Gavin & Stacey's Christmas Special, by Jim Shelley

Like most reunions after ten years without seeing the old gang, the Gavin & Stacey Christmas Day special had seemed a nice idea but proved disappointing, slightly depressing, and different than expected. Somehow managing to be madder, messier, and duller but mainly just… awkward.

It was an hour in the company of people who hadn't aged well – or at all in some cases. Characters we used to find so engaging and relevant but suddenly seemed jaded, crass, or phony, with no charm whatsoever. With every other conversation starting 'remember when….' and permanently, frantically, acting as if they were having FUN when their fixed grins and joyless eyes told us different.

This was not only James Corden either, just mostly. Of course we know he must be Very Busy – doing his U.S chat-show, his horrendous cameo in the horrific 'Cats', and those endless ads on Talksport.

Comeback: Like most reunions after ten years without seeing the old gang, the Gavin & Stacey Christmas Day special had seemed a nice idea but proved disappointing

Comeback: Like most reunions after ten years without seeing the old gang, the Gavin & Stacey Christmas Day special had seemed a nice idea but proved disappointing

Nessa played by Ruth Jones

Smithy played by James Corden

Reunion: It was an hour in the company of people who hadn't aged well – or at all in some cases. Characters we used to find so engaging and relevant but suddenly seemed jaded, crass, or phony

But seeing him going through the motions as Smithy was dismal. Treating the story as if it had progressed ten weeks not years, he was seemingly uninterested in the idea of developing the character one iota, depicting Smithy like an over-grown teenager who (to the rest of us) was actually an unbearable buffoon.

Corden and Matthew Horne (as Smithy's best mate Gavin) just looked like ridiculous, slightly misogynistic, 41 year-old adolescents. He was ten years old but Gavin was even still wearing a Harrington.

No wonder Horne looked so uncomfortable to be playing Gavin again, back in the spotlight, giving a lifeless performance that made Gavin seem a total bore.

Stacey had hardly changed/developed either but Joanna Page at least managed to make her likeable.

BFFs: Corden and Matthew Horne (as Smithy¿s best mate Gavin) just looked like ridiculous, slightly misogynistic, 41 year-old adolescents. He was ten years old but Gavin was even still wearing a Harrington

BFFs: Corden and Matthew Horne (as Smithy's best mate Gavin) just looked like ridiculous, slightly misogynistic, 41 year-old adolescents. He was ten years old but Gavin was even still wearing a Harrington

Perhaps the supporting characters were never as funny and authentic as I remember them. But now Pam, Pete, and Dawn seemed ridiculous while Rob Brydon's Uncle Bryn not so much an interesting outsider or 'lovable eccentric' as disturbing.

A decade later, they were all just irritating.

The exception and the Christmas special's one redeeming feature was Nessa.

Brilliantly played (and, you suspect, created) by Ruth Jones, Barry Island's most buxom, drole, tattoo artist has always, easily, been Gavin & Stacey's most appealing, well-drawn, complex, character. Inevitably she (and Ruth) provided all the best moments here.

Jones' timing was masterful for example when Nessa confirmed she would be repeating her alternative to 'Dry January', namely 'Januhairy.'

Hmm: Stacey had hardly changed/developed either but Joanna Page at least managed to make her likeable

Hmm: Stacey had hardly changed/developed either but Joanna Page at least managed to make her likeable

'In the name of feminism I don't have a single hair on my body until the first of Feb,' Nessa stated simply, adding: 'last year by the 19th, I'd grown a full goatee.'

'She looked like Craig David!' chipped in Stacey keenly.

'On paper, me and Smithy just don't add up,' Nessa conceded to Stacey, having revealed she and her ex had, inevitably, slept together. 'But put us between the sheets and it's electric. We're like Hall and Oates, Morecombe and Wise, Mel and Sue…'

Boom, boom!

Mind you, Smithy didn't actually remember their night of passion.

'Which is a miracle,' shrugged Nessa. 'I was doing things I haven't done since my time in the circus. Back bends, single leg cuts, up rises, the lot…'

The final scene – Nessa's impromptu proposal – suggested there are plans to do another special.

Comeback: The show's old favourites were reunited for the Christmas special which brought some startling revelations

Comeback: The show’s old favourites were reunited for the Christmas special which brought some startling revelations

Family: Gavin and Stacey now have three children, including Harry and Meghan

Family: Gavin and Stacey now have three children, including Harry and Meghan

Shock revelation: ¿On paper, me and Smithy just don¿t add up,¿ Nessa conceded to Stacey, having revealed she and her ex had, inevitably, slept together'

Shock revelation: 'On paper, me and Smithy just don't add up,' Nessa conceded to Stacey, having revealed she and her ex had, inevitably, slept together’

Karaoke: The exception and the Christmas special¿s one redeeming feature was Nessa

Karaoke: The exception and the Christmas special's one redeeming feature was Nessa

 But this one (in the prime slot on Christmas Day between Call The Midwife and EastEnders) had already seen them blown the chance of taking Gavin & Stacey up a league – to become one of the greats, emulating the nation's previous festive favourites like Only Fools And Horses and The Royle Family.

Even less feted sitcoms like One Foot In The Grave and Last Tango In Halifax had shown how it was done: by making the humour and drama more sophisticated, with more depth. Not regressing, as this special had, to the imbecilic, zany, days of the 70s and shows like Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em where nothing was remotely realistic or relevant.

The likes of Mum and Girls or Fleabag have proved to achieve greatness, modern comedies need to be serious. To do it well, anyway.

Gavin & Stacey didn't even do it badly.

What? Smithy had a new girlfriend but enjoyed a tryst with his on-off flame Nessa

What? Smithy had a new girlfriend but enjoyed a tryst with his on-off flame Nessa

Only in the final minutes did they finally remember the show used to be like this, giving Nessa the only moving moment, with any real emotion, during the entire hour – to add to all those with any humour.

Personally, I think Ruth Jones is wasted on shows like this or Stella, even though she writes them herself.

The combination of her talents and the appeal/charisma of her character means she shouldn't be doing, and we don't need, another gimmick-ridden, Corden-tastic, Gavin & Stacey panto like this one.

Nessa's own series would be much better. Lush.

OMG: The final scene ¿ Nessa¿s impromptu proposal - suggested there are plans to do another special

OMG: The final scene – Nessa's impromptu proposal – suggested there are plans to do another special

 

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