By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
One of the best new shows I’ve seen all year, Gavin & Stacey, debuts on BBC America on Tuesday. It’s a half-hour British comedy about the romance between a handsome, good-natured English guy (Matthew Horne) from Essex and a cute, cheery Welsh gal (Joanna Page). They make a connection over the phone through their jobs and instantly fall in love when they meet. But unlike most romantic comedies whose plots revolve around the tired obstacles that only defer the inevitable “I do,” Gavin & Stacey makes it clear from the beginning that these two are meant for each other. Their relationship is never threatened, nor is it used as a setup for a litany of men-versus-women jokes. Instead, creators and co-stars Ruth Jones and James Corden aim at what’s most fascinating — and realistically funny — about a perfect coupling: the not-always-perfect merging of two entire orbits of family, friends and loved ones. (It says something that Corden and Jones, who met as actors on a drama called Fat Friends, gave themselves the roles of Gavin’s and Stacey’s flummoxed best mates, respectively, which acknowledges one romcom truism: in BFF-dom lieth actorly joy.)
The series, which I discovered on a trip to London last April, has been a phenomenon in Britain, earning record numbers of viewers and winning two BAFTA awards and three British Comedy Awards. The 41-year-old Jones, a dark-haired Rubens-esque beauty, whom followers of U.K. comedy will recognize from Little Britain (Daffyd’s bartender friend Myfanwy) and Nighty Night, and the egg-shaped Corden, 29, a boyish-faced charmer who appeared in both the stage and film versions of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, were recently in Los Angeles, so I met up with the pair to discuss their richly observed, mirthful series.
L.A. WEEKLY:How did you come up with the idea for Gavin & Stacey?
JAMES CORDEN: I went to a wedding on Barry Island, in the suburb of Cardiff in Wales. It was between a girl from Wales and a guy from England, and they had brought these two tribes of people to this place and got married. I sat back watching and thought that I hadn’t really seen a wedding on TV or in a film that depicted one I’d ever been to. Which is essentially one where nothing really happens.
RUTH JONES: Nothing goes wrong. Nobody objects in the church. So James talked to me about this idea, and we just kept imagining what the characters would be. The Welsh uncle, the Essex lads. We’d improvise dialogue and kept on talking about it, and it didn’t go away. And because I’m Welsh and James is English, we went away to functions and would come back and say, “I heard this brilliant line.”
For American audiences unfamiliar with the Welsh/English divide, how is it represented in your show?
CORDEN: Well, the differences are ultimately similarities, which is that [Essex and Barry Island] are suburbs of cities, with their own sense of community. It’s similar in some ways to, say, Jersey, where it’s half an hour from Manhattan but almost feels like a different place, with its own fabric.
JONES: There’s also, historically, been a thing where [the Welsh] have always hated the English, and there’s a perception that England looks down on Wales. But we didn’t want to play on that, because I don’t think most people are like that.
It’s easy humor, in other words?
JONES: It’s a cliché. I find it quite boring. In our show, people do get on.
CORDEN: They’re not enemies in any way.
JONES: These two people have fallen in love, and they’ve brought these loads of other people in their lives together, so everyone has to get on. They don’t get a choice.
So there’s your central love story, beaming and unsullied, but you’ve also got these flecks of adult humor, as almost afterthoughts, like what happens when Stacey gets advice for her blind date from an elderly acquaintance.
JONES: We were writing the first episode, and we had this idea of Stacey meeting her next door neighbor and getting some specifically sexual advice. “Give him a kiss, a cuddle, a cheeky finger, but don’t go sellin’ him the whole farm.” We wanted it to be kind of thrown away, and people would hopefully go, “Wha ... did she just say that?” And then have it just go on.
CORDEN: A regular-studio-sitcom Stacey would go inside after having that conversation with Doris and go, “You’re not gonna believewhat Doris just said!”
JONES: We wanted it to be as truthful as possible and as believable as possible but also to slightly push it over the edge and bring it back before anybody’s noticed.
Do you see Gavin & Stacey as a reaction against a certain kind of sitcom?
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