Gavin and Stacey may not be cool, but it's got heart

It's a gimmick-free show - full of warm, well-observed humour that never slides into schmaltz

James Corden (Smithy) and Ruth Jones (Nessa), writers of the award-winning show. Photograph: BBC

As a comedy to namedrop, Gavin and Stacey was hardly cool, and now it's gone and made things worse for itself by winning a load of awards.

The series doesn't have a hip-sounding title, or a postmodern premise, and its stars are alumni of mainstream hits like Catherine Tate and Little Britain. And it debuted on BBC3 - if there's one law of snap judgement snobbery you can rely on lately, it's that channel being lousy.

Put another way, you can slag off Gavin and Stacey without any fear of being accused of having "not got it", but if you lump it in with Two Pints ..., Pulling, or Tittytittybangbang, you probably haven't seen it.

It's just begging for a backlash. Gareth McLean has called it, "predictable, old-fashioned and wearing, it feels like a first draft, with no polish or aplomb to it. And now, to top it all, it's overrated too."

I believe Gavin and Stacey won comedy awards because it's very funny. Sure, it's difficult to argue whether jokes work or not - the same way you ultimately can't say why something moves you, or doesn't.

To me, while trendier shows can give you jaw-ache from smiling at the cleverness of the concept or invite clubbiness in their determinedly selective appeal, Gavin and Stacey feels refreshingly ungimmicky. Written by its supporting cast Ruth Jones (Nessa) and James Corden (Smithy) it's not cynical or filled with grotesques. Gavin (Mathew Horne) might have mates called Dirtbox and Fingers but he's a nice lad, the same way Stacey (Joanna Page), who's been engaged several times before, is straightforwardly smitten with Gavin.

The observational humour follows the law that the more specific it is, the more universal it becomes. For instance: Gavin's mum Pamela (Alison Steadman) getting in a suburban flap of house proud spotlessness before Stacey's family arrive and only allowing her husband Mick to eat "Golden Grahams standing over the sink", or no-frills Nessa's hen night drink of choice, a pint of wine.

The hissing savagery of parental friends Dawn (Julia Davis) and Pete (Adrian Scarborough) - the couple who want everyone to share in their unhappiness - is exaggerated, yet somehow horribly familiar.

And Rob Brydon's sad-eyed, sat nav-obsessed Uncle Bryn reading out a letter to Stacey from her late dad in the back of the wedding car could've been pure slush, but while the show is warm, it never slides too far into sentiment.

It's a testament to Gavin and Stacey's charm that the use of Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars as Stacey went down the aisle made me like the song just a tiny bit, rather than liking the show a whole lot less.

Gavin and Stacey is short on image, positively dodgy on soundtrack ... and really good where it counts.


Mhairi McFarlane

The GuardianTramp

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