Posts Tagged ‘Gavin and Stacey’

Seeing as I’m a fan of Ruth Jones’ Gavin and Stacey, when I discovered she’d penned another show set in her homeland of Wales I was eager to give it a go as well.  Jones plays the title character, Stella Morris, a single mum and the calm voice of reason amongst her eccentric friends and family. She tries to see the bright side of things and that’s saying quite a lot since her oldest child Luke is a recent ex-con, her high school daughter Emma is pregnant and her youngest, Ben, is a sweet boy who unintentionally delivers trouble from Stella’s past right onto her doorstep.

Stella with Emma, Ben and Luke image credit Sky1

Stella with Emma, Ben and Luke
image credit Sky1


While Stella’s dilemmas are quite universal, I believe there are some lessons to be learned about the Welsh from this show.

1. Set in the picturesque South Wales Valleys in a fictional village called Pontyberry, Jones has peopled her town with folks who are known and, to a large degree, accepted by their neighbors. One notable example is Stella’s son Luke who had a hard time fitting in when he first came home from prison.

From an elderly couple who keep a horse as an indoor pet to an unlikely trio of funeral directors – an alcoholic nymphomaniac, an elderly patriarch only Pontyberrians can understand and a camp, trendy assistant – the village is close knit and civic-minded. Certainly something I don’t see too often in my neck of the woods anyway.

Morticians Daddy and Bobby performing a Duran Duran song at Luke's birthday party Image credit Sky1

Morticians Daddy and Bobby performing a Duran Duran song at Luke’s birthday party
Image credit Sky1


2. Watching Stella you are also led to believe that Pontyberry must have a very low cost of living. How else could an adult earn enough to raise a family by doing other people’s ironing or working as a lollipop man?


3. I learned who Welsh politician Neil Kinnock is…


4. Finally, and most notably one must mention the language – and I don’t mean actual Welsh. Much as I love to learn the dialects, idioms, and slang of a region, Stella is a struggle at times. I stream it on Hulu which provides zero help in the subtitle area so until your ear gets used to the rolling accent, you can miss an awful lot.

But once you become accustomed to the cadence of the way the Welsh speak English you realize there are many unique words and phrases to be deciphered. For example, where I come from “twp” isn’t a word. It’s an abbreviation for “township.” Note the lack of vowels. However, in Wales “twp” is a full-blown word and, as far as I can tell, means stupid or silly. I’ve only watched one series so far but I expect there will be many more consonant heavy words in coming episodes.

Perhaps I’d better let Stella, her ex Karl (what was she thinking?) and his presh girlfriend Nadine explain what they call Pontyberryisms:


Though Stella is a gentler, more drama based series than Gavin and Stacey, it certainly has a spirit of individualism and self-acceptance that I’ve come to anticipate when meeting Welsh characters. Who can forget Nessa after all?


Jones as Nessa from Gavin and Stacey  image credit Wales Online

Jones as Nessa from Gavin and Stacey
image credit Wales Online


I expect Ruth Jones has something to do with that vibe, sharing her view of Wales with the world and making us laugh in the process.



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As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m not much of a royal watcher.  Oohing and aahing over babies is not really my style either.  But as the Duchess of Cambridge’s due date draws near, the inescapable royal baby frenzy grows so I figured I’d better address it.

At this very moment, journalists are stationed outside the maternity wing of the hospital where Kate is supposed to deliver. And it would seem that the offerings of royal baby memorabilia are multiplying  at a very healthy profit…I mean, rate.  Here’s my favorite…pity I don’t own an iPhone.


Royal Baby iPhone cover image credit guardian.co.uk

Royal Baby iPhone cover image credit guardian.co.uk


It goes without saying that there was a bit of baby fever going on in the UK even before the new successor to the throne was conceived.


Presumably the people of Great Britain have a communal interest in this regal child.  He or she symbolizes the continuation of tradition and the preservation of the monarchy.  No doubt this little tot will be privileged, protected and, judging from a genetic standpoint, pretty as well.  The heir will be trained up in preparation for the day when he or she will ascend to the throne and become the figurehead of an entire nation.

