Ian Wolf

Gigglebox Weekly #75 – Spy & Stella

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Stella, played by Ruth Jones

This week (because he only has Freeview), Ian Wolf watches two Sky1 comedies for the first time ever.


Since Pick TV is handing over Thursday evenings to Sky programming, two comedies are currently being shown to Freeview audiences for the first time. One of these is Spy, a pre-watershed sitcom starring Darren Boyd.

For those who haven’t seen the past two seasons, Boyd plays Tim, a divorced man working in an electronic store, who just wants to please his precocious son Marcus (Jude Wright). Tim decides to get himself a new job, but due to a mix up he ends up being recruited into MI5. And due to the Official Secrets Act, he can’t tell Marcus about his exciting work…

The opening episode had a fair few laughs in it, mostly visual. It has to be said that some scenes, especially the one in which Tim takes an exam and covers his desk in stationary and good luck items, reminds me somewhat of the opening episode of Mr Bean which features a similar scene, albeit with the absence of studio laughter (which some would argue to be an improvement).

The characters, however, are the key. Tim’s MI5 boss, “The Examiner” (Robert Lindsey), is a fun creation and from what I understand is very good. However, Marcus was totally unbearable; I just didn’t like him at all. It’s a pity that Tim didn’t have an actual licence to kill and do away with the annoying little monster.

I’d like to think I’d keep watching Spy, but to be honest Marcus is so off-putting I’m not sure if I would…


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.

Set in the fictional Welsh town of Pontyberry, Jones plays the title character, a woman in her mid-40s who is divorced and with three kids (like in Spy, divorcees appear to be a recurring theme in Sky comedy). Stella’s eldest son is in prison, the middle child is a troublesome daughter and the youngest son is bullied for being too clever.

The series follows her life and those of her friends and neighbours, which include Paula (Elizabeth Berrington), an undertaker with a love of booze, and Alan (Steve Speirs) the school lollipop man – and rugby coach – who has loved Stella since school.

Again, another similarity with Spy was the good use of visual humour. There’s one scene in which Paula tries to sober up by taking some flowers out of a glass vase and drinking the water that’s inside. Then there are the neighbours across the road, who for some reason have a pet donkey.

The characters, however, are more likable than those in Spy. I love Alan’s pathetic attempts to win over Stella’s affections – like getting her a jar of anchovies. And while the drama can be a bit predictable, I do prefer Stella over Spy. It’s more realistic, more likeable, and the created situations are just a lot more fun.