TV Review: Families laugh-out-loud mad - and you've got to love 'em

By Lin Ferguson

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The cast of popular British comedy Gavin and Stacey. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
The cast of popular British comedy Gavin and Stacey. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Some encore shows on television are always welcome, especially when they are the quality shows much loved first-time round.

Two cases in point: last Sunday Prime repeated Downton Abbey Christmas and on Thursday Television One has British romantic sitcom Gavin and Stacey, in its second showing on New Zealand screens.

It's hardly surprising DVD boxed sets of television programmes have become a must-have for many fans these days and are right up there with popular novels.

Televised family friction, secrets and loves always make for perfect plotlines - either as a dollop of hefty drama or laugh-out loud madness.

Fab British romance sitcom Gavin and Stacey has little Gav (Matthew Horne) from Essex, a patient lad with soulful eyes, and his beloved, bubbly Stacey West (Joanna Page) from Barry in Wales, who are constantly numbed and confused by their families' antics.

Thursday night's episode was like a Glee Club for the challenged with a surprise birthday themed party (a barn dance) in the Barry village hall for Stacey's mum Gwen (Melanie Walters).

Most of the invited guests had declined, so it ended up a very small group, all determinedly in for a bit of fun, fanned out around the dismal wooden hall with the rules No Smoking, No Narcotics and No Guns made clear.

What makes this show funny is everyone is absolutely solid, there's no flitting off to grin an aside at an audience, no hideous canned or real applause, it's good, old stuff highlighting the madness of families and friends.

Such as old girl neighbour Doris (Margaret John) dressed to the nines in pink Western glitz, the huge hat, satin-fringed top then - of course - a sensible tweed skirt belted neatly.

Doris is being pursued by a chap from the neighbourhood who has obviously had the hots for young Dorrie for years.

But at the dance she's finally had enough of him mooching up close and personal, so the sweet old dear let's him have it with "don't give me that heavy s - t ... get lost."

But they return to the dance floor when Stacey's best friend Nessa Jenkins (Ruth Jones), a plus-sized glamorous chick and hugely pregnant hits the stage with Uncle Bryn (Rob Brydon).

They sing the duet Islands In The Stream' and the guests slide into two lines and dance along, a bit like a rendition of a Teletubbies' chorus.

It's a grand laugh, and not because it's silly and slapstick but because it's a cleverly written show with comedy uppermost.

Hardly surprising it's won several awards.

This is comedy which is real, no padding with fluff and feeble lines.

And how I loved the sumptuous Downton Abbey Christmas - again. Especially Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley.

On Tuesday, an interview on Prime with Maggie Smith on Sixty Minutes was a great treat.

Interviews with Smith are rare.

"Well, I'm shy," she said. And she's never watched Downton Abbey.

"No, I don't like to watch myself."

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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