Stella - In The Press
Main News Stories About 'Stella':
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.
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...
Fight night in Pontyberry. Not just hotheads Luke and Lenny clashing in the ring over Zoe, but Big Alan squaring up for a scrap over his beloved rugby club. We know there's a rousing, Churchillian speech in the offing, and it's well worth the wait. It's an Alan-heavy episode, and that's no surprise: Steve Speirs, who plays him so brilliantly, is also this week's writer.
Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 1st March 2013
Ruth Jones's soft-centred drama enjoys a pugilistic diversion tonight as Steve Speirs takes the writing credit for an episode that puts Big Alan in the centre of the action. While Stella feels like boxing Rob's ears for letting son Luke loose in the ring at Pontyberry's fight night, Big Alan is girding his loins for a life-changing battle on two fronts: the custody of Little Alan and the future of his precious rugby club.
If you were expecting writer Robert Evans to go into cliche mode and make the boys genuine contenders for the Got To Dance title, you'll be pleasantly surprised. They're terrible. But not quite as terrible as Paula, who makes a spectacle of herself. For a change.
Another week, another effortlessly funny 60 minutes. Loss of control features prominently this week: Luke and forbidden-fruit Zoe take it to the next level; lovelorn Dai feels the long arm of the law from WPC Glover; and looks could kill when a taste-free funeral that Stella has booked goes hilariously awry. As fraught undertaker Bobby, Aled Pugh spins gold out of all his lines, especially his retort when Stella suggests a calming massage.
Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 22nd February 2013
Stella's helping out at the undertakers while Paula takes some time off to commune with the divine spirit, but her first funeral doesn't go to plan. Luke is unwisely seeing Zoe behind her maniac boyfriend's back and Dai isn't missing Paula half as much as she thinks he is. There's a bit of a scene at a Got To Dance audition, allowing Ashley Banjo to make another creaky cameo (Sky1 are masters of cross-promotion), while even Paul Kaye tones it down a bit this week in his one scene as the zany Dutch therapist. Nice.
Ruth Jones's poignant, charmingly observed Welsh Valleys comedy drama continues. Tonight sees a search organised for Dai (Owen Teale), while his estranged wife Paula (Elizabeth Berrington) deals with the issue in a more proactive way - by expressing her feelings at the Got to Dance auditions in front of Ashley Banjo (a shameless bit of Sky1 self promotion). Elsewhere, Bobby (Aled Pugh) conducts his first solo funeral but there's a problem when two families arrive at the cemetery and find only one burial plot.
Nudging over the halfway point of the series, Stella has a handful of timebombs ticking away, among them: Alan's ex waltzing back to the Valleys to ruin lives like Alexis in Dynasty; Luke flirting with the girlfriend of monstrous ex-con Lennie; and "Midlife Crisis" Paula being inexplicably allowed to babysit ("He's too young for cheeseburger, in' he?"). It's an almost perfect mix of sweet, sour and funny (a Bobby and Stella two-hander in the undertaker's manages to be all three).
Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 15th February 2013
It's school reunion time in Pontyberry, an 80s-themed event that cannily flavours all this week's events with just the right tone. One of the many girls with whom Stella (Ruth Jones) feuded is back, dressed as Krystle Carrington when almost everyone else is a pop star. These snobs always come a cropper.
Jack Seale, Radio Times, 8th February 2013
Fact hip hops around fiction and back again as Diversity's Ashley Banjo brings Sky1's talent show Got To Dance to the streets of Pontyberry. With the carrot of a cash pot big enough to save Big Alan's rugby club, the show tempts Little Alan to step up and shake his booty. Which is what the grown-ups are doing at their 1980s-themed fancy dress school reunion - a nostalgic trip which revives first-love memories for Stella (Ruth Jones) and Rob.
Ruth Jones isn't afraid to let her ensemble cast shine in this series, and it's great to see some of them edge towards the ridiculous. Talking of which, Paula and Dai are counting on over-the-top Dutch life coach Peschman (Paul Kaye) to fix their marriage, and in a very convenient Sky1 tie-in, Little Alan decides to audition for Got To Dance to help save the rugby club. Stella steals the show when she drinks enough to make her school reunion bearable and Rob comes to the rescue dressed as Tom Cruise.
Currently in the middle of its second series, Stella is a comedy drama starring and co-written by Ruth Jones. It certainly has a lot of support because a third series has been commissioned already.
Stella herself is hardly in it this week - the ensemble is good enough to take the strain. Paul Kaye joins as a Dutch new age therapist who soon has half of Pontyberry sitting in a semi-circle listening to Tubular Bells. Once Dai Davies has put his pasty away and Auntie Brenda has shut up, top of the agenda is asking the universe to put the other Dai back on terms with his disaffected wife.
