Gavin and Stacey bring joy to the world with a wonderfully warm Christmas special

Old friends James Corden, Joanna Page, Matthew Horne and Ruth Jones. Picture courtesy BBC/GS TV Productions Ltd/Tom Jackson
Old friends James Corden, Joanna Page, Matthew Horne and Ruth Jones. Picture courtesy BBC/GS TV Productions Ltd/Tom Jackson

Christmas, is all about family, right? But what happens if you can’t stand your family, or they live miles away and you can’t get to see them? What then?


Well, this year, you could have done worse than joining the Wests, the Shipmans and the Sutcliffes in Barry for The Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special (BBC1, Christmas Day, 8.30pm).

This year, it is the Wests turn to host the Christmas festivities – Uncle Bryn’s cooking – so Mick, and Pam, and Smithy, and Smithy’s mystery girlfriend Sonia, are all heading to south Wales, where Gavin and Stacey have three kids and are questioning how their marriage has gone stale.

It’s 10 years since the last episode of Gavin and Stacey, so this reunion could have ended in a fog of Baileys-fuelled recrimination and a feeling of being uncomfortably overstuffed. After all, look at what happened to This Life, when they decide to reunite those 90s lawyer friends a decade on.

But Gavin and Stacey is different. Whereas This Life was all about careers, and getting on and sex and money, Gavin and Stacey is about warmth, and love and family. Yes, it gets perilously close to run-of-the-mill sitcom territory – boredom in the bedroom, culinary crises, the guest facilities – but it’s undercut with some running gags which hint at darker times – Bryn and Jason’s fishing trip.

It also recognises that sometimes relationships need compromise, and work, but the best relationships let you be yourself as well, as Smithy becomes Neil – not the baby – when Sonia arrives.

By ‘that’ ending, you’re left wanting more time in the bosom of this extended family, and hoping they come to yours next year.

A huge bah humbug to all the critics of the ‘un-Dickensian’ language in A Christmas Carol (BBC1, Sun-Tues, 9pm). This was a rich, innovative, beautifully emotional adaptation.

Judith Kerr’s story of having a large feline to eat is a classic, and now the animated adaptation of The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Channel 4, Christmas Eve, 7.30pm) deserves equal plaudits.