Rev. Review: Good Work

June 28, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

Rev.: Monday 28th June, BBC 2, 10pm ALERT ME

One of the strongest memories from my quasi–religious primary school was when the vicar from over the road came to visit. “Now, children…Why do we go to church?? he said. “To get into good schools,? came an unknowingly revealing answer.

It is this side of being a man of the cloth that the first episode of Rev. accurately taps into. An honest Church of England vicar transferred from a suburban church to an inner city one, Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander) must encounter moral dilemmas and heckling city builders at every turn. Episode one sees him attempt to hurdle opportunistic parents as they seek coveted church references for local school places.

As his door must, true to the accommodating saying, always be open – Adam deals with anyone, from duplicitous MPs, to Mick the local crack addict with only so much as a sigh.

Although not conventionally ‘laugh-out-loud’, Rev. is a well-written and genuine comedy. Tom Hollander (In the Loop) is excellent as the struggling vicar and manages to infuse humour and sympathy into his character. Comedy comes from the satirical aspects derived from church-life, rather than ridiculing the institution, as an unfaltering devotion to a turning of the other cheek and acceptance is dutifully practised. Being a man of God, there’s not much room for manoeuvre in that Bible. Indeed, many real vicars will be nodding and tittering in recognition as Adam reprimands casual racism, allows drunks to call to his house and watches helplessly as church numbers grow for ulterior reasons.

Tom is well supported by strong performances from Olivia Colman (Peep Show) who plays his wife, and appearances from the likes of Alexander Armstrong who features as a pushy politician. I can see big characters that should emerge in the coming episodes, with vagrant Colin being an obvious one.

Like The Thick of It exposes the humans behind politics, Rev. attempts to do the same for religion, which it does with success. Themes we can identify in any social structure – such as hierarchy, competitiveness and hypocrisy – do not escape the church. Scenes with his fellow vicars and an unforgiving church senior putting undue pressure on Tom are well-conceived examples of this.

Although not the funniest half an hour you are likely to witness this year, Rev. certainly achieves what it sets out to do. After a brave attempt to tackle religion without the obvious absurdity of Father Ted or The Vicar of Dibley – an honest, sensitive and satirical series is Tom Hollander’s reward.