Gavin and Stacey (4 stars)

BBC3, Sun 13 May, 9pm


With ITV and Channel 4 still flailing around from one comedy outrage to another and dishing out sitcom calamity after sitcom calamity, it’s BBC3 who can proudly wear the telly crown when it comes to making this digital nation laugh. And main plaudits go to Steve Coogan and Henry Normal for their Baby Cow stable which just keeps knocking out some good ones: Human Remains, Ideal, Mighty Boosh, Nighty Night and Saxondale for five. How other production companies and their feeder channels would kill for just a sliver of those shows’ qualities.

The next gem on their roster is Gavin and Stacey, which, on the surface appears to be a cuddly romantic dream but is injected with a cruel anthrax-tinged reality. Imagine biting into a strawberry centre only to find frog dung within. Or picture Love, Actually directed by Shane Meadows. Gavin (Mathew Horne) is an Essex boy. Stacey (Joanna Page) is from Barry Island. Through work they talk on the phone most days but have never met. Now, the time has come for them to bridge the English/Welsh divide and hook up in London. Armed with a rape alarm and a cacophony of nervous tension, Stacey has brought big bad Nessa (Ruth Jones) as an extra safety net while Gavin drags along pub quiz host Smithy (James Corden) to make up the numbers. The encounter ends in acres of kebab vomit and soiled rubbers.

While the central pairing make an endearing duo, Jones and Corden are the stars, initially dismissive of one another’s charms but eventually spanking the night away. And they also happen to have written the script, as sharp as a stingray with pleasing dollops of daftness heaped on top.

(Brian Donaldson)

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