Stella - In The Press

Pontyberry's first festive special is unashamedly tinselly and warm. Longing for absent loved ones, thinking of those less fortunate than ourselves and blazing rows about turkey: these are the fundamentals of Christmas, and they're the themes here. While Stella (creator Ruth Jones) takes on a difficult patient during a nursing stint on a children's ward, the rest of the town gathers, irritably, to audition and rehearse for Auntie Brenda's charity panto.

You know all the bickering and misunderstanding will work itself out in the end. That's the appeal. This is a lovely indulgence, but with plenty of salty laughs to complement the sweetness.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 22nd December 2014

Watching Christmas In Pontyberry has definitely whet my appetite for the fourth series.

Written by Elliot Gonzalez. I Talk Telly, 20th December 2014

We have to end on a birth or a wedding. The birth was a few weeks ago, so Luke and Zoe's wedding it is. After the arguments about how big the party will be - everyone round at Stella's, bring a plate of food, and no, Daddy Simpson will not be dressed as a bullfighter - it's time for the stag and hen dos, with the lads' standard lager and curry effort blown away by the ladies, for whom hippie Verv has made some special cakes.

There are many laughs lurking behind the main business of the episode, which is whether Michael will make a huge error and leave our Stella behind. We know where it's going, but the journey has the right balance of sweet and bitter.

Stella's been recommissioned for a Christmas special and a fourth series. That's one of the easiest decisions any channel boss will take this year.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 28th March 2014

Brace yourself as the third series of Ruth Jones's comedy drama hurtles to a close. With a fourth season of Pontyberry joys, tears and mishaps on the way, there are cliffs to be hung, with a clutch of storylines cued up for action. Wedding fever is in the air, with Luke and Zoe's stag and hen frolics promising to get lively. But Stella could be in for more heartbreak as Michael heads to Chichester - with his ex.

Carol Carter and Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, Metro, 28th March 2014

Last in the series. As Luke and Zoe's wedding day approaches, things aren't at all rosy for Stella and Michael. Shaken by Katie's accident, the handsome lawyer feels the pull of duty and ponders a reunion with his wife. Poor, cast-aside Stella drowns her sorrows on Zoe's hen night and Verv helps things along with a delicious batch of drug cakes. Will Emma see the folly of her dalliance with married Marcus? Will Michael realise the huge mistake he is making in time for some sort of emotional money shot?

Julia Raeside, The Guardian, 28th March 2014

This episode is almost more comedy soap than comedy drama, as young Katie has a serious accident. Her warring parents, plus Stella as an awkward third wheel, maintain a bedside vigil. As Stella wonders how solid her whirlwind romance with Michael is, Ruth Jones proves herself to be too good a writer and actor to let this dip into melodrama. Let's hope their relationship survives, so we can have more scenes like the hilarious one where Michael talks dirty in Valleys slang.

Meanwhile, Big Alan starts planning how to spend inheritance money he might never receive, and Emma becomes another member of the Morris clan whose fairy-tale relationship hits hard against reality. The apple doesn't fall far from the whatchacall, is it?

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 21st March 2014

Now fans of Stella and its presence in Ferndale have spoken up for it, saying the majority of people living in the area have no problem with the filming.

Written by Carrie Evans. Wales Online, 17th March 2014

You can lose yourself pleasurably for an hour even in the less eventful episodes of this series, so an incident-packed one like this one is truly a treat. The story of Big Alan's hitherto unmentioned brother and mother, the latter of whom has died, might be in poor taste on less whole-hearted shows: it turns out Mam was an even more imposing physical presence than Big Alan, which causes logistical problems at the funeral.

While Big Alan's coping with that - and with the reappearance of his estranged brother, Alan - the aftermath of the car-lot robbery is just one reason why Stella is falling out with all three of her children, a crisis that brings her and Michael closer together.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 14th March 2014

There are echoes of those shows where they have to hoist 80-stone women out of bed in tonight's visit to Pontyberry. Big Alan (Steve Speirs) tackles the weighty problem of his mum's funeral - weighty being the operative term, as it turns out Big runs in Alan's family. It makes for an affectionately comic departure from the ongoing trauma of Stella's love life - she wouldn't have it any other way.

