The passion
BBC1, 8pm
Gavin and Stacey
BBC3, 9pm

MOUNTED on horseback, attempting to look imperious in the role of Roman military ruler Pontius Pilate, James Nesbitt initially failed to convince as The Passion's big-name star. The centurion's breastplate and upturned-sweeping-brush war-helmet were fooling no-one. You couldn't help but see Nesbitt as Cold Feet's lovably-roguish-but-mildly-tormented Adam, or expect him to pull a crazy stunt or two as the hapless chancer in the Yellow Pages ads.

Mercifully, matters improved when Nesbitt got down from his steed, binned the martial gear and concentrated on brutally suppressing the troublesome Judean natives by barking orders to his colonial lieutenants ("Let the people see who's in charge of Jerusalem," that sort of thing). In wondrous contrast, Joseph Mawle's Jesus was a compelling treat throughout. You surely didn't need to be a Christian believer to be wowed by the easy charisma with which Mawle imbued his portrayal. Meek? Mild? As if Mawle's JC was a flinty-eyed dude among dudes, advancing on his own imminent corporeal demise with steely certainty. Whether displaying triumphant humility on his entry into the city aboard a donkey or blokeishly mocking his disciples for their lack of faith, the hippie-looking carpenter from Nazareth plainly commanded respect.

A multi-faceted fisher-of-men he was, too. The temple money-changers were given short shrift by angry all-action JC; his secularised religious opponents, old-school priests set on preserving their own status, were dazzled and disarmed by his new-wave stand-up theology.

Of Christ's disciples, James and John - northern street-corner toughs Dean Paul Lennox and Jamie Sives - were just as cool. But yon feller Judas smiled a bit too readily, if you ask me, bending to accommodate every breeze. He's gonna land Jesus in deep schtuck when The Passion continues tonight and over the Easter weekend, mark my words.

But if you don't already know the story of Jesus's last seven days on earth, fear not, for The Passion is awash with Middle Eastern sociopolitical intrigue, insurgency, rebellion and tax collectors getting their gizzards fatally slashed in darkened inner-city back alleys (along with forgiveness, undying love and hope). Plus, I guarantee it all leads up to an ending that'll blow your socks off.

Back for a second series, Gavin and Stacey is Terry and June with hands-free mobile phone technology instead of antimacassars; a Brian Rix Whitehall farce modernised by the addition of graphic sexual references. Which is to say it's a cosy sitcom that's relentlessly amiable without ever being laugh-out-loud funny (and much less frank than it thinks it is).

Its focus, Anglo-Welsh newly-weds Gav'n'Stace, are pleasantly played by Matthew Horne and Joanna Page. He's got soulful eyes. She's forever trembling on the brink of a swoony melt-down (sometimes due to dismay; more often out of romantic ecstasy). Together, they selflessly serve as the focus of a cast of jolly eccentrics who have a monopoly on what few funny lines there are.

Alison Steadman trills in a watered-down approximation of her long-ago role - usurped suburban matriarch - in Abigail's Party. As uncle Bryn, Rob Brydon grows more boldly pederastic. Playing truck-driving man-eater Nessa, Ruth Jones offers a macho impersonation of Steve Coogan in Saxondale. This is jarring, seeing she's actually in Saxondale, playing Coogan's lover.

All of this obscures what Gavin and Stacey is actually about. Is the show saying that friendship is less exciting and more enduring and worthwhile than marriage? Dunno. Is it truly funny? Not often enough, no.