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Mint Bailey's and White Toblerone: A Look at the "Gavin & Stacey" Christmas Special

Oh, oh, oh, what's occurrin'?

The holidays might be over and the New Year already begun, but there's one thing that's always dependable: that James Corden and Ruth Jones' Gavin & Stacey will make you laugh and tear up in equal measure.

I had a chance last week to watch the recent Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special, which aired on Christmas Eve on BBC One and I have to say that I haven't enjoyed an hour-long comedy that much in a very, very long time. (I won't lie to you, I've now watched it--like Bryn and the Sex and the City movie--no less than three times.)

Packing more heart and humor into a single hour, the Christmas Special advances the plot of the first two seasons of Gavin & Stacey while effortlessly setting up the plot for the third season. Plus, it gives us a long overdue glimpse into the most realistically zany characters at the holidays. As Stacey herself would say: it's so lush!

When we last saw the gang, Gavin and Stacey had all but split up after a series of nasty rows and general unhappiness in Essex, Nessa had just given birth to baby Neil in Barry, and Smithy and Gavin raced to be there for the birth of Smithy's first child... where the touching sight of Nessa and her baby boy brought Gavin and Stacey back together. (All together now: aw!)

So what does the Christmas Special bring for our favorite couples (and, yes, our favorite non-couples as well)? Well, break open a white Toblerone, take a sip of some mint Bailey's, and let's discuss.

The Christmas Special picks up the action a few months after the events in the second season finale. Gav and Stacey are still living with Mick and Pam in Billericay, though Stacey has taken a job at Marks & Spencer and, unbeknownst to all but Mick and Stacey, Gavin has interviewed for a promotion at his company's Cardiff branch. Yep, that's right: Cardiff. As in Wales. With the entire Shipman/West clans--including Nessa, Dave (of Dave's Coaches), Smithy, Bryn, Gwen, and Jason--all descending on the Shipmans' for Christmas, it looks to be another explosive family gathering when Gavin decides to come clean about their next move.

And it's those very moments that prove to be the most memorable in a special episode that's packed to the rafters with emotional beats and hilarious dialogue. The knock-down brawl between Pam and, well, just about everyone else is as touching as it is shocking (especially when Pete unexpectedly decks Dave for slagging off Dawn), as Pam's true colors emerge and her true feelings about the Wests. (Dawn's put-down of Nessa as a "truck-driving dyke" is a colorful reminder of the territorial tensions simmering beneath everyone's polite exteriors.)

But it's the Smithy/Nessa/Dave storyline that proves to be the most heartfelt, as Smithy desperately tries to create a place for himself in Baby Neil's life, only to find the role already co-opted by Dave (hell, the man bought Neil a Cardiff City footie shirt), who shocks everyone by asking Nessa to marry him on Christmas Day. I can understand where Smithy is coming from and why he feels left out in the cold but he's not been a father to Neil, nor has he been a partner to Nessa. When he pleads with Nessa not to marry Dave (who has been there for her and the baby and with whom Nessa now needs to move in with, as Gav and Stacey are taking her room at Gwen's), it's a bracing slap to the face. He doesn't offer his own hand in marriage or even claim to love Nessa; he just doesn't want her to marry Dave.

Elsewhere, I absolutely loved Mick's obsessive quest to follow Nigella's instructions for the perfect Christmas turkey, as Pam swears that he's so in love with the bird that she might discover them in bed together and Mick keeps second-guessing himself along the way as he brines the turkey and keeps checking the internet. (As someone who worships Saint Nigella, I also appreciated the discussion of whether Mick should have gone with a Jamie Oliver recipe instead as "you know where you stand" with Jamie. Hee.) And I loved Pam's scene with her "little prince" Gavin as she finally comes around to the idea of him moving to Cardiff... and Gavin's admission to Smithy that he's doing in order to save his marriage.

What else worked for me? Mick and Pam's playful bedroom usage of the Prince Charles ears; Nessa saying that she'd likely get married "in the mosque"; Pete's mother popping up from behind the bar later the next day (and the entire emergency alarm debacle); Stacey claiming that the shirt she got from Gavin wasn't her "main little present"; everyone admitting that they've always known Pam wasn't a vegetarian; Doris' gift of talc; Gavin and Smithy's duet of "Do They Know It's Christmas" over the phone; Gavin sitting on Nessa's knee in the Barry Christmas tent; Bryn's declaration--after sipping some Mint Bailey's with Gwen--of "what will they think up next?"; Nessa and Dave's truly awful Christmas presents (and Gwen drawing the short straw in getting the Bounty); Bryn discussing the making of the Sex and the City movie and telling Pam that Kim Cattrall is a "hoot... and she's over 50"; Pam doing the robot when Smithy Arrives. (Honestly, I could go on endlessly: every scene, from start to finish, is a treat.)

And, of course, I have to mention the kitchen scene between Bryn and an underwear-clad Jason over glasses of milk as they nearly discuss why what happened on that fishing trip so many years before happened... before they're interrupted by Dave. Will we ever get a full understanding of what actually happened on that trip?

All in all, this hilarious episode was the perfect reminder of why Gavin & Stacey consistently delivers the very best bittersweet comedy and why, despite the drama and the craziness, the Wests and Shipmans are families with whom we'll never mind spending the holidays... or indeed any time of year. I'll drink a mint Bailey's to that.

A third season of Gavin & Stacey has been commissioned by the Beeb, though Ruth Jones and James Corden haven't yet started work on the scripts. Fingers crossed that it will make it to air sometime in 2009.


Anonymous said…
I absolutely loved the Christmas special and I won't lie to you...I think it may be my favorite Gavin & Stacey episode yet. It was great having an entire hour of this extraordinary show and it really allowed them to do so much with the characters and have a lot of humor as well as some really touching moments. You are absolutely right - it was well lush!
jen said…
Loved the whole thing from start to finish, especially when they referring to Dave of Dave's Coaches and Neil, the baby. Heh. And I felt so bad for Smithy I just wanted to give him a hug. Do you know when series 1 and 2 will be on out DVD stateside? I might have to buy the Region 2s if it's gonna be a while. Sadly they won't have the Christmas special though...
Melissa said…
I'm sure I'm totally naive, how did you get access to this?
Jace Lacob said…

Same way I did the Doctor Who Christmas Special: it pays to have friends in the UK.
joy said…
*covers Jace's eyes*

I'm not gonna lie, after searching for the DW special on YT, that's where I saw G&S, both times. The Beeb pulled it down pretty quickly, it was down by Sunday, I think. And the behind the scenes (which was just as great) by the next week.

Agreed - the Christmas special was brilliant. Loved every bit of it. My fave part was the Do They Know it's Christmas? scenes. Who hasn't belted that song out. In public?

I am still so confused with where they're going with the Nessa/Smithy storyline. I nearly fell off my sofa when I heard the "don't marry him." But, that's my shippy little heart, I guess.

Though, I would *love* to see a Cardiffian's take on everyone's reactions to Gavin's move. I just came back from there and it was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Anonymous said…
Love the show! Thanks for bringing it to our attention Jace.

Look forward to seeing the Christmas special.

Smithee and Nessa are hilarious.
Vance said…
Okay, I just got my hands on it and stayed up late to watch it and it was worth all of it!!! Love that I have a fellow blogger still championing the show too!!! Brilliant!
Dani In NC said…
Usually Smithy is the character that makes me cringe the most, but my heart went out to him in this episode. You could see the conflict playing across Nessa face, too. She felt bad for Smithy, but Dave is really the one who has been there.

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