Sounds like an awful lot to expect from a newborn, I know. The question on my mind, however, is how will Kate and Will’s little one stack up to these remarkable British telly babies?


1. Alfie Owens aka Stormageddon


Big expressive brown eyes, pinchable chubby cheeks and the ability to converse intelligently with the Doctor is just the beginning of Alfie’s exceptional skill set.  Armed only with a strong pair of  lungs, Alfie was able to save his father’s life.  A plaintive cry was enough to trigger a love so strong that Craig Owens (James Corden) was able to reverse his “conversion” and destroy the Cybermen with his powerful emotions in the process.


2.  Eve Sands  aka The War Child


Eve is the child of George and Nina, two werewolves who died trying to protect their daughter and all of humanity come to that.  She has been left in the care of Annie, a fiercely protective and motherly ghost.  Along with her supernatural comrades Tom (another werewolf) and Hal (a recovering vampire), Annie has sworn to protect Eve who is not just the child of her dearly departed friends, but according to prophecy, the savior of the world.  A terrible burden for such slight shoulders to be sure.


3.   Neil Noel Edmund Smith aka Baby Neil


Oddly enough this is the second baby on the list to play a child of James Corden…but I digress. What makes this baby extraordinary?  Admittedly, he is adorable and seems a good-natured and happy sort of tyke.  Isn’t that enough?  Yet this child, this wee bairn, was able to achieve the unthinkable.  He united two people who could barely stand to look at one another…his parents, Nessa and Smithy.  I don’t know of any modern royal progeny who’s been able to pull off that feat, do you?

So as we await the blessed event (what choice do we have really?) I’ll take this time to think about how much I treasure my own babies , both who are in their twenties now.  Whether you’re a pauper or a prince, all parents experience a fierce, almost overwhelming love for their newborns. Will and Kate have no idea how their lives are about to be transformed.

I’ll leave you with this thought provoking quote from Call the Midwife‘s Sister Monica Joan- in one of her more lucid moments:


Sister Monica Joan image credit bbc.co.uk

Sister Monica Joan image credit bbc.co.uk


“When do you suppose babies became so very precious?  Are they more valued now because they can survive or do they survive because they are more valued?”

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Last night the US version of The Office ended its nine season run.  Despite essentially worshiping the original British series, I found a place in my heart for the American employees of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.  It took a while, but the writers won me over with their ability to honor the spirit of  the standard while creating their own take on the dysfunctional office experience. For example this would have never happened on The Office (UK):

Angela and Dwight standing in their graves image credit insidetv.ew.com

Angela and Dwight standing in their graves image credit insidetv.ew.com


It has to be said that the success of The Office‘s reinvention is a rarity.  Coupling, The IT Crowd, Teachers, and Spaced are just a few examples of British comedies chosen for an American makeover.  All of them failed, if not in the pilot phase, then mid-season when it was discovered that the sensibilities, the nuances or the humor of the original didn’t exactly translate.  This happens often enough, they made a whole sitcom about it…


However, the formula has been known to work in the past since several ultra-classic 1970’s sitcoms have sprouted from British roots.  Here are just a few examples that you may not have been aware of:

Till Death Do Us Part (1965-1975)

moved to Queens, New York but retained an equally intolerant patriarch :

All in the Family (1971-1979)



Man About the House (1973-1976)

relocated from London to sunny California but the housing arrangement stayed eerily the same:

Three’s Company (1976-1984)



Steptoe and Son (1962-1974)

stayed in the junk trade but took a decidedly ethnic departure from the original series:

Sanford and Son (1972-1977)



The next big UK to US adaptation in the pipeline is Us & Them – the Americanization of Gavin and Stacey.  It’s set to air on FOX this fall and only time will tell if the executive producing influence of Ruth Jones and James Corden (the creators of the original series) will have any tangible effect.


Rather than reworking all these hit British shows into mediocre imitations, I propose that it would be more efficient to just provide us with greater access to British programming, particularly new comedy.  There are enough American viewers who love the British imports just as they are.  We like the humor, the accents, the slang and the pop references.  Leave them be and let those of us who “get it” get on with it.

