When I first told my good friend PopUK that the comedy series Gavin and Stacey was coming to BBC America, she was nothing short of delighted. Since it's one of her faves, I asked her to give us Yanks a taste of what makes the show so great before it premieres at 8:40 p.m. PDT/EST tonight. I'll let her take it from here:
So, you've already got our "British teens gone wild" import Skins airing on your shores, and now it's time for one of our most beloved series to arrive: Gavin and Stacey. It's a British comedy show with a love story at its (big, big) heart, so here's my guide to what you need to know before turning on your telly (er, TV) tonight!
Let's start with the adorable 20-something couple at the center of all this: Gavin and Stacey. The series begins before their first meeting — they've been talking on the phone for months at work and are finally taking the plunge and seeing each other face to face. The couple both live at their family homes, Gavin with his parents Mick and Pam, and Stacey with her widowed mother Gwen under the protective eye of her uncle Bryn. Gavin's a down-to-earth lad from Essex, England — which is to London as New Jersey is to New York City — and Stacey's full of sparkle and hails from Barry Island in Wales, the equivalent of a small town in South Carolina. (These American equivalents are where the characters are rumored to be hailing from in the upcoming NBC remake.)
The comedy arrives via the cast of supporting characters who flesh out the show. Gavin's mother has an inability to think before she speaks, whereas her husband Mick is down-to-earth like their son and fails to see the method behind his wife's madness. Gavin's parents are awesome, and whenever I watch the show, certain things they do feel so familiar to me from watching my own family at various gatherings. Stacey's Uncle Bryn (played by British comedy great Rob Brydon) is a simple Welsh man with a simple life; he's amazed by everyday things like online route planners and is very endearingly protective over Stacey.
For more about G&S, including a glossary, just read more.
The brilliant writers of the show (James Corden and Ruth Jones) also play Gavin and Stacey's well-rounded best mates Smithy and Nessa. The really-rather-lovely-in-real-life Corden and Jones arguably give themselves the best lines and definitely the most embarrassing situations, and the two over-the-top characters are my favorites (along with Bryn).
Nessa is older than Stacey, and boy has she lived — she constantly name-drops, mentions places she's lived (Namibia, Egypt), and seems to have slept with everyone in Barry and beyond. Her catchphrases like "What's occurring?" and adding "Oh" to the beginning of random sentences have caught on across the country. If you're having trouble understanding her strong Welsh tones, bear in mind that even we Brits don't understand her sometimes, which is something Smithy brings up later in the series.
So, onto Smithy, played by lovely James Corden (The History Boys), who's won a couple of awards for this role including one of the two BAFTAs that the show won this year. Smithy's a stereotypical English bloke on the surface, puts up a loudmouth front, loves football and beer, and has a really young girlfriend whom we never actually see. Underneath it all, though, he's fiercely loyal to his friends, especially Gavin, and is definitely a big softy.
All in all, it's hard to tell how the show will translate in America, and although American journalists enjoyed James Corden and the rest of the cast at the TCA Press Tour, we won't know how it fares with the public until it airs tonight! I'm curious as to what you'll all think, so do let me know.
But I'll leave you with some references in the first episode you might not understand. If you watch the rest of the series and there's anything you're not sure about, just ask!
- "You sound like Barbara Windsor..." = English actress, sounds like a British version of Joey's manager Estelle from Friends
- "cacking it" = really nervous
- "Pet Rescue" = daytime TV series beloved by housewives
- "shepherd's pie" = meat topped with mashed potato
- "by the by" = beside the point
- "driving theory" = written part of UK driving test
- "River Island" = high street clothing store
- "it's well nice" = it's very nice
Photos courtesy of BBC America