By Will Barber – Taylor
Ruth Jones’s much-loved comedy drama returns. While Stella begins her second year of nursing training, Big Alan and Little Alan open a cafe.
Following on from the mixed bag that was the Christmas special, Stella seems to have returned to form in the first episode of the fourth series. While the episode is an improvement on cluttered nature of the Christmas special it does have its problems. The problems don’t outweigh to positives of the episode, but they do detract from the overall enjoyability of it.
Michael Jackson, Stella’s boyfriend (played by Patrick Baladi) has now been forced, due to his divorce, to try and re-establish his business in Stella’s box room. Aside from the fact that Michael is a solicitor, a profession which deals with divorces all the time, the idea that his wife could have took so much money that he now has to set up shop in his girlfriend’s spare room seems patently ridiculous. The fact that (as Michael points out himself) a solicitor of twenty years can’t even manage to get an adequate divorce settlement seems profoundly ridiculous. The only reason that it happens is to create some forced, comic moments of Michael attempting to try and get the residents of Pontyberry to be his clients. Otherwise the whole storyline seems slightly redundant and inaccurate.
However, the episode does feature some good scenes, particularly that featuring Big Al (Steve Spiers) and Little Al (Daniel Gammond). Big Al and Little Al attempt to set up a café throughout the episode. The comedic juggling between Big Al and Little Al as to how they can open the restaurant is a delight to witness and is the core of the episode. Little Al’s attempts to be like Gordon Ramsay and Big Al’s attempts to try and make sure that the café is at least profitable plus the conflict between them makes for great comedic moments. It also shows a tender and three dimensional side to their relationship. These are truly truthful moments as we share with them just how much they care for one another. Big Al wants to make sure that his son has the best of everything even if that means he has to beg to get it. It makes the comedy drama feel like it has a heart and the comedic attempts of Big Al and Little Al portray the touching dramatic elements that are sometimes underplayed but an integral part of the show.
Overall, the fourth series of Stella kicks off to a great start. While the Michael Jackson plotline is a tad unbelievable it is made up for by the interwoven story of Big Al and Little Al’s café which prove the highlight of the episode. Hopefully, as the series goes along, the other secondary storylines will be more in keeping with the touching drama of the Big Al/Little Al storyline as opposed to the unbelievable Michael Jackson section.