Jack Seale, Radio Times, 1st February 2013
Pontyberry doesn't know what's hit it when Paul Kaye hops off his golf cart and descends upon the little town in the guise of Dutch life coach Peschman. Peddling a line in glass-half-full therapy, his arrival is met with cautious optimism by some of the lost souls in Ruth Jones's gentle comedy drama. Whether he will be enough to save Emma (Catrin Stewart) and Sunil's marriage from the predatory Leah remains to be seen.
Stella's home is fast becoming a refuge for errant wives as this second exemplary series continues. Her daughter's fallen out with her med student husband, and sister-in-law Paula needs some space from Dai. Meanwhile, russet love god Rob is back in Pontyberry to cause trouble for both Stella and the local rugby club. The only slightly weak link is Paul Kaye's ridiculously OTT Scandinavian life coach, who comes to town to charm the locals into attending his self-help seminar. Apart from that, brilliant stuff.
Ruth Jones's deftly written comedy rarely misses a beat. Tonight comic Paul Kaye makes an appearance as Peschman, a Dutch life coach who uses a unique form of therapy to help Stella (Jones) through her continuing troubles. Elsewhere, Paula (Elizabeth Berrington) thinks about turning her night away from home into a permanent arrangement, while the hapless Alan (Steve Speirs) learns that his big love - the rugby club - is closing down.
Tricky times for the Pontyberry menfolk. The university ball is fast approaching for Sunil (Rory Girvan), which means he'll have to fend off his vampish fellow student Leah once and for all, and remember his wife and child at home.
Jack Seale, Radio Times, 25th January 2013
Ruth Jones's charming and truthful Welsh comedy drama finds the heroine, Stella (Jones), out of sorts after recent revelations until Aunty Brenda (Di Botcher) arranges a job at the bap factory, although later there is an unpromising reunion with Rob (Mark Lewis Jones). Russell Grant makes an appearance at the opening of Nadine (Karen Paullada) and Karl's (Julian Lewis Jones) new salon and Emma (Catrin Stewart) stakes her claim for Sunil (Rory Girvan) at his student ball.
This comedy drama is the polar opposite of escapism - its gentle, underwhelming, slightly humdrum stylings will be vaguely familiar to everyone. That's presumably the point: Ruth Jones has always been strong on the minutiae of day-to-day life. In tonight's second episode, she goes one step further and discards one of the main potential drama-triggers of this series. Elsewhere, confusion over paternity continues, Paula faces a staffing crisis at the undertakers (surely her boozing is a minor flashpoint waiting to happen?) and Luke's Canadian adventure is jeopardised. All in all, the likeable performances and breezy script just about make up for the fact that nothing much is happening. All the same, this often feels like a dead heat between amiable and aimless.
Phil Harrison, Time Out, 19th January 2013
That's the trouble with having so many good characters in your multi-stranded ensemble comedy drama: what if part of the show ends up being worthy of its own series? Ruth Jones and her writers will be in that predicament if they keep coming up with such good scenes for Elizabeth Berrington as Paula, the randy, boozy undertaker who this week has to face the fact that her randy, dopey husband Dai is hopeless at the job. At the very least she needs to get someone else to apply make-up to the corpses.
Jack Seale, Radio Times, 18th January 2013
Stella's freewheeling family is one big ball of confusion tonight. Her kids are on emotionally challenging ground, with Ben pining for a girl who doesn't even notice him and daughter Emma feeling left behind when Sunil starts a new life at uni. But it's Stella (Ruth Jones) who's most in a spin as she tries to get her head around how she's had babies with a clutch of different dads. Then fate intervenes...
How much more lovable can Ruth Jones's Stella get? The frazzled heroine isn't having much luck, what with Luke being deported and Sean storming out after finding out she slept with her ex. You can't fight the urge to be her cheerleader, especially with the prospect of a lonely baby scan looming. Stella's extended family offer so much cheeriness and warmth, from best mate Paula's gallows humour at the undertakers to her orange ex-husband Karl and his brain-free philosophy. "Feel them guns," he orders, after giving little Ben his first workout. "Proper little Jodie Marsh, in't he?"
Like another of Sky1's comedies, Starlings, Ruth Jones's series remains adept at observing the humour and hardships of life. As season two continues, Stella (Jones) has confessed to Sean (Kenny Doughty) about her night with her ex (Mark Lewis Jones) and not surprisingly he is planning to leave Pontyberry - but there is a twist in the tale. Her mood isn't improved when she hears that her eldest child, Luke (Craig Gallivan), has been deported from Canada, while undertaker Paula (Elizabeth Berrington) falls out with Dai (Owen Teale) because of his tendency to make-up the dead to "look like Joan Rivers".
Show written by and starring Gavin and Stacey's Ruth Jones picks up 2.7% share between 9pm and 10pm.
Written by Mark Sweney. The Guardian, 14th January 2013