Tag Archives: Tom Hollander

Doctor Thorne: In My Side

By Maggie Gordon-Walker

doctor thorneHurrah, it’s olde worlde rural England. You can tell that from the font they’ve used for the titles. Ah yes, let’s settle down to a nice bit of light gossiping over the teacups – bloomin ‘eck! It’s all gone Midsomer Murders.

Ian McShane creeping about, looking sinister, wondering where all the antiques are, and then bumping someone off. Yes, brutally kills him, by, um, pushing him over. His victim doesn’t even bang his head. That’s a bit like lighting a match to a birthday cake and the whole thing going up in flames because someone’s secretly covered it in brandy. Unexpected. It certainly was for McShane who looked deeply puzzled that one push had proved fatal.

Phew, here we are in olde worlde England, a rural garden with some ladies and teacups. But, shield my eyes – the colours are so bright and garish they must have let a five year old with some Magic Markers loose on the film. It looks exactly like that Specsavers ident crossed with an Utterly Butterly ad. I couldn’t actually concentrate on what they were saying a) they were so OTT and b) I was wondering if a bee was going to alight on their floral headgear. But one of them was getting married and another one wasn’t going to be a bridesmaid. Continue reading

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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 (NB Guardian Style Guide, it does have a vital full stop in title to indicate pedantic outdated abbrev.)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.

Posted by Qwerty

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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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Jaffa cakes and wanking: Rev episode 6

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.” Continue reading

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Lustbox: Tom Hollander

Charisma is a difficult thing to describe, but by crikey, you know it when you see it. Tom Hollander has shed-loads of it. He’s positively dripping in the stuff. When he’s on screen, you barely notice anyone else, even if he’s playing against Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean), or Maggie Smith (Gosford Park), or James Gandolfini, himself no stranger to the Charisma Fairy (In the Loop).

Tom H is an unlikely sex god, being short-ish and not conventionally handsome, but sex god he is nonetheless. There’s something about his intelligent face, knowing smile, suppressed energy, the way his mouth turns up at the corners, the way he pronounces certain words… hmmmmpgh… [pause while your correspondent sticks her head in the Pauselivaction fridge for a moment].

It was almost too much riches, him being central to every scene in Rev. When he looked lustfully at his wife Alex, or flirted in heavy-handed fashion with the she-so-does-not-deserve-him headmistress Ellie, or even just had a quick smoke and banter with Colin, I had to rely on old-fashioned smelling salts to see me through. And in the magnificent last episode, when he went off the rails and started swearing and eating whole boxes of jaffa cakes, it was all I could do to stop myself converting to Anglicanism in order to sit in his draughty church and listen to his uninspiring sermons. Then I remembered it wasn’t real. Whaddawewant? More Rev! Whendowewantit? Now!

 Bloody good actor too.

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Rev: Born-Again Virgins

Ah, that difficult second episode. Always something of a facer. In the first episode, you get the basic set-up and meet the main characters, but in the second, you have to do something with them. It was a good idea to explore Adam and Alex’s relationship, even if it was by the tired old trope of them attempting to spice up their love-life. They do kiss exactly like a long-married couple, and I loved Adam’s desperate scanning of his own groceries so he could hasten after his be-wigged and be-stockinged wife. It was great, too, that Adam was happy to play ‘Darren’. I was worried he was eventually going to insist on being called Adam so we could have a little lesson about self-esteem, but no: even to the end he was still deepening his voice sexily and growling, ‘Darren here’.

The actor who plays Colin inhabits his character so fully that I did really feel sorry for him when he overstepped the mark with Pip. When she was first introduced my concentration lapsed briefly and I wondered if she was Pip Archer. Shula would definitely attend St Saviours in the Marshes in its empty, traditional version.  I am warming to the Archdeacon’s brisk pragmatism. Clearly, when the actor was given the role, he read ‘Archdeacon’ as two words, the first a description of the second. He does arch incredibly well.

But I felt it was rather soon to introduce an obvious enemy such as the apparently handsome happy-clappy priest. (Handsome? He looked to be hewn from cheap yellow pine. I’ll have Tom Hollander any day, thanks.) And it was definitely much too soon for the Arch Deacon to reveal himself to be on Adam’s side.

Some of the incidentals were splendid, particularly Adam’s rictus grin when the rapper was doing his moves, and Darren’s expression when he described Pip as ‘a born-again virgin.’ I was amused at what allegedly keeps a charismatic church afloat: homophobia, sexism, hip-hop music and bucketfuls of smoothies.

My problem was that the writing seemed more sitcom-by-numbers than last week. The guy insisting on cleaning the vicarage windows while they were trying to make love was pure Terry & June, and Darren was a stock character.

So I’m going to carry on watching, but that’s still mainly because of the central powerhouse that is Tom Hollander, who incidentally has just been voted (by Inkface and me) as most fanciable short man on telly. Okay, so the show wasn’t as gently edgy as I was hoping. But that’s the tough cookie second episode for you.

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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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