Priests are not cool, as TV has shown us. Cadfael, Ted Crilly, Reverend Lovejoy, Geraldine Granger: they all have their endearing qualities, but trendy they are not.
Rev, BBC2’s leisurely Sunday stroll of a sitcom (which, as of series two, is on Thursdays at 8pm), does little to alter this perception, but it's a bloody good romp nonetheless. Well, maybe ‘romp’ is the wrong word, given that it's based around Church of England vicar Adam Smallbone (played by Tom Hollander, who also co-created the show) and his efforts to keep his dwindling inner-city congregation and long-suffering wife (Peep Show’s Olivia Colman) happy. But it's brilliantly written, impeccably cast and provides a welcome reminder that there are still parts of East London that haven't been colonised by pretentious dicks.
Vicar or not, our Adam shares many a problem with the common man, whether it’s keeping the boss (the archdeacon) on side, wrestling with an identity crisis or finding the time to stick it to his wife. He’s an unremarkable chap, but that only serves to make him more likeable when he has to face up to his motley crew of parishioners.
As is often the case, the show hangs on the performances of its able supporting cast. Simon McBurney (who evidently has a penchant for ecumenical comedy, having previously played Cecil in The Vicar of Dibley) excels as the scathing, cynical archdeacon, while Miles Jupp slips effortlessly into the role of bumbling lay reader Nigel, to the extent that I wonder if he’s really doing much acting. Ellen Thomas (Grace Olobunmi in EastEnders) puts an interesting twist on ‘lecherous old bird’ by combining it with ‘God-botherer’ in her portrayal of Adoha.
Like all good comedies, Rev isn't afraid to poke fun at its subject matter.
Then there's Colin, played by Steve Evets, who’s best known for playing the leading role in Looking for Eric (and less well known for his spell as The Fall's bassist). A genial, trampy fellow (Colin, not Steve), he spends most of his time hanging around the Church grounds drinking super lager, calling people ‘wank-stains’ and referring to the reverend, rather endearingly, as ‘Vicarage’.
Like all good comedies, Rev isn't afraid to poke fun at its subject matter. When Adam attempts to organise a trip to the seaside for a group of cretinous kids from the local school, Nigel offers to accompany the group in case the reverend gets the urge to touch up the kids and they need a responsible adult to talk to.
It all adds up to create a lively community that is as convincing as it is absurd and enjoyable. It's obviously a formula that works, as the six-part first series won a Bafta for best sitcom, a South Bank award for best comedy and scored two Royal Television Society nominations, for best scripted comedy and best comedy performance (for Hollander).
Rev, then, is many things: charming, witty, and funny among them. Just don’t expect it to be cool.
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