Stella - In The Press
Main News Stories About 'Stella':
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.
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.
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?
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.