The Billericay-Barry massive are back. And we won’t tell a lie … in these less innocent times, they are most welcome
Lucy Mangan – The Guardian
What’s occurring? … Gavin and Stacey. Photograph: Tom Jackson/BBC/GS TV Productions Ltd
It’s been nearly a decade since we last saw Gavin, Stacey and the rest of the Billericay-Barry massive. It feels like a lifetime ago. James Corden and Ruth Jones’s creation was born in and of a different era. Whether it was of stability or complacency you can choose according to taste/experience/political conviction, but it can hardly be argued that it wasn’t a more easeful one either way.
Even if you weren’t a fan the first time round, travelling back there now in the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special feels like an hour’s respite, sorely needed. And fans will find much to enjoy.
Gavin and Stacey have three children now and, while familiarity has not bred contempt, they are in a bit of a rut. Stacey particularly feels the lack of excitement – and sex – in their lives. Not that she isn’t happy with their decision to get kitchen cupboards in the January sales rather than buy each other Christmas presents, you understand.
Neil the baby is now a well-upholstered schoolboy. Nessa is – as Nessa will forever be – unchanged. We find her putting the finishing touches to a Che Guevara tattoo on a young man’s back. She’s done him wearing shades because she can’t do eyes. As the young man is in deep sexual thrall to her, as well as presumably host to the normal human instinct for self-preservation, he does not complain about this or about her charging him 50% more than the standard rate.
Smithy is still a reliable presence in her and Neil’s life, but his and Ness’s casual hookups ceased when he took up with a new girlfriend, Sonia, nearly a year ago. “I’ve had the odd scrag end tossed my way on the island,” she tells Stacey, with the weary contempt of a goddess stuck too long among mortals. “But that doesn’t even touch the sides.” Smithy is on the verge of asking Sonia to marry him. No one has met her yet. Gavin worries.
It is the Welsh contingent’s turn to host the family festivities this year. For Gavin’s mother Pam, this is akin to being asked to spend the night in a stable, so she is busy trying to pack the contents of her immaculate Essex home into two small bags, insect spray, mattress topper, towels, Bear Grylls survival kit and all. They have only to deal with Dawn and Peter’s latest marital meltdown – she has found a spliff in his glovebox and assumed a secret heroin addiction. But because Dawn is played by Julia Davis, the whole scene is invested with such unspoken horrors and suffused with such thick dread before the truth is revealed, it is a wonder we don’t all choke on our own primal fears before it’s done. The woman is a witch.
In Barry, Bryn is preparing the meal “for over 13 people!” and putting final touches to his schedule, checking Gwen’s oven dimensions and tracking down the plate-warmer Glenda claims she never borrowed. It’s all go, but we must maintain our faith in Bryn otherwise we have nothing on this earth.
There are the traditional array of minor misadventures: Pam forgets to bring the Christmas puddings with her and the replacements from Morrisons are left in the pub, the kids scupper Stacey and Gavin’s attempt to bone, and Bryn incurs an unfair debt of £5 to Dick Powell regarding some bread sauce.
Gavin and Stacey’s rut/lack of rutting problems are quickly solved by a trip down memory lane – or at least round the island – because their narrative is the main concern in name only. The beating heart of the show remains, as it was always destined to be when two actors write a show, the characters the creators play: Smithy and Ness.
After getting drunk in the pub on Christmas Eve, the pair wake up in bed together the next morning. Sonia is due to arrive shortly. Smithy is stricken. Ness tells him nothing happened. Smithy, relieved, sallies forth. Sonia arrives and is awful. Smithy is unrecognisable around her. Ness tells Stacey that they did in fact sleep together. They’re just one of those couples. “We’re like Hall and Oates. Morecambe and Wise. Mel and Sue.”
Sonia is baffled and uncomfortable around the gang and opts to head to her parents’ house earlier than planned. Smithy opts to stay. Ness comes out to talk to him as Sonia drives off. I won’t spoil what happens next except to say that it’s a crackin’ ending. Tidy, you might say. Depending on Smithy’s response, I’m not going to lie, potentially very tidy indeed.