Rev. (note the well observed abbrev. punctuation) kicks off that classically difficult second series and can’t be said to have hit the ground at full pelt. But it speaks of the high standards set by the first series, that this delicately observed and beautifully written piece can still be below expectations.
The opening scene in a nun’s retreat sees Rev. Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander) trying to surrender to the spiritual (“Come on, holy thoughts”), all the while being dragged back to the mundane and everyday. It also provides opportunity for the matter-of-fact humour that characterises Rev at its best. Passing a nun in the cloister he thinks: “I love the fact that this is a silent order and I don’t have to talk to her”.
As ever, he is eminently corruptible – his fumbling approaches to smoking, drinking & lusting from within a well-meaning CofE position is one of the delightful aspects of the programme. Confronted with another less devout religious retreat colleague who has brought a hamper of fine food to survive and seemingly lost as they enunciate their range of comestibles – Adam finally responds to being asked what he has brought to drink: pulling out one bottle-laden drawer he says: “Vodka and tonic.” And the second drawer: “Gin and tonic.”
The episode superficially hinges around his inadvertent heroism as heading back through the vomit and rubbish covered streets of his parish, he collides with a mugger and accidentally retrieves the handbag of church groupie Adoha. Proclaimed a have-a-go hero – “Kung Fu Kicker Vicar” – he is lauded by his community and gets in the running for Pride of Britain Awards.
As his wife reads through the brochure for the ceremony, the writers playfully parody the truly deserving nominees in Adam’s category – “A partially sighted salesman saved an infant from a burning car wreck and adopted the orphaned boy”. “Girl with meningitis confronted a burglar, despite having no arms.”
Olivia Colman is indeed terrific as his long-suffering solicitor wife and gets many of the best lines – sometimes in a kind of sub-Thick of It dialogue – “Some wank fete thing I have to make sponge fingers for”; “Your world is obssessed with correlating excruciating social events with religious devotion”; “I will come on your cocking trip to Kentish Hell”.
Alongside this heroism strand is his doomed attempt to get kids from the inner city school associated with the church on a Saturday away trip to Dover – to take them out into the countryside, see some cows and the White Cliffs, when as his Deacon says they are more likely to go shop-lifting and take drugs. The admin and CRB checks nearly defeat him, as all the plans needs to be referred to Graham, the “Diocesan Safeguarding Management and Risk Assessment Panel Group Officer”.
You can tell that Rev. now has TV gravitas, with Ralph Fiennes turning up in a cameo as the Bishop of London, while Adam talks himself out of even showing up the awards ceremony, admitting that it would be living a lie: “What did you actually do to the mugger?” … “I helped him on to the bus.”
My heart leapt at the Bishop of London appearance, since I hoped it might be wryly tackling the Occupy protest at St Pauls. But of course it was written and filmed well before that arose. I am hoping however that their prescient writing means that one the episodes to come might have some resonance.
The only slightly off-note was struck by over-caricatured camp senior cleric – who would fit in more in to the OTT style of Father Ted. But even he had some nice lines: abruptly dropping Adam from a taxi in inner London, “I think I am going to let you out here because I am finding you incredibly annoying.”
The finest line of the night however was given to Colin, the keen unemployed alcoholic hanger-on begging to be included as the driver on the school trip: “I really want to give something back, even though I never got anything.”
As long as it can keep stealing in lines like that, this show is going to shine.
Posted by arialbold