Stella - In The Press

Should we be worried? While work demands are keeping Stella and her fella apart, her ex, Rob, is very much on the scene, and a heart-to-heart shows there's still a bit of chemistry.

Meanwhile, Aunty Brenda is disappointed by her ceremony-free investiture as Mayor of Pontyberry - "Where's the pomp and circumcision?" - and then shocked by the sudden appearance of her old flame, Clem (Clive Russell).

Amid the bubbly flimflam of the dance competition and attendant romance is the well-acted grit of a big reveal.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 2nd February 2016

The Frisky Fox is becoming to Pontyberry what the Queen Vic is to Walford. All human life is here, and anything of import happens within its walls. In this eventful episode the pub hosts a mayoral candidacy vote, an arranged marriage proposition, a Gamblers Anonymous meeting and a Star Trek-themed wake.

Writer Steve Speirs (the sadly absent Big Alan) even makes time for a love triangle for Jag and a get-together for Stella's returning ex, Rob. With further effortless comedy from Di Botcher as Aunty Brenda and a step-up in Strictly fever, it's an enjoyably breezy watch.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 26th January 2016

Ruth Jones, here on writing duty, moves things along big time in an episode of ructions and revelations. Her title character is in London on a work trip and pays a surprise visit to Michael (Patrick Baladi). A big decision beckons, until a bolt from the blue scuppers everything.

Elsewhere, the Pontyberry mayor (Hi-de-Hi!'s Ruth Madoc!) pegs out in a council meeting, with ambitious Aunty Brenda waiting in the wings; Bobby has a drunken fling that has professional repercussions; and Jag makes a surprising discovery about his cleaner. In common with the best instalments, it's a delicious mix of sad and funny.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 19th January 2016

Ruth Jones's Stella returned to Sky1 for its fifth series to restore our faith in humankind. The wholesome comedy isn't laugh-out-loud funny, but it is warming and comfortingly down to earth.

Written by Daisy Wyatt. The Independent, 12th January 2016

Star/co-creator Ruth Jones calls another Welsh favour this week. After cameos in previous series from Lord Kinnock, presenter Gethin Jones and rugby star Scott Quinnell, Andy Fairweather Low gets to busk in a pub! The Wide Eyed and Legless singer is the kind of delightful aside at which this post-watershed Pobol y Cwm excels.

The crux of the episode is expectant vamp Beyoncé applying a financial squeeze on the rueful Michael, while comedy linchpins Bobby and Brenda tussle for the same ndertaker's job. Their interviewer is the enigmatic Ivan Schloss (the usually excellent Tony Gardner, here with an uncomfortable accent). If it's all a tad overplayed, the feel-good factor conquers all.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 12th January 2016

Ruth Jones's comedy-drama opens for its fifth series of slightly ridiculous storylines and panto-esque characters. Stella is being ridiculously tolerant of the fact that her current love interest, Michael, is fathering the lovechild of Beyoncé, whom Aunty Brenda refers to as the local Jezebel. Nadine is preparing to christen her daughter, while her dopey husband, Karl, is stuck on a train. Meanwhile, there's a new undertaker in Pontyberry as Ivan Schloss (Fresh Meat's Tony Gardner) comes to town. It's pleasant comfort telly.

Hannah Verdier, The Guardian, 12th January 2016

Another year, another jam-packed Stella finale. And change is in the air. Michael has an interview for a job in London; the bailiffs are sent in to penniless Luke and Zoe's house and Big and Little Alan's café is forced to close. And if all that sounds miserable, it's not.

This, after all, is the day of Big Alan's fancy dress wedding to Celia, at once ludicrous and moving. And there's another effective deployment of a returning character, too: Stella's ex Rob (Mark Lewis Jones), just in time to sort out his wayward son Luke. Not that everyone's pleased to see him. "Well, look what the cat have dragged up from the sewer," as Aunty Brenda says (Di Botcher is once again hilarious).

It's an eisteddfod of feel-good, even if one particular turnaround in fortunes at the wedding is laughably unrealistic. But there is a little salt mixed in with the marzipan. Stella will return in 2016.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 10th April 2015

There's been charm by the bucketload in this series of Ruth Jones's gentle comedy and this final episode wraps things up in cockle-warming fashion. Every week has some ridiculous subplot that calls for fancy dress, and tonight Big Alan and Celia get their Antony and Cleopatra costumes on for their wedding. Stella has good news about her nursing exams, and Michael gets a job offer in London, but will they overcome their differences? Luke, meanwhile, is struggling with his gambling addiction so he's relieved when a familiar face offers help.

Hannah Verdier, The Radio Times, 10th April 2015

Stella goes all out to tug as many heart strings as possible in a big set-piece episode: the stag and hen dos. And it works like a dream. Stella and next-door neighbour Michael inch towards reconciliation, while working on the big celebrations, she to organise a big pamper session for the women, he to rally the troops for some paintballing.

Newly elected Aunty Brenda creates a rift with Dai Davies, the car-lot owner with the impossibly white teeth. And on the serious side, Luke has some explaining to do to wife Zoe - why are they in debt, and who is the cougar who seems to have got her claws into him? (Apart from being played by Jane Asher, that is.) You may guess where it's all going, but Stella remains deeply enjoyable. A very happy valley indeed.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 3rd April 2015

This knockabout episode sees Common Sense Party leader Aunty Brenda on the hustings facing dodgy bookie Iwan Jenkins and a joke candidate resembling El Macho from Despicable Me 2. Looking like a superannuated Yellowcoat from Hi-de-Hi!, Brenda goes wading in with her hobnail boots. So Michael, as much to curry favour with Stella as anything else, offers a few lessons in diplomacy. But he'll need to work hard - Iwan Jenkins is all free pens, pie-in-the-sky promises and Rocky music blaring over the tannoy.

