Rev - July 5th
We are now two episodes into the new BBC2 comedy drama Rev, and I think I’m a bit confused. Rev follows the life of inner-city vicar Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander) and was billed as being much more true to real life than The Vicar of Dibley or Father Ted. I must admit this worried me slightly as I already found those two quite realistic – I actually know both Father Dougal and David Horton - and I thought anything more gritty than that could be depressing. It turns out I wasn’t wrong, in that I actually did feel a bit depressed after the second episode.
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it. Tom Hollander portrays Adam Smallbone brilliantly as a sincere, vulnerable, fallible human vicar, struggling to make sense of the place he finds himself in; always hopeful, always disappointed, in danger of being overwhelmed by the task before him, but always somehow managing to muddle through. His life-weary solicitor wife (Olivia Colman) is well played too, as is the intense and learned licensed lay minister Nigel (Miles Jupp). The writers must have been very well advised, or must themselves have had the opportunity to observe the life of an urban vicar and those around him or her.
The first part that jarred with me was the Archdeacon, who kept turning up in a taxi for little chats, and who clearly had an unrealistically intimate knowledge of the parish and congregation. He was very funny, but in a two-dimensional, caricatured way. There’s nothing wrong with two-dimensional comedy, but it’s just a different animal. I found it odd to have such an unlikely character, rather reminiscent of Bishop Brennan in Father Ted, playing opposite the very nuanced, three-dimensional Adam Smallbone. In the second episode, not only did the Archdeacon continue to appear at regular intervals to check up on Rev Smallbone’s progress (has the man nothing else to do at all?) but another unlikely two-dimensional character comes into the plot: an evangelical vicar who performs a hostile takeover of the church because his own is being refurbished. (How could this happen? Answer: it couldn’t, don’t be silly.) The effect on me of this mix of two- and three-dimensional characters was to leave me feeling strangely out of kilter, almost sad.
All this is churlish though: it’s an engaging and thoughtful sitcom, and the reason I know this is true is that I can hardly wait for the next episode. Bring it on.