TV Review: Rev.

28/07/10 | Posted by MattPage

The BBC's latest sit-com, Rev., has been pulling in praise from religious and non-religious critics alike. With only one episode to go, now seemed like a good time to review the series as a whole before it disappears for the summer*.

image
 Tom Hollander as Rev. Adam Smallbone

Having used its opening episode to set the scene and swiftly severed any connections to The Vicar of Dibley (by having Rev. Adam Smallbone smoke, get drunk and swear at a gang of builders) the subsequent episodes of Rev. have not only found some big laughs, but have also managed to deliver the occasional deeper moment. Adam’s prayers, for example, seem particularly well executed.

The series deals with various challenges facing modern-day clergy. The introductory episode tackled the thorny issue of selection for church schools. Episode 3 explored interfaith dialogue, last week’s offering dealt with faith in the media, whilst Monday’s looked at the isolation and loneliness felt by many in the priesthood. But it was the second episode – where Adam meets an over-enthusiastic fellow vicar called Darren – where the programme not only dealt with ‘the church’ but also touched on Jesus.

Darren and Adam have been uneasily combining their congregations, a challenge given Darren’s slicker, more youth-orientated, style. But when one of Adam’s more confused parishioners, Colin, pinches one girl’s bottom, Darren insists he should be barred. Adam refuses.

What’s interesting is that whilst they clash on this and numerous other issues, both men believe they are right in following Jesus. Darren (whilst clearly the villain of the piece) argues the importance of appealing to people. There’s plenty in the gospels to support that,  from Jesus’ easy-to-understand parables, to his crowd-impressing miracles. Adam, on the other hand argues for the importance of the unimportant, and, most passionately, for forgiveness. He quotes Matthew 18 “’Lord, how many times am I to forgive my neighbour? Seven times?’...’Seventy times seven’ said the Lord”. There’s truth and error in what both men say, perhaps because following Jesus is such a tricky thing to do.

One of the strengths of the series is that it has a real sense of what it is and what it’s not. Take the third episode for example, where Adam uneasily welcomes a Muslim group into his church and leads a protest against a lap dancing club. After a decade of cringe inducing comedy such as The Office and Peep Show it seemed inevitable that Adam would make some awful gaffe, insulting the Muslim and being caught in a compromising situation with an exotic-dancer. Yet the programme makers were somehow brave enough to avoid such an obvious source of gags, content to find a more natural type of comedy, flowing from a more true-to-life scenario. Much of the humour comes from Adam himself, caught between his ideals and the real world, occasionally slipping from humility into pomposity, Rev. isn’t just about vicars; it’s about being human.

There’s not yet been an announcement as to whether the programme is going to be given a second series, but I hope so. It’s rare that a comedy manages to be genuinely funny and yet honest and profound all in the same half hour.


*The final episode of “Rev.” will be broadcast on this Monday (2nd August) at 10pm on BBC2. The first five episodes are all still available on the BBC’s iPlayer.

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Your comments

I totally agree Matt although hilarious might be stretching it - funny at times yes. But i never laughed out loud, with the possible exception of the youth church episode, as i have been there done that!

#1. By Lee from www.LeeandBaz.com on August 04, 2010

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