Nick Rutherford and Carol Carter, Metro, 14th March 2014

Stella's children continue to make a hairy mess of their lives as we near series end. Emma's secret relationship with Marcus maintains its inevitable trajectory towards final impact. Son Luke is released by the police following his arrest last week, and Ben is suspended from school. Where did she go wrong? No, seriously though, she's a nice, intelligent woman and her kids behave appallingly. Meanwhile, Alan's brother - also called Alan - arrives to impart some bad news, leading to an eventful family gathering.

Julia Raeside, The Guardian, 14th March 2014

Stella fans may be welcoming the news that the comedy drama is returning for a fourth series - but one family who live where it's filmed say "enough is enough".

Written by Carrie Evans. Wales Online, 12th March 2014

Star and showrunner Ruth Jones wisely hands her scripting laptop to Steve Speirs, the actor who does such fine light comic work as Big Alan, for Big Alan's big episode. Yes, Alan's taken hostage by a militant pensioner on a bus trip to Bristol Zoo, but his main trial is convincing Celia to give him another chance after he bottled out of taking their relationship further.

Speirs writes himself a perfectly sweet and unpretentious scene, but doesn't stop there. Stella and Michael (Jones and Patrick Baladi) also have a series of lovely two-handers, while Emma rues her dalliance with her boss and young, silly Ben gets involved in a classic example of teenagers acting stupidly but all too believably.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 7th March 2014

Not as many funny lines as usual in this episode, although Yasmine Akram is overplaying it nicely as Parvadi, the dangerously bored and randy assistant in her uncle's convenience store. Oh, and the rivalry between business partners Aunty Brenda and Dai Davies is becoming obsessively bitter, to the point where only murder or fiery sex can resolve the tension. Either would be scary.

Mainly, though, we're tracking the twin romances of Emma and Marcus, an unlikely workplace fling that's moving too quickly, and Stella and Michael. A lovely set piece sees her save him from embarrassment at a corporate do. The chemistry between Ruth Jones and Patrick Baladi, both unshowily nailing the subtleties of their characters, is a joy.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 28th February 2014

Michael decides to take Stella as his date to the charity dinner to annoy his ex-wife. Stella's vow to steer clear of men for the foreseeable melts in the glare of Michael's twinkly eyes, even though he's a tool with no consideration for her feelings. Meanwhile, daughter Emma treads on dangerous ground with Marcus and Big Alan loses his nerve with Celia. Still good but this was more fun with Elizabeth Berrington's alcoholic, sexually voracious funeral director. When's she coming back?

John Robinson, The Guardian, 28th February 2014

Ultimately there's a good reason this show is called Stella and not, I don't know, Greetings from Pontyberry or some such. The ensemble are like a family we love seeing once a week, but the heart of the show is always Ruth Jones's creation. Her hopes and feelings are ours.

So this series is easy and uplifting because this year's upward-looking, bright blonde Stella is on form. This week, she and next-door neighbour Michael (Patrick Baladi) move closer, a slow courtship we'll be content to watch unfurl. It starts when she slams his fingers in his car bonnet.

Tonight's comic set piece is a Brenda's Buses trip to a nightclub, featuring two celebrity cameos: X Factor/Big Brother star Rylan Clark, and his teeth.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 21st February 2014

Businesses are booming in Pontyberry. Brenda's Buses has the luxury of choosing whether to take the local pensioners to the retail outlet on the A470, or the special needs children to Castle Cook. Inevitably, Aunty Brenda wins out. "I think we should take a leaf out of Whitney Houston's book - God rest her tortured, bloated, drug-addled soul. It's the children are the whatcha-call."

And now Simpsons Funeral Services has camp whirlwind Gwyn (Robert Evans, who scripts this episode) to help deal with the stiff backlog, its glamorous relaunch can't fail. That is, unless they let Gwyn make a promotional video.

Meanwhile Stella, driven to horny distraction by her hormone replacement treatment, offers an olive branch to grumpy neighbour Michael and is soon sharing wine and walking in on him in the shower. Told you.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 14th February 2014

It's a canny move, placing Stella's new antagonist Michael (Patrick Baladi) in the house next to hers. With Aunty Brenda and her new brood just across the road, not to mention those weird people with the donkey, the street's crowded with people and the farce is stronger. Tonight, delinquent young smoker Ben has a surprise when he breaks into Michael's place. Note to househunters: look in the attic to check half the party wall isn't missing.

