Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me, "Nessa" Jenkins is the funniest Welsh ex-Who roadie of a certain size currently working on BBC3. Nessa is covered in tattoos, smokes like a Vale of Glamorgan chimney, and works the slots at the Barry Island Amusement Arcade.

I'm loath to say that Gavin & Stacey is presently the funniest thing on British television, as I have this sneaking suspicion that I might be the last person in the country to cotton on to it, but just in case you've been working on contract in Dubai for the last year, James Corden (the large one in The History Boys) and Ruth Jones (who plays the aforementioned Nessa) have written the funniest British sitcom since The Office. The tale of two 26-year-olds falling in love – Gavin is from Billericay and Stacey from Barry Island – it charts the blossoming relationships between their respective extended families, with Jones and Corden playing their best friends and confidants.

The series also stars Alison Steadman, and her character echoes the same house-proud, slightly vulgar character she played in Abigail's Party, over 30 years ago, while her character's house has the same petit-bourgeois trappings as Beverly's did back then (there is even a bar in the living room). She plays Gavin's mum, and you'll struggle to find a more exact depiction of an Essex mother-in-law.

The art direction of Gavin & Stacey is a masterpiece of social observation, and whether the sets were serendipitous or not, they make it completely possible to watch the series with the sound turned down and still know exactly what's going on. Gavin & Stacey not only apes The Office's title sequence but also manages to capture the same light-industrial estate desolation. Admittedly the show is being acclaimed because it is beer-splutteringly funny (and if James Corden doesn't win the Bafta for best comedy performance on 20 April, and if the programme doesn't win the Audience Award for the Programme of the Year, they should all feel well and truly slighted) rather than its ability to instantly transport you to a part of Essex that was previously only notable for being the subject of an Ian Dury song, but don't be surprised if Gavin & Stacey kick-starts a craze for en-suite cocktail bars.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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