This Christmas we received an extra special treat as Gavin & Stacey decided to return to our screens after a ten-year absence. But was it worth the wait or should it have just remained as a fond memory in TV gold history?
Once upon a time when a show ended, we thought that it would be gone forever. But now we live in an age of remakes, reboots, and revivals. It’s impossible to know whether something will truly be gone for good. In recent years the BBC has had many attempts at bringing back some of it’s most beloved sitcoms and not always to huge success.
A remake of Are You Being Served? (one of my all-time favorites) left a pretty sour taste in my mouth as it ended up being a complete disaster, feeling more like a parody than a celebration. Similarly, a complete reboot of Porridge flopped (despite being given a full series) due to poor ratings. Other formats to bring shows back have been attempted, such as the prequel to Keeping Up Appearances which I did love in part but I had to ask myself if we ever really needed it.
In 2017, after a 15-year break, another of my personal favorites announced it would be returning to our screens for a three-part anniversary special. The League of Gentlemen created some of the most iconic comedy characters of all time and with some of the most talented comedy writers at the helm, nothing could go wrong right?
Don’t get me wrong it definitely still had all the charm of the original but something felt very very off about it. One of the best characters was killed off, other characters had changed personalities in some way, and there seemed to be too much focus on all the wrong characters as some of the best weren’t even used again. I did love it, but I expected more. With these kinds of things never being a success for me it got me scared when Ruth Jones and James Corden announced that they were bringing back Gavin & Stacey for a one-off Christmas special after a decade away from our screens. Would this be the one to prove that revivals aren’t always a bad idea?
When the final episode of Gavin & Stacey aired we got our closure and everything seemed tied up in a nice little bow. After months of trying for a baby, Stacey had finally fallen pregnant. She and Gavin were happily living in Wales. Smithy had finally made a grand gesture towards Nessa and stopped her wedding to Dave Coaches. We didn’t really know if Smithy and Nessa had got together at the end but we didn’t really need to know, everything was cracking. So what’s been occurring for the past ten years?
Well, Gavin and Stacey are still living in Wales but now have three children. The opening scene of them talking on the phone counting down the hours till they see each other is a nice little homage to the show’s beginning. These little homages to the past are littered throughout the show and would probably go unnoticed by casual fans. But for diehards like me they each brought a little smile to my face.
The pair are in a bit of a rut as the toll of raising three children has made their sex life non-existent. It’s a bit of a predictable storyline for the couple but seems quite fitting considering how rampant they were originally. After finding a book of matches from the hotel they stayed at in the first-ever episode it prompts the pair to take a trip down memory lane. It’s also a trip for us too.
As lovely as their trip around Barry Island is, it feels a little forced for me. As someone who has watched the show regularly in the past ten years, I didn’t need a whole scene full of “remember when this happened” moments. I much prefer the subtle background reminders such as Neil the baby wrapping his presents in tin foil, Bryn wearing his ‘my niece went to Greece’ T-shirt, and Stacey wearing the same dress that she wore for her first Christmas in Essex. These scenes are there for a reason though as not everyone has rewatched the show since it ended. They remind us that even though a decade has passed, they’re all still the exact same characters that we originally fell in love with. Even if there wasn’t a single mention of an omelette.
Despite being called Gavin & Stacey I think we all secretly watched it for the will they won’t they relationship of Nessa and Smithy. Nessa is without doubt one of the greatest sitcom characters of all time and I’m so pleased to see she hasn’t changed a bit. Well, motherhood has definitely softened her and there were no celebrity tales of the past to be told, but she’s still incredible.
She still works in the same arcade except now she has Neil the baby to help her glue down the pennies in the sliders. There’s also a small tattoo parlor set up in the arcade and when we first see Nessa she’s finishing off a Che Guevara tattoo. Except she can’t do eyes so he has to wear sunglasses. The bloke doesn’t complain and nor does he complain about having to pay over the odds for it, he loves Nessa. What man doesn’t?
Well, we still don’t actually know whether Smithy does or not. The pair seem in a good place now with Neil the baby being their main focus. They’re having sex regularly despite not being an item (or are they?) but that all stopped 11 months ago when Smithy started dating a girl named Sonia. The girl he plans to propose to over Christmas. It’s tough because despite not personally liking Smithy it’s always been pretty clear that he and Nessa belong together in some way. I don’t know whether I expected them to finally be together after all these years, but I didn’t want another third-person (like the mysterious Lucy) bringing whatever it is they have together to a halt.
Smithy isn’t the only man Nessa has a close relationship with. The bond shared between her and Uncle Bryn was always something of a strange yet perfect pairing. Would they still be that close and would they get up and do another musical performance?
The answer to both of those questions is yes they would. Nessa and Neil the baby have been living with Bryn for years and obviously they’re going to sing at Christmas. Usually, their duets would be the highlight of the show but this time around their song choice has caused quite a bit of a commotion. “Fairytale of New York” has been marred with controversy for years now with calls from numerous radio stations, TV broadcasters, and members of the LGBTQ+ community demanding the word f****t be censored or altered.
