Stella - In The Press

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

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

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