Star - Tom Hollander
Imdb.com - 7.6/10/0 (789 votes)
6 x 30 minutes episodes
BAFTA - Tom Hollander
Genre - Sitcom
Church congregations in Britain are changing fast. Village and small town ones are increasingly empty and entertain only the sound of rusty organs, grave dodgers rattling bones and the smell of lavender and mould. Town and city churches, on the other hand, are very different beasts, exploding immigration seeing congregations increasingly black and South East Asian, turning a few noses up. Even the Catholic cathedrals are filling up with foreign faces, Sri-Lankans and Eastern Europeans good for business. You can imagine the faces of the pasty white Christians now their favourite seats have been taken by a family of five from Nigeria. Knowing this there clearly is room for an updated sitcom on the life of a traditional vicar in Britain and how the church deals with the changing face of this secular country, the black Anglican half of the church not too happy with gay rites and women clergy and the white half not to happy with the black half, by the looks.
The St Pauls debacle and the anti-capitalist protest also helped to fuel material for Rev. The Church has lost touch with the mainstream and was exposed here as not actually standing for anything, St Pauls obsessed with getting the money in from tourists and nothing from the book they preach o fairness and greed. But money is always tight in the smaller diocese with most of the lead off the roofs heading to Estonia and the local travellers camp and so some churches have resorted to turning a blind eye to fake weddings whilst others have gone for trendy vicars to boost the numbers and so the clatter on the collection plate, some of the comic themes of 'Rev'. If you really rip into the hypocrisy of the Church there's plenty of good stuff to send up. I recall satirical comic Mark Thomas revealing that the Church of England had 25% of its investment in arms companies!
The series is filmed at St Leonards Church in Shoreditch, East London, nestled between the mosques and Black African evangelic places of worship springing up like mushrooms in this part of the world. Tom Hollander, the tiny 5ft, 5 inch actor from In the Loop, the film version of the satirical comedy series 'The Thick of It', plays Reverent Adam Smallbone, the central priest in question, accomplished TV comedy actress Olivia Colman playing his long suffering wife Alex. Nigel McCall as Miles is Adams number two in a collar and Simon McBurney plays their shifty Archdeacon boss. The excellent character actor Steve Evetts of 'Looking for Eric' fame is the series token substance abuser down-and-out you get in and around churches, an assortment of other losers and God-fearing parishioners making up the shows regulars and cameos.
Tom Hollander ... The Reverend Adam Smallbone (13 episodes, 2010-2011)
Olivia Colman ... Alex Smallbone (13 episodes, 2010-2011)
Steve Evets ... Colin Lambert (13 episodes, 2010-2011)
Miles Jupp ... Nigel McCall (13 episodes, 2010-2011)
Simon McBurney ... Archdeacon Robert (13 episodes, 2010-2011)
Ellen Thomas ... Adoha Onyeka (12 episodes, 2010-2011)
Lucy Liemann ... Ellie Pattman (9 episodes, 2010-2011)
Jimmy Akingbola ... Mick (7 episodes, 2010-2011)
'On you're knees, forget the Fees'
Adam is overwhelmed when sermons experience a large increase in attendance. The sudden surge of punters, which includes the local MP, is not because of his wise words but a rumored great Ofsted report on the local church school, with local parents becoming desperate to have their children enrolled. Meanwhile, a mischievous Adam is tempted to trade a place in the school for money to get a stained glass window in the church restored. It is rumored many of the current Labor administration used this tactic to school their children on the cheap I good school to avoid going private.
Archdeacon Robert tells Adam that his church is not brining in enough money on the collection plate. Needing more generous punters, Adam loans priest Darren Betts (Chris Thornton) the church for his sermons as Darren's is being renovated. But a problem arrives when Darren will not leave after his hard work brining Adams church up to scratch. Meanwhile, Alex feels a bit lonely and decides she needs to reignite the flame of their love life, Adam all in favour. How kinky can they get under the eyes of the lord is the question now.
'The One Show'
Adam is jealous when he hears an old rival of his in the priesthood is appearing on Radio 4's Thought for the Day and so decides to take up the offer to appear on the remedial TV programme The One Show. However, after a controversial comment about homosexuality in the Church, the Archdeacon has to step in waving his filofax and demands Adam takes 'media lessons' from his rival. Meanwhile, Colin decides to seek God in a Rastafarian Religion.
Adam is feeling excluded by people and so excited about meeting Leon (Paul Downton), a young man who wants to marry at his church. The two form a bond and start to do things and places together. However, the friendship turns sour when Adam finds out his wife Alex and Leon attended the same college and shared a one night stand together back in the day, much to Adam's disgust.
'Is the answer Jesus, Sir?'
Adam's is in a tizzy after he gets a poor review of his sermon style on an online Christian website, which leads to Adam doubting his faith, Adam soon going off the rails and succumbs to the proletariat pleasures of daytime television and online gambling. Whilst he is away on his journey, an imposter vicar tries to take over Adam's role to avoid the consequences of paying a parking ticket. Adam's meltdown means he drunkenly flirts with Ellie, the schoolteacher friend he has a huge crush on.
It's hard to know what to make of Rev and where to place it. It's not a side-splitter or anything and the lead comic performances nothing special, not particularly original to base a sitcom around a priest and his oddball flock. Name a British sitcom not to feature a vicar at some point. But it has certain pathos and mood that makes you want to go back for more and its subtle humour on the ways of the cloth quite appealing in a mischievous way. It has a gay archbishop and flaky do-gooder congregation so revels in the clichés of the church, religion a good place to hide your deviancies, as the Catholic Church knows all to well. But it never pushes those things to the point of that cliché and so, one would suspect, holds on to a BBC2 audience because of that need not to go to the lowest common denominator. Whether this is The Vicar of Dibley for clever people is up for debate
I would say Rev is made specifically for a middle-class audience and so deliberately subtle and gentle with its humour. It's certainly not The Thick of It for the Priesthood or as naughty as Father Ted and definitely not mainstream sitcom to feel snug to. The money is spent on the look and cast over the jokes and so you cant really moan about if you're not rolling around in laughter as you know straight away exactly what you're going to get from episode one. To be honest it's quite sweet in its own way and refreshingly not cynical for modern TV and so a plus there.
Hollander plays Adam the way all vicars are on TV and drifts into trendy vicar territory to keep open the chance for more gags. Simon McBurney's spin doctor priest is the best character in the show and an original one too, the idea that church are as media savvy and clued up and deviant as politicians quite rewarding to explore on screen through comedy. The Church is one of the richest organisations in the country that sells a fairytale so they have to be good at spinning the truth to stay solvent.
The episodes are not themed as such and tend to serenely drift around so we can daydream with Adam in his battle of faith. The vicar role is very three-dimensional for Hollander to get his teeth into and its vulnerability not the closet homosexual thing that is the ongoing humour to his character. It would be nice to see the other characters in the show given better lines and I find Steve Evetts down and out character a bit predictable. As this show is filmed in the heart of East London then surely the ethic characters should be more prevalent and get stronger roles, a noticeable err. On the whole, though, it delivers something different and with series three in the can looks like its going to get a long run on BBC2.