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Now that Valentine’s Day has passed, I can safely share the following list without facing accusations of being a cynical anti-romantic.  I’m a sucker for a love story as much as the next gal, but admit it, there are times when you see a couple and wonder “how did that hookup ever happen?”  Below are my nominations for the Bad Romance Telly Awards.

1. Joanna Clore and Dr. Alan Stratham – Green Wing

Hospital human resources director, Joanna Clore and consultant radiologist, Dr. Alan Statham have a love/hate relationship.  Dr. Statham worships Joanna and she, in turn, despises him.  Joanna scorns Alan’s devotion and yet her scathing insults fall on deaf ears.  The glue that holds this pair together is Joanna’s mortal fear of growing old and being alone combined with some very disturbing sexual tendencies.


2. Gavin and Stacey Shipman– Gavin and Stacey

gavin and stacey couples

I know this will be considered quite a controversial nomination. In fact, this couple anchors one of my all time favorite sitcoms. But truth be told, I find Gavin and Stacey to be the most boring relationship in the entire series – Gavin and Smithy’s lifelong friendship is more enthralling.  Stacey is obviously too immature to be married – unable to admit her five previous engagements to Gavin, idle and homesick after the wedding and entirely focused on having a baby when so many other issues in their lives should be addressed first. And Gavin, God help him, gives in to every one of her demands.

3. Richard and Hyacinth Bucket – Keeping Up Appearances

Keeping Up Appearances

Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet), an aspiring social climber and her hen-pecked husband, Richard, are an extreme example of a far too common unhealthy relationship scenario.  Sure, the severity of Hyacinth’s bossiness and snobbishness exists for comic effect, but after seeing reruns of this sitcom for over 20 years on PBS, you have to shake your head and wonder why Richard doesn’t do this more often.


4. Basil and Sybil Fawlty – Fawlty Towers

After 15 years together you’d expect the honeymoon phase of a marriage to be over, but Basil and Sybil Fawlty take matrimonial unrest to another level.  Sybil keeps her husband in line through verbal intimidation. Basil attempts to give as good as he gets usually through passive-aggressive pet names for his wife such as “my little nest of vipers” and “you rancorous, coiffured old sow”.  And even when he’s being a dutiful and thoughtful spouse, there’s an element of revenge to Basil’s plans…


5. Maddy Magellan and Jonathan Creek – Jonathan Creek

Maddy is a nosy, crafty investigative journalist, intent on getting to truth, often by unscrupulous means.  Jonathan Creek is a shy, brilliant, quirky young man who lives in a windmill and designs illusions for a stage magician.  When these two meet up by chance at a magic show, Maddy sees her opportunity to coerce Jonathan into helping her solve a “locked room” style mystery.  Apparently something sparks between the two and a long drawn out dance to relationship consummation ensues…


The thing is I didn’t believe it.  They seemed more like an argumentative older sister and younger brother.  To be blunt, every time I saw them move haltingly towards a more intimate relationship, my stomach turned a little.  Just stick with the clever crime solving.  There’s no need for any of “the sex” as Miranda Hart would say.

So there you have it.  Which couple wins the award for the worst romance? Cast your ballot in the comments section below or on my Facebook page.  Your write-in candidates are welcome as well.   The winner will receive a lovely trophy and a course of counselling sessions appropriate to their individual relationship dysfunction.

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Proof postive that I’ve been a very good girl this year!  I received all these wonderful gifts under the tree – Miranda Hart’s humorous memoir from my daughter, the complete DVD collection of Gavin and Stacey from my husband and a handmade TARDIS mug from my son!  Does my family know me or what?

What was your best Christmas gift this year?  Perhaps my latest Christmas post on Smitten By Britain…gift clips are enclosed, chosen just for you.


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The time between now and New Year’s Eve is prime party season.  Such parties require an extraordinary amount of planning and preparation, not to mention the actual hosting duties.  Therefore, it’s not something I’m very likely to consider doing.  However, if I were to decide to expend the energy, I’d want to go all out.

