Scary stories from a lovely place
The first time I saw Gavin and Stacey was in 2009. I was in England at my sister-in-law’s house. My reaction was the same as the first time I saw The (British) Office, way back in 2003. But it grew on me. As did Gavin and Stacey. Now I rate them as two of my favourite shows. British comedy is like that. It’s not in-your-face entertaining. It makes you think, it hurts a bit and this makes you work for the laughs. So when the appreciation comes, it’s all the better.
Gavin and Stacey is a nice show. None of the characters are unlikeable, they are all pleasant. It’s about a guy from London and a girl from Wales who talk on the phone, finally meet, get engaged and married, all by the end of the first season. But Gavin and Stacey are really just side characters.
Along with their families and homes, the story climaxes in Smithy and Nessa’s relationship. Smithy and Nessa are Gav and Stacey’s best friends. He is a fat, obnoxious loveable jerk, and she bears tattoo’s of the Welsh lion, wears short black hair, black eye makeup and clothes and speaks of unmeasurable relational exploits. They can’t stand each other but they keep finding themselves together. In Smithy’s words – “she sucks me in, she’s like a dyson.”
The show’s strength is how it deals with real issues while invoking comedy. It doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff – marital difficulties, infertility, broken relationships, alcoholism and disappointment.
Gavin and Stacey is about loss and loneliness and trying to forge and rebuild relationships. Bryn and Jase, Stacey and her hometown of Barry, the despicable Pete and Dawn, Gavin and Stacey’s marriage, and of course Smithy and Nessa and their son, Neil the baby. The scene that encapsulates all of this is in season 2 – the sequence where the boys are at the Foam party and the West’s playing Bingo.
Snow Patrol’s lullaby ‘You could be happy’ plays in the background, perfectly juxtaposing the serious subject matter against the nothingness of bingo and nightclubs. Only the relationships count. At the same moment Gavin and Stacey realise their respective worlds aren’t enough. They want each other.
Smithy embraces the fun – “I can’t wait for the foam!” but in a tender moment sees a hand stroking a pregnant belly and the realisation that he should be near his son spreads across his face. It’s deep and powerful and emotive.
And this is the brilliance of British comedy. It’s hilarious and crass in all the best ways, but it plumbs deeper than that too. Seinfeld, Friends or Frasier have never made me cry but Gavin and Stacey and The Office can. It’s relateable and meaningful and very funny. Get into it.