I have to confess to being a recent convert to watching Rev after I casually saw the first episode and then let it slip. A lapsed viewer. I repented and used iPlayer to catch the final episode 6. How blessed I now feel.
Some have called it an inner city Vicar of Dibley. But this is about as weak as lumping together Big Train and On the Buses because their titles both reference forms of transport.
Tom Hollander essays Rev Adam Smallbone in a way that transcends just a comic performance and illuminates the quiet desperations of modern life. An impressive thing to do as part of a half hour sit com.
I literally have no idea how episodes 2 through 5 unfolded, and recall little of episode 1, but my guess is that episode 6 allows Tom Hollander to release many of his pent up frustrations, regrets and doubts that have weighed him down as he navigates his perceived failures and hopelessness.
The beauty of this setting seems to be that it allows carefully observed language and subtle characterisation to co-exist alongside references to Poker Party, social media, the St James Bible and school fund-raising.
It would of course be pretentious to compare this jamming together of websites, crap TV and the Bible to TS Eliot’s The Wasteland so I wouldn’t do so. But I might if I was as drunk and uninhibited as Rev Smallbone.
The most commented upon scene in this episode was the dancing, in which a drunk Tom Hollander in fancy dress as a vicar at a Vicar and Tarts party, tries to seduce the local headmistress, seen as akin to Ricky Gervais jaw-dropping dance in the Office.
But I prefered his sink of iniquity lying on his couch throwing a sickie, drinking and watching daytime TV. His exchange with his wife Alex returning from her working day:
“Is the crisis over? What have you done today?”
“Stole some jaffa cakes. Ate them all. And then I watched seven episodes of Channel 5’s Farmer wants a Wife. And then I had a wank.”
“And have these things restored your faith in God?”
“No they haven’t. The farmers keep choosing the wrong women. The wank was quite nice though.”
It think it’s these crafted and under played exchanges that will repay multiple repeat viewing (thanks iPlayer), and there are many more throughout.
With the persistent parisioner Colin down the pub:
“What channel’s it on? Does Loiuse have sex with the animals? Or is that someone else?”
“Not in the episodes I’ve seen.”
“You’ve got a face on you today vicar”
“Yes, I’m experiencing a large amount of ontological despair.”
“Oh yeah? Are you?”
“Sometimes I stand outside church here on a Sunday saying goodbye to ten or twelve people and do you know what I feel like? A remnant of an illusion that people used to believe in.”
“Adam. Why are you being such a dickhead?”
And these are just throwaway lines, such with his wife as on his way to the Vicar and Tarts party, complaining he has to go dressed as a vicar:
“Why did you not let me dress as a whore? Just for a change.”
“I thought it was one of the most upsetting things I had ever seen.”
The sign of a good drama is that they let these roll by as part of its unfolding.
It may have weakened at the end, allowing itself redemption as he finds meaning giving absolution to a dying women – but that’s OK because on balance Adam Smallbone deserves a little peace.
I am now proceeding back to episodes 1-6. And I will watch them religiously. Albeit not quite in the way that Qwerty and friends may do.
Posted by arialbold