The secret to a successful party is not the food, drink or decorations.  It’s inviting the right mix of guests, each with specific strengths and talents.  And the best pool of invitees, in my opinion, would be my “friends” from the telly.  My carefully thought out list would read as follows:

1. Sally from Twenty-Twelve

Sally would be the very first person I would invite because, as personal assistant to the Head of (Olympic) Deliverance, her thorough and efficient planning skills are second to none.  I hate to admit it, but I would subtly try to exploit Sally’s very eager-to-please nature and convince her to do most of the organizing.  Believe me, you don’t want me to put this shindig together unless you like attending crap parties.

2. Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock

It’s a good idea to have someone at your soiree with a clever party piece, an impersonation or some unusual talent, to serve as an ice breaker of sorts.  The downside of Sherlock’s talent is of course his tendency to insult people, so I’d want to expose him to the other guests in small doses. He doesn’t like people much anyhow, so I don’t think he’d mind terribly if I locked him in my closet for the rest of the evening.

3. The Doctor and Donna Noble from Doctor Who

Once the first round of drinks has been served and people are comfortably mingling, it’s time to bring out the party games.  With their playful, platonic rapport, The Doctor and Donna make perfect game leaders.  Their specialty is the classic charades, but I think any game that requires witty banter and running is within their scope of expertise.

4. Maurice Moss from The IT Crowd

By now the party should be in full swing and people might have begun to behave a bit carelessly.  That’s why it’s wise to invite someone who keeps a cool head and knows what to do in a crisis.  Moss is conscientious and a whiz on the computer so in the unlikely event of an emergency, I’m almost confident he would be able to contact the proper authorities.

5. Stephen Fry (and guests) from QI

A good conversationalist is a must for any successful holiday bash.  Someone who can speak with wit and intelligence about current events as well as those weighty, eternal questions is a valued commodity.  Having Stephen Fry and his QI friends (particularly David Mitchell and Sue Perkins) in attendance would lend more than of smidgen of gravitas to my gathering.  They’re all Cambridge Footlights alums, by the way.

6. The cast of Gavin and Stacey

At first I was going to invite just Bryn and Nessa and I’ll tell you for why…because of their excellent karaoke skills. (I won’t lie to you, Nessa can tell an interesting story as well). Then I discovered the entire Gavin and Stacey cast could line dance so I decided to invite the whole lot of them.

7. Miranda

Despite, or perhaps even because of, her many faux pas, pratfalls and windy expulsions, Miranda would be the guest of honor at my party.  She may be awkward but she’s the Queen of Awkward.  She is what I call “awesome”!

8. Mr. Bean

Eventually my lovely, dream party will have to come to a close.  I believe a responsible host should have some sort of arrangement in place for shuttling her less than sober guests safely back to their homes.  Mr. Bean has an ingenious set-up for transporting a considerable amount of freight (or people) in his tiny little mini. Always the innovator, he also has a back-up crash safety system much more comfortable than any air bags.

Which telly character/personality would you most like to invite to a holiday gathering?

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Neighbors. They can be our best friends or a nightmare to endure.  These days many of us only know our neighbors well enough to nod at them or wave hello. Sadly, but not surprisingly, I know the names of more dogs in my neighborhood than their owners. But recently I visited with the residents a fictional Manchester street.  No, not the venerable Corrie (I’ll get to that soon enough), but Bold Street, a lesser known but just as drama-ridden avenue.

Easy street this is not

Here live working-class families trying to navigate their way through life’s moral quagmires.  The residents of the BBC series The Street know one another mainly due to their proximity.  Their kids go to school together, they frequent the same local pub and shops, that sort of thing.  Each episode of this hour-long drama features a different family focusing on their personal struggles and how their crises ripple into the lives of their neighbors.  Marital infidelities, tragic accidents, suicide attempts, threatened reputations, theft, drug dealing, spousal battering, racism, and the plight of asylum seekers are all topics addressed in just one six episode series. Beyond these current issues,  The Street continually brings home the fact that you never really know what someone is going through in their private life, even if you’ve lived next door to them for years.  Blame it on the English proclivity for privacy or the increasing isolation of our modern world, but gossip sessions in the pub and simmering resentments are not the building blocks of solid friendships.  In the end, these Mancunians must face their demons alone.

