Category Archives: Rev.

Rev. (Series 3, Episode 1): Present and Engaged

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Having had to try to explain Rev. (NB Guardian Style Guide, it does have a vital full stop in title to indicate pedantic outdated abbrev.) in pub to friend who had never seen the programme before today, I decided it was both too complex and too simple to do it justice. Just watch it, was my advice.

The prologue to this first episode in the new series encapsulated this – a bare 60 seconds that delightfully counterpointed in fast cutaway scenes Alex (Olivia Coleman) giving birth in a taxi and destroying the otherwise poised calm of the Archdeacon (Simon McBurney), with the wedding of the headteacher (Lucy Liemann), object of Tom Hollander’s fantasy lust, ending with his trademark desperate run down the streets of East London to be present at the birth.

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Rev.: Series 2, Episode 2

Don’t look at me like that. I know it’s not my finest hour.

Ooh, the tricky second episode of the second series. I love Rev. I love everyone in it. I love the pace and the feel of it. I love Tom Hollander – I’ve made that very clear – but I’d be equally happy to settle down with Miles Jupp or Olivia Coleman, were they willing. So it pains me to say that I thought this episode was contrived. An implausibly bright young curate was brought in to assist Adam, and he went from being pleased to uncharacteristically rude and jealous within the space of a couple of scenes. It felt odd to see such clunkiness in Rev., which usually manages that rare thing in telly: ambiguity and naturalness. The curate, played by Amanda Hale (who did well with an underwritten part), was just a cipher: a character too perfect to be real. From the get-go it was clear she was only going to be in the show for one episode as she wasn’t given enough substance to keep a decent plot going. Her wafer-thin persona, and the about-faces of Adam (from keen to conflicted), and Nigel (from suspicious to fanboy), were all sitcom-by-numbers. Which is a crying shame; we like Rev. cause it’s not like that.

Even worse was the excruciating Ecstasy storyline (or as it presumably said in the script, ‘Enter Colin, carrying the B-plot’). This seemed bizarrely out-of-date. Haven’t we done to death the device of someone accidentally taking E and then being all loved-up? It felt very tired to me, though I could completely believe that Colin would be a big MDMA fan. In fact I must just stop carping for a moment to commend Steve Evets, as he’s taken what could be – and initially was – a stereotyped character, and turned him into something nuanced and touching. Which is more than can be said for Tom’s drugged-up performance. Ham Central is the phrase which, despite being new, nonetheless springs to mind. When he joined in the children’s performance as a leper I cringed with embarrassment, and not in a good The Office way. It was like something out of Terry & June.

It says a lot for the warmth generated by this programme that it was still watchable, and there was, thank you Lord, a properly good bit right at the end: a small still voice of calm after the sturm und drang of Adam in the grip of a poorly-written conflict. When Colin was baptised in a simple ceremony at the font, just Adam and Alex present, and he raised his head with a beatific smile to reveal he was wearing a smart shirt and tie, it was lovely. Please, I prayed, please don’t make him say anything silly or glib. This is a perfect little Rev. moment so please God, don’t let them mess it up. And they didn’t. They let it be what it was, and it brought a tear to my atheist Jew eye. Clearly someone up there (at the BBC Control Centre of course, what did you think I meant?) heard me.

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Rev.: Series Two, Episode One

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.

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Rev.: Banging the Bishop

Ordinarily, there’s nothing on earth that would tempt me to watch a sitcom called Rev., about a country vicar taking over an inner-city parish. I’d mentally file it under ‘boring telly for older folks’, a large and unwieldy cabinet that contains Heartbeat, Morse, Midsomer Murders, etc. Then, cos I’m young and hip (hey, what the eye don’t see), I’d turn over and watch True Blood. At least, I would if it was on, and if I had a telly, which I don’t at the moment.

However, the cunning BBC casting people were clearly one step ahead, and brought in as the eponymous collar-jockey the only person who would induce me to watch: Tom Hollander. I love Tom Hollander. I would watch him if he was reading the phone book. I would watch him if he was presenting Top Gear. I would watch him if he was in Heartbeat. Oh, no, I probably wouldn’t. But I would consider it. Anyway, I have loved him ever since I saw him in the 1998 film Bedrooms and Hallways. In fact I can’t believe I haven’t done a ‘Lustbox’ on him yet. Watch this space.

So what about the programme, you’re asking. Well it was actually very enjoyable, despite following a fairly standard vicar-new boy-doesn’t know the rules of the land-evil Archbishop trope. I was afraid for a while that, despite the merciful lack of laughter track, it might veer into Vicar of Dibley territory. But it cleverly avoided this trap, and ate its cake too, via the device of three stereotyped yob builders yelling ‘Dibley! Dibley!’ at the reverend. Eventually, they goaded him beyond endurance and he whipped off his dog collar and shouted, ‘Why don’t you just fuck off!’ which was a deeply satisfying and very non-Dibley moment.

Things I liked about it included the curate, Nigel; the rev’s excellently believable – and good – relationship with his wife (another very watchable actor, Olivia Colman); and the sardonic Archbishop who holds all his meetings in a black cab. I also liked the crappiness of the parts of Shoreditch they filmed in, and the scruffy Colin, who plans to kick Richard Dawkins in the nuts.

I wasn’t keen on the congregant who finds vicars and churches so alluring that she orgasms during sermons; that’s a one-take gag I fear they are planning to stretch till it snaps like an perished elastic band. And I felt weary when I realised that Alexander Armstrong was playing the local MP in exactly the same way he has played every other role. But none of that mattered, because there, at the heart of it, stealing every scene, was Tom Hollander. And for that reason alone, I will watch again next week.

 

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