The return of a beloved sitcom is a bit like meeting up with an old mate after years apart. Sure, there’s the chance that you’ll rekindle the flame of your friendship and roll back the years, but it’s equally likely that you’ll be left wondering what you liked about them in the first place.
And so to Gavin & Stacey, James Corden and Ruth Jones’ beloved sitcom, which returns this Christmas some ten years after it last aired a fresh episode. It’s fair to say that anticipation is high – Corden’s initial announcement earlier this year was named among the most popular tweets of 2019.
And thankfully, it’s a reunion worth making the effort for. Corden and Jones have pulled off the ultimate feat – recapturing the warmth and humour that made the UK fall in love with BBC Three’s sleeper hit in the first place. In short, it’s the perfect return. A decade after Smithy’s emotional ultimatum to Nessa at the altar, the special sees the Essex and Barry Island clans reuniting for the festive season, though it’s a direct flip of the 2008 festive episode. This time, Christmas is being held in Wales, and Pam’s brilliantly petty reservations about heading to the island are the first hint that nothing has changed at all.
It’s largely business as usual for the rest of the gang too. Gavin and Stacey themselves are now battling parenthood and the small matter of retaining the spark in their own relationship, Bryn is struggling to cope with cooking Christmas dinner for 13 people and Smithy and Nessa are facing their own challenges too.
It’s hardly a reinvention of the wheel, but Jones and Corden have ensured that each storyline fits the characters like a (Christmas) stocking. Most importantly, it’s incredibly funny too, in the way that the series did best, mining the relatable banality of everyday life for laughs. That’s best exemplified in a Christmas Eve trip to the pub which descends into a familiar conversation about the assorted merits of UK service stations. It’s just one instance of the fan service and reference to long running gags that are expertly threaded throughout and – yes, that means an inevitable moment with the Fishing Trip – but it’s to Jones and Corden’s credit that rolling out the greatest hits never feels particularly out of place.
All considered, Corden and Jones have crafted a near-perfect celebration of everything that made the show so great in the first place. Die-hard fans might have minor quibbles with a lack of character progression, but it’s clear Corden and Jones have resurrected their beloved baby with hugely successful results. Time will tell whether a more permanent return to Barry is on the cards, but without saying anything else, we certainly wouldn’t rule it out. All will become clear.
‘Gavin & Stacey: The Christmas Special’ airs on BBC One at 8.30pm on Christmas Day