Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Monday, 21 April 2008 14:18 UK

Mainstream glory for cult sitcom

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The second series saw co-writer Ruth Jones's character fall pregnant

By Neil Smith
BBC News entertainment reporter

The two Bafta TV awards won by Gavin and Stacey on Sunday are just the latest accolades to be showered on the cult BBC Three sitcom.

It is entirely possible, though, that many of the celebrity guests at this year's ceremony had never even heard of it.

Since its launch on digital channel BBC Three last year, its title characters' romantic travails have been savoured by an audience which is minuscule by terrestrial standards.

It is a testament to the show's appeal, then, that it picked up the Bafta Audience Award ahead of such popular programmes as BBC One's Strictly Come Dancing, BBC One's The Apprentice and ITV1's Britain's Got Talent.

Gavin and Stacey
Gavin and Stacey tells of two young lovers and their larger-than-life friends

Boyd Hilton, TV editor of Heat magazine, admits he was surprised the show came out on top in this highly competitive category.

"I think it won because it's a well-observed, flat-out-funny show with a cast of funny and identifiable characters," he told the BBC News website.

BBC Three has been the subject of some criticism of late, with some critics suggesting its axing could help alleviate the corporation's financial problems.

Hilton, though, believes the success of Gavin and Stacey "is a justification for the channel all by itself".

Familiar

Written by James Corden and Ruth Jones, the show is based around "Essex boy" Gavin (Mathew Horne) and his Welsh wife Stacey (Joanna Page).

Corden and Jones also appear in the show as Gavin's feckless friend "Smithy" and Stacey's well-travelled friend "Nessa".

The Gavin and Stacey team
The show won two Baftas on Sunday, including an audience award

The former is a familiar face thanks to his role in the hit play (and later film) The History Boys, as well as an appearance in ITV comedy series Fat Friends.

Jones, meanwhile, is perhaps best known as Myfanwy, the Welsh barmaid who serves "only gay in the village" Daffyd in Little Britain, and she also appeared in Fat Friends and BBC TV's dark, award-winning comedy Nighty Night.

Corden, who originally conceived Gavin and Stacey with Jones as a one-off film, collected the show's other Bafta on Sunday for best comedy performance.

He and Jones were also named best comedy newcomers at the British Comedy Awards last December.

He heaped praise on Jones when he received his trophy, saying: "She's not just the greatest writer and actress. She's the best friend anyone could hope for. She's as much Smithy as I am and I share this with her."

'Hoopla'

Ceri Thomas, TV critic of the Evening Standard, attributes the show's success to the fact that it is "warm, sweet, quirky and human".

"It's a warm-hearted hug of a programme," he says. "It's not a sitcom where there are any dislikeable characters."

James Corden and Ruth Jones
The show is written by two of its stars, James Corden and Ruth Jones

Thomas also thinks the show's low-key debut on BBC Three gave it breathing space to build its audience over time.

"Had it been launched with a huge hoopla on BBC Two, it might have collapsed under the strain," he continues.

"But having allowed people to find it, it has found its own audience and grown by word of mouth."

The second series of Gavin and Stacey came to an end on BBC Three on Sunday night, just as its stars were celebrating their latest awards success.

As a result, Hilton thinks the show's days on BBC's digital arm must surely now be numbered.

"They're making a Christmas special and I would be very surprised if it doesn't get shown on BBC One or Two."

The final episode of Gavin and Stacey's second series is repeated on BBC Three on Monday at 2230 BST.




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