3 might reveal.
What I most want to see is Nessa and Smithy finally getting together. It’s teased throughout the entire series (and unlike most other shows, these folks just refuse to give in to the audience’s wishes). There’s no obvious conclusions to be found here. Nessa and Smithy are quite harsh to each other – particularly the things that Smithy says. But during the tender moments, it makes for the more interesting parts of the show. (To me, anyway.)
My understanding is that a U.S. version is on the way (big surprise). And while I’m sure they will find a way to make it appeal to American television viewers, much in the same way that I am partial to the U.K. version of The Office, I can’t see a U.S. series having the charm and appeal of these people and families that they bring together.
If you have some time and you like The Office (either version), I’d say this is a no-brainer. At only twelve half-hour episodes and one hour long Christmas special, the time investment is small, but the return on your enjoyment is huge and continues to pay dividends long after the credits have rolled.