Meanwhile, Brenda and Dai Davies hold open auditions for coach drivers, using a mop and a child's plastic steering wheel; the glut of corpses at the funeral parlour reaches bursting point; and Big Alan picks up the minicab fare from hell.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 7th February 2014

After some necessary spadework last week to set up the new series, now creator/star Ruth Jones pens one of the show's funniest ever episodes. Every scene brims with jokes, malapropisms ("Your dad is as strong as an egg!"), hilarious images and fruity phrasing. Aunty Brenda is in particularly searing form, struggling with her hippy daughter ("Me and 'er father split up when she was ten - she's been a road accident ever since"), questioning the integrity of the scales at Blubber Busters, and holding tense, tough negotiations with Dai about the launch of their new coach-hire company. Dai Davies, not Dai Cosh.

There's new blood, too: Sherlock star Yasmine Akram joins the cast as Jagadeesh and Tanisha's plain-speaking niece, while Jonathan Ross appears as himself in one of Stella's HRT-fuelled sex dreams.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 31st January 2014

Back into the light embrace of Pontyberry for a third series of Ruth Jones's comedy drama, which always manages to be comforting and inoffensive without being twee.

Stella (Jones herself) has long since moved on from the series two finale, when she said goodbye to the love of her life, Rob, because even he couldn't compete with her home town in the valleys and the people who live there.

Now she's training to be a nurse under a brisk sergeant-major of an instructor, and repeatedly arguing with a haughty new posh bloke she'll obviously end up sleeping with.

Emma applies for a job as a hairdresser, Aunty Bren's long-lost daughter returns, and Alan is told Little Alan must go on a diet. Basically nothing much happens, and it's delightful.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 24th January 2014

Could this be third-season lucky-in-love for Welsh valley girl Stella? Ruth Jones is centre stage again in the warm-hearted comedy that returns tonight bathed in an optimistic glow. Stella's got herself a brilliant new job as a nurse and her fledglings are all back in the nest. The only thing that ails our Pontyberry lass is an acute case of singledom. Then again, a divorced lawyer (Patrick Baladi) has just pitched up next door, setting the scene for a spot of romcom sparring.

Carol Carter and Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, Metro, 24th January 2014

The return of Ruth Jones's likeable but increasingly derivative comedy-drama about a single mum in small-town Wales. The house overflows with kids and grandkids while she trains to be a nurse; the ironing is backing up, and she's possibly having "the change". Meanwhile, Patrick Baladi's arrogant, recently divorced lawyer arrives in Pontyberry as the latest big-city-fish-out-of-water/obvious new love interest for Stella. They lock horns in a road-rage incident, ensuring they'll be doing it up against the Sharps built-in wardrobes by episode three.

Julia Raeside, The Guardian, 24th January 2014

Eager fans continue to speculate about a comeback for Gavin & Stacey. In an exciting development for the show's legions of supporters, Jones won't rule it out.

Written by James Rampton. The Independent, 22nd January 2014

Best writer was Ruth Jones for comedy series Stella. Backstage she said: "I'm really surprised at how, like, in shock I am... I can't speak I'm so excited. The competition in the category was incredible... this is really exciting."

BBC News, 30th September 2013

Ruth Jones's small-town saga has lost none of its charm or wit in this second series - and it's repeated the trick of building up stories that run seamlessly from episode to episode. Tonight's double bill finishes off the current run.

The central tale is the love life of Stella (Jones herself), which predictably is complicated by something unpredictable, but Emma and Sunil are hitting crisis point too. Series three is on the way, so the story - happily - doesn't end here.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 8th March 2013

With a third series already limbering up, there are bound to be plenty of cliff-hangers tonight as the warm-hearted Pontyberry delight written by and starring Ruth Jones bows out with a double-episode finale. With the good - and not so good - folk of the town still picking up the pieces of their lives after the blistering bust-ups of Fight Night, the focus is on the future. Will Emma forgive Sunil? Is the final nail in the coffin for Paula now Dai's declared he wants a divorce? Will Big Al ever win at anything? And, with Rob poised to push off once more, what will become of Stella? There will be tears...

Carol Carter and Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, Metro, 8th March 2013

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