Gavin & Stacey: Season One Review

You could argue that the romance of Gavin & Stacey is a whirlwind, but that depends entirely on whether or not you value the modern relationship-by-proxy. Going for months with nothing but phone and online interactions, Gavin and Stacey decide to meet one fateful evening with their best friends as back-up. What could easily have been played off as just another romantic-comedy drama series, blossoms into a delightful romp in the world of youthful love. Gavin & Stacey: Season One shines for a new series thanks to spot on comedy writing and only a few lackluster episodes here and there.

Stacey (Joanna Page) and Gavin (Mathew Horne) knew each other before they’d even met. Employees at cooperating businesses, the two go for six months before working up the courage to meet face to face. After endless coaching from her family (Melanie Walters, Rob Brydon) and his (Larry Lamb, Alison Steadman), both head off to London with their best friends in tow. After an initial first night of romance, Gavin and Stacey are swept up in a relationship that begins moving at the speed of light: a proposal, meeting the parents and planning a wedding – but obviously hitches will arise. As Gavin and Stacey run ahead full tilt, Gavin’s friend Smithy (James Corden) and Stacey’s friend Nessa (Ruth Jones) find themselves dancing around the one night they spent together in the first episode. The series as a whole keeps a crackling pace and only every stumbles in episodes where the great ensemble cast is unnecessarily sidelined.

What shocks me most about Gavin & Stacey is its strikingly short 22 minute episode format. The stories of each episode feel like they could easily support a 42 minute frame, and yet the series mercifully keeps them reined in, taut and lean. It’s an oddly paradoxical complaint as I think Gavin & Stacey excels thanks to the episodes coming in easy to digest 22 minute bits – and yet, it’s enjoyable enough that you want it to go on longer and give you more. It may be the best criticism a show can receive.

Similarly, it’s hard to find something negative to say about the performances of the cast. Joanna Page bubbles with just the right amount of heart and none of the overly-sweet nature that would be all too easy to inject into a character like Stacey. Mathew Horne walks a fine line and never takes Gavin into the helpless man-over-his-head field. James Corden and Ruth Jones do superbly as the best friends who dispense advice and yet can’t ever be considered the best sources for such. Where the cast truly excels is in the parental figures – especially comedian Rob Brydon as Stacey’s uncle. Brydon is incessantly hilarious; the man’s every line elicits laughter.

DVD Bonus Features

Apart from a reel of outtakes and commentaries on assorted episodes, the set of Gavin & Stacey: Season One really only has two featurettes to speak of. However, the commentaries are quite funny, so don’t just pass them over – try the first episode’s and go from there.

“How It Happened” – The cast members of Gavin & Stacey sit down and talk about their initial auditions, who they favored to play which parts and what they remember about getting the experience off the ground. I actually didn’t know that Ruth Jones and James Corden were the creative forces behind the series, but it’s really interesting to hear the two talk about how they cast the parts and who the parts were written for. After watching this, it becomes clear why Brydon’s role as Bryn feels so perfect – it was written for him. Go figure.

“Behind the Scenes in Leicester Square” – This series of video diaries from the set of Gavin & Stacey on Leicester Square was originally available off of iTunes. Now, instead of watching them in pieces as they were originally offered, the entire series is mish-mashed into one long ADD-inflicted sequence with no warning as it breaks from one episode to the next.

"Gavin & Stacey: Season One" is on sale May 5, 2009 and is rated NR. Comedy, Romance, Television. Directed by Christine Gernon. Written by Ruth Jones, James Corden. Starring Alison Steadman, Ruth Jones, James Corden, Joanna Page, Mathew Horne, Rob Brydon, Larry Lamb.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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