Judge "Chinese" Adam Arseneau wrote this review. Tidy.
For richer for poorer, in England and in Wales…
"If I show you how to use the rape alarm and you go to London, England and come back Sunday raped, it's not on my conscience and I'll sleep easy at night coz' I showed you how to use it."
Until you've seen this double BAFTA-winning comedy, you'll never know how tender and sincere the above line can be delivered. Welcome to Gavin & Stacey: The Complete Collection, arguably the finest Anglo-Welsh comedy ever to grace the airwaves.
Facts of the Case
Gavin (Mathew Horne) is an ordinary boy from Essex. Stacey (Joanna Page) is an ordinary girl from Wales. They've talked on the phone at work for months, but they've never actually met, until now. And when they meet, it begins a whirlwind romance that changes their lives—and brings their families and their nations crashing together.
Gavin & Stacey: The Complete Collection contains all twenty episodes from three seasons of the award-winning BBC show, collected on five DVDs.
On paper, there's nothing groundbreaking about the premise: boy meets girl, they fall in love and get married. Then, a complex story emerges, full of subtext and confusion, laughter and tears, hilarity and growing pains. This award-winning comedy earns its pedigree and reputation as one of the finest BBC productions in recent years by striking a perfect balance between realism and surrealism; a predictable romance delivered in the most unpredictable fashion—truthfully. We get family foibles, English and Welsh stereotypes, upper and lower class, pub quizzes and pregnancies, one night stands and cross-country road trips, shotgun weddings and best friend fights.
Truthfully, it's hard to explain how good the show is on paper, because it falls entirely to execution to elevate simple, almost clichéd situation comedy into something that feels relevant and heartfelt. I can sit here and scream "IT IS AWESOME" from now until the end of the internet, for all the good it will do me. I can explain how I've never met a single person who doesn't adore the show, usually after only a single introductory episode. Its sensibilities are almost old-fashioned; a showcase of the best qualities of humanity, of friendship and love, relationships and family and all the inexorable drama that hitches along for the ride.
Despite the namesake, this show succeeds due to its stellar ensemble cast. Gavin is a straight-laced and perpetually adolescent. Stacey is charmingly naïve. The coming together of their respective families—ah, therein lays the magic. The creators of the show, James Corden and Ruth Jones cast themselves as the best friends to their respective protagonists—the oafishly charming Smithy and the caustically sardonic Nessa, whom themselves experience a small amount of romantic tension, shacking up drunkenly despite hating each other immediately on first sight. Gavin's parents, Pam (Alison Steadman) and Mick (Larry Lamb) are doting and comfortably middle-class; his mother obsessed with making a good appearance and babying their boy. Stacey's mother Gwen (Melanie Walters) is single parent in less-than-middle class Welsh neighborhood and solves every problem by making it an omelet. The indomitable Rob Brydon plays Bryn, Stacey's overly enthusiastic uncle and surrogate father figure who never lets his lack of real world knowledge damper his excessively cheerful world view.
Gavin & Stacey: The Complete Collection is a repackage of the three standalone seasons plus Christmas special, presented in a cardboard sleeve. Audiences get the entire show run, from start to finish in one convenient package, which is absolutely the way to be consuming this show: marathon sessions consuming entire series in single afternoons.
Presented in stereo Dolby Digital, the audio is clear and unremarkable. Dialog is well-balanced and environmental noises feel well-placed and accurate. Bass response is minimal, and English SDH subtitles are included—which can be helpful for some of the thicker Welsh accents. The pop soundtrack fits the series well. The anamorphic widescreen transfer stays remarkably constant throughout the series, with a clean picture, balanced colors and moderate black levels. It gets a bit soft in place, but nothing unremarkable for a BBC television series.
Extras are plentiful. The first disc, Series One, contains some featurettes ("How It Happened," "Behind the Scenes in Leicester Square"), audio commentaries with Ruth Jones, James Corden and Christine Gernon, and outtakes. Series Two contains commentary tracks, outtakes, a set visit on the Welsh program Uned 5, James Corden and Ruth Jones visiting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and a featurette ("Story of Series 2"). Series Three contains outtakes and cast favorite moments, photo galleries, a behind-the-scenes featurette with cast interviews ("No Longer Occurin") and a "12 Days of Christmas" featurette. Not too shabby.
Warm, heartfelt and riotously funny, Gavin & Stacey is one of the finest comedies to come out of the BBC in years. A must-see.
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Studio: BBC Video
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