- - Sunday, December 21, 2014

Late-night TV fans might not even realize what a holiday gift CBS presented when it announced British comedian James Corden will take over for Craig Ferguson on March 23. And now, of course, everyone’s waiting to see him in the Rob Marshall film “Into the Woods,” which will be released Christmas Day.

Way back in August, we told you why we think Mr. Corden will soar from “The Late, Late Show” on CBS to whatever other comedy he wants. That’s big talk, we know, but when you watch him, we bet you’ll believe too.

There’s no reason to wait for spring or wait in line at the theater to find out. One of the best James Corden primers you’ll find is the BBC show “Gavin & Stacey,” which you can tune into on BBC One, Netflix and other streaming networks. Don’t be surprised if you become so involved in the show you buy it for home. (Remember to request the U.S. format of the discs though.)

At first glance you might be concerned that the show is dated. It aired for 20 episodes between May 2007 and January 2010. But like the early episodes of the U.S. version of “The Office” and classic television such as “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” this comedy is timeless thanks to nuanced writing and superb acting.

Mr. Corden and Ruth Jones, another acclaimed comedic British actor, wrote the show about a young Englishman named Gavin who falls in love with a young Welsh woman, Stacey. The geographic and cultural differences are the basis for much of the show’s humor, which hinges on key moments in the lovebirds’ courtship and young marriage.

What makes it work when so many similar comedies have failed is that Mr. Corden and Miss Jones fully developed the secondary characters, two of which they play (Mr. Corden plays Gavin’s best pal, “Smithy,” and Miss Jones plays Stacey’s BFF, “Nessa”). And the characters range from friends of the couple to the couple’s siblings, parents, elderly neighbors and random acquaintances.

The two main characters are played by Mathew Horne, whose past work includes “Horne & Corden,” a British sketch comedy the two developed while working on “Gavin & Stacey,” and Joanna Page, whose work includes guesting on “Dr. Who.” Press reports state Ms. Page has immersed herself in family life in Oxfordshire, England.

The rest of the cast are equally talented veteran actors, as underscored by the slew of National Television and British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) the comedy and its cast won.

You may wonder why, if the show is so addictive, it hasn’t been remade for U.S. television.

Fox tried to do so just last year. News organizations reported the network ordered 13 episodes of a remake (to be titled “Us and Them”) that starred Alexis Bledel (“Gilmore Girls”) and Jason Ritter (“Parenthood”). Then the network announced it would air only six episodes.

Finally, Fox axed the remake without airing any of the shows, citing poor quality.

It’s difficult to feel sad about the failure to remake “Gavin & Stacey” after you’ve watched the original comedy that, corny as it sounds, takes everyday family and social situations and makes them alternatively joyful and heartbreaking.

Like “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “I Love Lucy” and its modern-day equivalents — including ABC’s “Modern Family” and “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS — the creators of “Gavin & Stacey” struck gold through talent and a series of happy accidents.

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