Of course there are instances where neighbors can be a more significant part of one another’s lives and more amusing in the process.   I’ll skip over obvious titles like Good Neighbours and Love Thy Neighbour which rely heavily on the racial and class differences that divide people to create humorous situations.

For example, some become as close as blood relations:

The Carrolls –  Mary, Joe and their daughter Cheryl are frequent fixtures next door at The Royle Family home.  Mary and Barbara love to gossip over a cuppa and Joe, while normally quite introverted, will come out of his shell and sing an Irish tune after a few drinks.  Cheryl is Denise’s best friend and the Royles’  unofficial second daughter which is plainly indicated by the amount of  teasing she has to suffer.


Then there are nightmare neighbors:

Jill Tyrell (Nighty Night) – When Jill’s husband is diagnosed with cancer, she decides to be proactive and find a new mate.  Unfortunately she targets her married neighbor, Dr. Don Cole by insinuating herself into his life and “befriending” his chronically ill wife, Cathy.


The fantasy girl upstairs:

Deborah (Men Behaving Badly)- When flatmates Gary and Tony meet new upstairs neighbor Deborah, both are smitten but single Tony has the best chance if he could just stop saying stupid things – or if Deborah was delirious with fever all the time.


And finally the plain-spoken, slightly batty old lady:

Doris (Gavin and Stacey)- Next door neighbor to Stacey’s mom Gwen, Doris has a taste for drink and much younger men.  Truth be told, Doris is probably a glimpse at future Nessa.


If you could choose, who would you want for a “tv neighbor”?

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There are few things that elicit an Awww response more readily than a dad gently cradling his infant child.  Case in point:

Rory Williams meets his daughter Melody. Unfortunately this will be the only normal moment of their entire relationship.


In recognition of the beauty of father/baby bonding, I present to you three slightly unlikely tv dads and their bundles of joy:


1.  Father and son beach outing (Gavin and Stacey)


2.  Adam, the “ladykiller” (Cold Feet)


3. The challenges of fatherhood (Doc Martin)

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, even the ones who have a bit of trouble with the learning curve at the beginning;)

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My husband is fortunate enough to be attending a performance of One Man, Two Guvnors on Broadway this evening.  According to the official website, there will be “falling trousers, flying fish heads, star-crossed lovers, cross-dressing mobsters and a fabulous on-stage band .”  I want to see that, don’t you?   Anyway, before he departed on his trip to the Big Apple, I warned my husband I would be very angry if he got to see this play without me.  Not to worry, our relationship is not in jeopardy unless… he doesn’t attempt to make contact with the play’s star, James Corden, on my behalf and slip him a business card with my blog address on it.

If I were to meet Mr. Corden outside the theater after the night’s last curtain call, I would tell him how much I’ve enjoyed his performances in shows like TeachersFat Friends and particularly his guest appearances on Doctor Who.

The very first thing I ever saw him in was the film Starter for 10:

James as Tone – Motorhead fan extraordinaire

The History Boys was very good as well, though I would have liked to see it on the stage.  I also appreciate all the great work he’s done for Comic Relief.

But the thing I most admire James Corden for is the comedy masterpiece, Gavin and Stacey.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for any amount of time know that this is not an attempt to shamelessly flatter because G&S is regularly mentioned throughout.  James portrays Smithy, Gavin’s best mate, a character that, I won’t lie to you, I didn’t much like in the first series.  The brilliance of Smithy is he slowly grows on you. As we follow him into fatherhood, as he becomes a little less obnoxious and a little more vulnerable, Smithy becomes someone you look forward to seeing on the screen.

And that’s what brings me to the true reason I wish I were waiting outside the stage door tonight – so I could tell him how impressed I am with the writing of Gavin and Stacey which he penned along with co-star and brilliant actress, Ruth Jones.

You see, like a majority of bloggers, I aspire to write outside the blogosphere.  I used to want to be a respected novelist like Anne Tyler, or at least generate some degree of popular literary buzz.

But I found that every story I attempted to write was playing out in my head like a film so I thought maybe I should write the story in its pure form.  I did try my hand at a screenplay which made me quite proud if only because  I researched how to write in a format I knew nothing about and then sat down at the computer and persevered. It wasn’t art but it was a full 112 pages of my sweat and imagination.

