Ruth Jones, one of the two Comedy powerhouses (the other being James Corden) behind quite possibly my favourite show of all time Gavin & Stacey returned in January with Stella, a new show exclusively for Sky1 set in Wales following the lives of Stella and the various people in her life living in the Welsh valleys.
Stella was originally meant to be 6 half hour episodes in front of a studio audience, however Ruth felt that the story and character's were better suited to Comedy Drama, and turned it into 10 one hour episodes. I personally feel that this change in tone suits the programme very well and really brings out the human and warmth in the characters.
Ever since Gavin & Stacey I have admired Ruth Jones as a writer and here she has managed to create some great characters with a brilliant supporting cast including Elizabeth Berrington (The Office, Psychoville, Waterloo Road, Lapland) and relative newcomer Steve Speirs (Benidorm, Miranda).
Stella (Ruth Jones), a forty-something single mother of three, 24 year-old Luke who's currently serving an 18 month prison sentence, 18 year old student Emma (Catrin Stewart) and her youngest son Ben (Justin Davies), who's 12. Stella makes a living from doing other people's washing and ironing whilst juggling family life amid the chaos of all of her friends and their respective lives.
Paula (Elizabeth Berrington) is Stella's best friend and has been since school. She currently runs a funeral parlour as well as being an alcoholic often seen to be drinking on the job and checking herself against a breathalyzer to make sure she stays the minimum under the limit. She also has a strong appetite for role-play during sex which makes for some very funny scenes.Stella's ex-husband of eight years Karl (Julian Lewis Jones) also appears in the show, now together with 28 year-old fake tanned 'princess' Nadine (Karen Paullada) pronounced Nay-Dean, as she likes to remind people.
Then there's Sunil (Rory Girvan) who is Emma's boyfriend, destined for medical school with a supportive family including sister Jasminder (Taj Atwal) and mother Tanisha (Sudha Bhuchar) and father Jagadeesh (Pal Aron) who run the local newsagents.
One of my favourite characters is Alan (Steve Speirs), an old school friend of Stella's who has been given custody of Little Alan (Daniel Gammond) who is simply a younger version of his dad and best friends with Stella's son Ben. Alan earns a living as a lollipop man and rugby coach, he is also clearly in love with Stella but it seems as though Stella sees them more as just friends, only time will tell.
Also making an appearance are; Stella's brother Dai (Owen Teale), their mother Meg (Maggie Steed), their father Ken (Michael Elwyn), Paula's very camp assistant in the funeral parlour Bobby (Aled Pugh) and finally Stella's lovely neighbour Marj (Deddie Davis) who lives across the road in a house she shares with her husband Glen (Dafydd Hywel) and a horse... yes, a horse!In the first episode we see Stella visiting her son in prison and feeling unhappy about the lack of excitement in her life. Not content with the way she looked, Stella decides to root around her daughter's wardrobe looking for something fun to wear. Whilst in her room, Stella discovers that her daughter is on the pill, but that's just the beginning of what Stella is about to discover.
The second episode, without giving too much away is a much more comfortable and enjoyable watch, as we are already familiar with the characters and can fully enjoy being on the journey with them.
Emma's news from the first episode sends shock waves across the family and community alike, putting a strain on Stella and Emma's mother and daughter relationship. The characters all really came into their own in this episode as we begin to learn more about Stella and her family as well as the rest of the supporting cast. Also, in a way that the first episode didn't quite manage it, episode two really left me wanting more, wishing for next Friday to arrive.
As of yet there has not been any cameos but Ruth has promised cameos from the likes of Mike Phillips, Joe Calzaghe, Lord Kinnock and Keith Chegwin... oh yeah, and some guy called James Corden!