Nessa and Bryn chose to sing an uncensored and unaltered version of the song and it goes down a storm in the show. Not so much in the real world, however. I knew as soon as it was sung that there would be a number of complaints but I was quite saddened to see a number of articles condemning the show this morning. I don’t want to get too political here (we’ve all had enough of politics recently) but in a way, I’m glad the original lyrics were sung. Why would Nessa or Bryn have sung a different version?
As a gay man I know all too well how offensive that word can be, I’ve had it shouted at me enough times in my life. But for some reason, I’ve never been offended by its use in the song. I’ve always seen the song as two grotesque characters hurling around insults at each other during an argument. It isn’t aimed at the audience or anyone else, it’s a disagreement between the two people in song. It’s no different to the word being used in similar dialogue in TV or movies. I don’t recall a similar reaction when Catherine Tate and George Michael sang the song in her sketch show back in 2007. But does that make it right?
Who knows. It’s not for me to say what is or isn’t offensive to everyone else, I can only speak for myself personally. While some people believe the inclusion of the song was a slap in the face for the LGBTQ+ community I believe something different. I just think it was there as a way of saying that it’s perfectly acceptable to be offended, but not everyone will share your view. People like Bryn and Nessa will still sing this song regardless of whether you agree with it. It will always exist. If people enjoy the song and want to listen to it then let’s just let them get on with it. It’s a complicated debate and one that will no doubt continue for years to come.
I think we just need to learn to have a little more acceptance for other people’s views. I accept and understand why people are offended but I also accept why people aren’t. I’ve probably got too deep here for the Christmas period so I’ll move on swiftly shall I? Tidy.
Pam, Mick, Pete, Dawn, Gwen, and Jason haven’t changed either. In fact, life is still just as dramatic for Pam and Mick as it always was. Pam is still as ruthless as ever and wastes no time in having a dig at Gwen’s cooking, her mattress, and her towels. She and Mick are still playing peacekeeper to the endless amounts of trouble that plagues the marriage of Pete and Dawn. Dawn found a joint in Pete’s glovebox and threw herself out of a moving car after coming to the conclusion he’s now a junkie.
Obviously she’s jumped to conclusions and it was nothing more than a joke present in a secret Santa at the office. In one of the best scenes of the episode Pam, Mick, Dawn, and Pete decide to get stoned and dance around the living room in the middle of the afternoon. It’s comedy brilliance and instantly reminded me of the house party episode from Series 3.
I love that they haven’t changed a bit and it’s a joy to see the actors just slip straight back into these roles. It’s like no time has passed at all. But I guess Dawn did eventually get her own way as Pete’s massive P ring was nowhere to be seen. There were some other notable absences such as Rudi, Budgie, Dirtbox, Fingers, and Deano. But the biggest absence of all was neighbor Doris.
We all remember Doris’s quick one-liners from the original and after actress Margaret John sadly passed away in 2011 we knew we would never see the character again. The show didn’t forget how important she was and after Gwen encourages everyone to raise a glass and remember her. Aside from this touching scene, there are a few photographs of her dotted around people’s homes so she’ll always be there watching over them. She’s probably still laughing at Nessa from the other side knowing she never did bring that bloody salad.
Christmas is an overall success for the families and the end of the special episode approaches. But how do you end the show once again? Do you give a happy and tidy ending or do you deliver one of the biggest cliff hangers of all time?
Ten years ago the show ended with Smithy stopping Nessa’s wedding for reasons he didn’t really know. He just knew it was wrong and that there was something there. This time around it’s a complete role reversal as Nessa has finally realized she loves him and proposes. Before he can give his answer the show ends and we’re now left in limbo as to whether we’ll ever get an answer to that question. We have to, right? It can’t end there surely?
If this is the last time we ever get to drop back in on the Shipman’s, West’s, Sutcliffe’s, Smith’s and Jenkins then at least it was wonderful. Sure some of the callbacks to the original series felt a little forced but who cares? The whole hour was a fantastic way of celebrating everything that made the show incredible in the first place. If truth be told it’s exactly how a revival should be done.
In a way, it’s a test to see if that fanbase still exists and whether the show could still be relevant today should they wish to bring it back again. Considering over 11 million people tuned in for it I think it’s safe to say it was well lush for us all. Ten years is a long time to be away from our screens but after this, it genuinely doesn’t feel like they’ve been away. If Ruth Jones and James Corden decided to write more then bring it on but if they don’t then…fair play. We can be grateful to them for the beautiful gift they gave us this Christmas with the special.
I suppose now that the show is over once again for the foreseeable future we have to ask ourselves which question we want answered the most. Will Smithy say yes? Or what happened on that bloody fishing trip?