For the love of Rev!
Photograph: BBC/Big Talk
Praise the lord and hallelujah! The days of Derek Nimmo and Dick Emery playing stuffy dog-collared fools for cheap sniggers are firmly over, while they have had their place on television and film in the past 50 years, thankfully we have progressed a little from the stereotypical buck toothed, lady-chasing and oddly aloof vicar.
Religious faith like comedy is in itself is a broad church…
Comedy tastes have become slightly more soulful in recent years; on-screen religion has appeared in the comedy genre many times. Shows like Father Ted and The Vicar of Dibley had their inherent genius and the characters in these sitcoms bordered on caricatures and offered a more surreal and often absurd observation of Christian faith and the ridicule it faces.
First hitting our screens in 2010; the different and spiritually themed sitcom Rev bravely creates a hilarious and realistic spin on the world of a modern Church of England vicar who moves from the Norfolk diocese to a deprived East London parish. With a cleverly written script by James Wood, the world of Rev has evidently been meticulously researched and studied; co-created by James Wood and Tom Hollander; the production team consult closely with real life clergy to give the subject matter the respect, meaning and reality it needs to amuse but also to move.
Directed by award-winning, Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty), the high calibre direction shines through in the setting and filming of the piece. Both series have had plenty of star cameos including Alexander Armstrong, Hugh Bonneville, Amanda Hale, Richard E. Grant, Sylvia Syms and Ralph Fiennes.
Following the trials and tribulations of Reverend Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander) at St. Saviour’s in the Marshes Church in Hackney, Rev draws on such contemporary subjects as dwindling church numbers, the diversity of a multi faith society and the forever problematic issues of funding. The Motley Crew of parish characters that assist in weaving the Rev magic consist of Alex (Olivia Colman) Adam’s supportive yet unconventional solicitor wife; Colin (Steve Evets) an alcoholic, troubled down-and-out loveable rogue; Adoha (Ellen Thomas) the community spirited and Cassock-chasing parishioner; Archdeacon Robert (Simon McBurney), the Bishop of London’s keen eyes and ears; Mick (Jimmy Akingbola), their resident money- begging crack addict, and Adam’s useless self-perpetuating right hand Lay Reader Nigel (Miles Jupp).
Tom Hollander plays the protagonist with understated charm and warmth but more importantly he portrays Adam as a human being who doesn’t always get things right, he swears, smokes cigarettes, gets drunk and secretly but sweetly lusts over the local C of E primary school’s headmistress Ellie (Lucy Liemann).
Just like the rest of us Adam is plagued with mixed feelings of jealousy, anger and helplessness, he isn’t perfect and his personal faith in god is challenged daily. The success of Rev relies on the fact that you do not need to be religious to appreciate the human nature and situations explored in its storytelling. There is something for everyone and the comedy lies with the personal empathy the audience can rouse from its storylines. With thoughtful moments Rev has its roots firmly in the human heart, reflecting how humanity and humility always has a way of shining through and conquering all, the silver lining to the often troubled and graffiti adorned urban cloud.
After two series and a Christmas special to date, Rev rightly won the TV Bafta for ‘Best Situation Comedy’ of 2011. Amen to that! There are whispers of it returning for a third series in 2013, though nothing is guaranteed by the BBC or Big Talk Productions, we can only pray for some divine intervention on this matter.
If you missed it the first time around: Rev Series 1 will be shown on GOLD, (Sky 110, Virgin Media 126, Top Up TV 17) starting Wednesday the 11th July at 9.00pm.