But now that I watch so much British telly, I’m toying with the idea of writing something for my current favorite medium. And so for the few moments I might have James’ attention I want to ask the following questions:

(1) How do you achieve a  balance so that your quirky characters (e.g. Nessa) are likable without  losing their edge?

(2) How did you decide to make your supporting characters more interesting than your titular ones?  (Risky, but I think it really works)

(3) Do you have any advice for a blogger/aspiring tv writer? Or a job? (You probably can’t discern from the written words, but I was taking the piss…or maybe you could.  You are an actor after all.)

Thank you for your time.  Any and all comments are welcome.

As for the rest of you, I appreciate your patience and for indulging my ill-disguised fawning and self-promotion.  My sentiments are truly sincere, but as I’m sure my blogging colleagues will agree, you have to do what you can to make those career connections.  For those of you who are just innocent bystanders in search of enlightenment concerning British television and culture, please enjoy one of my favorite clips of James as Smithy lecturing on the proper way to order takeaway.


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As promised (or at least implied), welcome to the  final installment of my Mates for Life series.  Here we’ll examine what happens to the best friend relationship when a woman enters the picture.

Gavin Shipman and Neil “Smithy” Smith from Gavin and Stacey:

Neighbors and best friends since primary school, Smithy(James Corden) has spent more time with Gavin’s family than his own.  These mates aspire to sample every variety of beer in the world and over the years have developed an elaborate greeting ritual.

But Gav’s whirlwind romance with Stacey quickly leads to an engagement and before Smithy knows it, Gav’s on his honeymoon (and has turned off his phone) for three whole weeks.  To add to Smithy’s sense of abandonment, Gavin (Matthew Horne) decides to move from Billericay to Barry in an attempt to save his troubled, fledgling marriage.  But Smithy need not worry because every weekend there’s a two and half hour road trip between Essex and Barry.  The ties of family and friendship… so touching!

Adam Williams and Pete Gifford from Cold Feet:

Boyhood friends Adam (James Nesbitt) and Pete (John Thomson) have shared life’s joys and pitfalls.  Unlike Gavin and Smithy, Pete’s marriage to Jenny hasn’t put a damper on the friendship.  If anything, it’s the opposite with Adam, the womanizer, tempting Pete stay at the pub for just “one more pint”.  What does finally come between these lifelong friends is when Pete’s wife Jenny becomes infatuated with Adam and in a moment of weakness they kiss.  When Pete discovers this in Jenny’s diary, he confronts Adam at work and punctuates his point with a punch.  In the end, Adam and Pete talk it out, the rift is repaired and they return to the relationship which has served them so well, celebrating the joys and weathering the tragedies throughout the years.  I wish I could find a good Pete and Adam clip, but the ones available on YouTube are few and not often distinct scenes but large chunks.  If you’re  curious about the series try out the first episode (it’s broken up into eight sections).  It gives you a real feel for the show’s tone and the relationships as well.

Tim Bisley and Mike Watt from Spaced:

The lifelong friendship between Tim (Simon Pegg) and Mike (Nick Frost) is very well documented.  Not only do they share many interests, namely video games, paintball, and robot wars, but we are also shown a series of childhood flashbacks.  For example we learn why Tim is afraid of dogs and how an unfortunate childhood dare led to Mike’s inability to join the regular armed services.  And despite Mike’s obsession with all things military, he is very in touch with his feelings.  When Tim becomes all wrapped up in a relationship with Sophie, a woman he’s just met, Mike doesn’t just mope about.  He calls Tim out and tells him how hurt he’s been by Tim dumping him for Sophie.  Ever the protector, Mike also tells his new rival that if she hurts Tim, he’ll kill her, a threat she should probably take seriously.

The common thread throughout these friendships is that, while people grow up and lives change, for best mates there will always be a connection that women will never understand.  I think Mike expresses it best:


Oh, and in line with my previous friendship posts, I believe the alphas from this crowd would have been Gavin (if I have to choose), Adam and Tim.  Sadly this follows a pattern of the chubby friend always being cast in the follower role.  British or universal stereotype?  You tell me.

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