Two of the most pleasant surprises of the late summer have been a pair of new comedy series: Z Rock on IFC and Gavin & Stacey on BBC America. They couldn’t be farther apart in terms of themes and structure; however, they’re both quite funny, and worth your time not only now, as we wait out the fall premieres, but for the duration of their season runs
Z Rock (Sunday nights at 11:00 PM/ET) is described as â€œ(kinda) based on a true storyâ€ following the exploits of the real life hard rock band, Z02, a New York based hard rock group that includes brothers Paulie and David Z on guitar and bass, and Joey C on drums (the only monogamous member of the band). From what I’ve heard of their material, they remind me of Extreme, but with charisma. Whether you prefer their type of rock and roll is irrelevant, though, because the joke of Z Rock is that while they’re a hard rock, party band by night, by day they are an in-demand children’s entertainment group.That’s right, to avoid having to get “real” jobs, the three members of Z02 become the “Brothers” and perform at kids’ birthday parties.
They don’t put on some act like they’re The Wiggles; Paulie, David and Joey show up dressed in tight jeans and shirts (much to the delight of the MILFs at the parties) and continue to squabble and cause damage in rich homes, as if they’re were performing in some beer-infested dive in Brooklyn. A recent episode featured Paulie and David banging a couple groupies in their van after a gig, and then learning that those same groupies are married mothers of two children invited to a birthday party they’re playing. While this may sound like a high concept sitcom, the three guys in the band are game at poking fun at themselves and the music industry. Their camaraderie is infectious and drives the show.
The single camera series offers a fictionalized version of the three band members’ lives, with interview segments breaking up the scenes as they play out. Among the people interviewed are Dina (Lynne Koplitz), their manager, and Neil (Jay Oakerson), the owner of the club the guys frequent who also makes homosexual advances on Paulie. Z Rock is a direct descendent of both The Office and This is Spinal Tap. Whether the band members had any acting experience before Z Rock is irrelevant, because they have no problem playing heightened versions of themselves. Additionally, they seem naturals when riffing in the improvisational nature of the show. I gave up listening to the type of hard rock Z02 perform a decade ago, but the raunchy, yet endearing nature of Z Rock may actually make me reconsider and buy one of their CDs.
On the other end of the comedy spectrum is Gavin & Stacey, the award-winning BBC romantic comedy which is finally reaching the airwaves in the U.S. after two full seasons in England. Gavin & Stacey begins when two people who have spoken to each other on the phone for months (through work) finally meet up for a date. They are, of course, Gavin (Matthew Horne), a young man from England, and Stacey (the adorable Joanna Page) who lives with her widowed mom in Wales. When they finally meet, each brings along their best friend as a safety precaution. For Gavin, it’s Smithy (James Corden), an obnoxious, fun-loving lush; for Stacey, it’s Nessa (Ruth Jones), a bitter, leather-wearing cynic. That Gavin and Stacey fall in love at first sight is a shock to everyone except the two of them. Their connection is fate bringing them together, and that neither of them questions this love is refreshing and touching.
Gavin & Stacey was created by Corden and Jones, and the world that they’ve conjured is filled with witty, charming characters. What I like most about this series, which airs Tuesday nights at 9:30, is that there isn’t an underlying feeling of cynicism. When Gavin and Stacey proclaim their love for one another, everyone is supportive and jumps in to wish them well, whereas in an American version of this type of show you might see someone try to undermine their love and separate them. In addition to having two very likable and quirky lead characters, the cast also includes a great group of character actors, including Alison Steadman and Larry Lamb as Gavin’s frisky parents and Melanie Walters as Stacey’s mom.
You can’t help watching a series like Gavin & Stacey without a huge smile on your face. Even when the characters are fighting, the resolution is smart and heartwarming. In England, Gavin & Stacey is revving up for a third season.I still don’t understand why we get BBC shows so late after they air overseas.Still, it’s wonderful to finally be receiving this wonderful gift.