Young Ben, meanwhile, has a disastrous first date with Lily, and Bobby has one of those consoling confabs with lost soul Paula (make the most of her!). It's cheesier than Caerphilly, and similarly irresistible.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 27th March 2015

This post-watershed Pobol y Cwm has dawdled a bit lately. That all changes with the return of a Pontyberry favourite. Stella sees a woman loitering in her road, swigging from a vodka bottle. "It can't be." It is: Stella's sister-in-law and best friend Paula (Elizabeth Berrington) - back, she says, to pay the recovering Aunty Brenda a visit. How we, her friends and the show, have missed her.

In spite of an unsavoury storyline for Luke that paints Stella in unnecessarily EastEnder-ish colours (in hock to a loan shark; becoming a male escort), it's a warm and luminous episode, with reunion and resolution, Steve Speirs in Spanx and, perhaps, a subtle nod to Julie Walters's decrepit waitress sketch from As Seen on TV. I suspect that the more you love these characters, the more you'll be dabbing your eyes at several moments.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 20th March 2015

The emotional fallout from Beyoncé-gate is still being felt by Stella and next-door neighbour Michael, but fortunately there are some welcome distractions. Celia's ex-husband Dan turns up, Ben plucks up the courage to talk to Lily (don't get too excited) and there's an inaugural training session for Pontyberry Ladies Football Team.

Stella is the TV equivalent of a comfort blanket, its rich valley of comic characters always consistent. A word now for one who often shines brightest: Aunty Brenda, played with effortless "whatsaname" by Di Botcher. Along with Ruth Jones's epicentral Stella, Brenda holds the little community together with malapropian glue.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 13th March 2015

Ruth Jones's Stella is so lovable that it's never good to see her having a bad time, but with Michael having done the dirty with flirty caricature Beyoncé, our Welsh heroine needs a break. Or a drink, with Dr Honey (Ramon Tikaram). But how will she react when Beyoncé turns up at the hospital? Big Alan, meanwhile, has competition in the form of Celia's ex-husband. Gently amusing.

Hannah Verdier, The Guardian, 13th March 2015

Just some of the different ways in which men are idiots seems to be the theme of this episode. First there's imploding lawyer Michael, who has yet to confess to the lovely Stella the full extent of his betrayal with Beyoncé. Then there's flashy car salesman and aspiring councillor Dai Davies, who believes he can woo the electorate with a free bar. Stella's eldest, Luke, thinks a spot of online gambling will fund his new house. And Luke's brother Ben is tongue-tied with infatuation for Lily. See? Idiots.

It's a vibrant romp centred on a historical pageant (Dai seems to turn into Gimli from Lord of the Rings), with another no-nonsense turn from rugby's Scott Quinnell softening the inevitable heartbreak. But often Stella's most memorable scenes are those pertaining to friendship. One taxi confessional between the series' two best characters, Big Alan (Steve Speirs) and Stella (Ruth Jones) is a beauty.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 6th March 2015

If Stella's episodes had titles, this one would be Time Bomb. The ticking before the explosion (a fling being discovered) becomes almost deafening. "Midlife Crisis" Michael (Patrick Baladi) is the culprit, playing away with barmaid Beyoncé. His live-in lover Stella is oblivious - though hospital consultant Mr Honey seems to be making a play for her.

The escalating chaos of a party for Michael's daughter Katie takes our mind off things - and the karaoke turn of the birthday girl herself (take a bow, Martha Mackintosh) provides the kind of show-stoppingly sweet moment that Stella does so well. We could do with more of them. Former Welsh rugby star Scott Quinnell puts in another brief but caustic cameo.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 27th February 2015

A lightweight episode that nevertheless drives a wedge between two central characters. Prima-donna restaurateur Little Alan takes umbrage at solicitor Michael's new role as sous chef, Michael's journey into Midlife Crisis Land accelerates, and Stella's son has a disastrous first day as a hospital porter.

However, the most engaging storyline sees trainee nurse Stella make a tiny breakthrough with her fire-breathing manager. Cheryl (Clare Hingott) brings to nursing all the warmth and tact that Gunnery Sergeant Hartman brought to Marine training in Full Metal Jacket. She's a stellar creation.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 20th February 2015

It's the lovely Welsh lilt that makes these leftfield lines sing.

Written by Sally Newall. The Independent, 9th February 2015

Ruth Jones's new series offers optimism and the warm blanket of community to soothe life's mishaps - perfect for watching with mother-in-law.

Written by Sam Wollaston. The Guardian, 7th February 2015

Ruth Jones's smile of a show returns for a well-won fourth series. As we catch up with the people of Pontyberry, Stella and Michael and their merged families are living in domestic bliss/chaos. So, while a contented Stella (Ruth Jones) heads off to her nursing job, Michael (Patrick Baladi) has to contend with drum 'n' bass and crying infants while practising as a solicitor from home.

Meanwhile, relations are fraught between Big Alan (wonderful Steve Speirs) and his son before the opening night of their risky new venture, Le Café de Les Alans, with Little Alan hurling pans about like a junior Gordon Ramsay.

Stella has survived the exit of key characters by sticking to its golden formula: conveying a real but comically heightened sense of community. Glad to see sweary Mother Hubbard Rhian and Welsh tornado Aunty Brenda still in the thick of the action and stealing many of the best lines.

Mark Braxton, The Radio Times, 6th February 2015

Ruth Jones says there will be plenty of Welsh phrases to listen out for as Stella returns to our screens on Friday at 9pm.

Daily Post North Wales, 31st January 2015

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

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