rev 90The most authentic Britsh clergy comedy yet: touching, funny and thought-provoking with characters you warm to quickly.

Studio:    2Entertain
Time:      171 Minutes + extras
Format:    Region 2, Widescreen

After generations of stereotype vicars who don’t begin to resemble the real thing, this comedy comes along and changes the landscape.

Rev follows Reverend Adam Smallbone’s (Tom Hollander) transition from being a vicar in suburban Suffolk to running an inner city church in London. He quickly has to learn to cope with constant demands. Some of the episodes are issue-based, with rich parents wanting to get their children into a church school, a Muslim group wanting to use the church, and the vicar trying to prevent a lap-dancing club from opening near the school.

But there are also human and relationship stories. Adam is desperate for a best friend in one show, jealous of a media-savvy colleague in another, and ends the series getting near to a breakdown. Throughout all the stories he develops a fascinating friendship with the church’s smelly, homeless character, Colin (Steve Evets) and struggles in his home-work balance with wife Alex (Olivia Colman).

Saturated with authenticity, it has clearly been thoroughly researched with several vicars and it finds its dark humour in real life situations, rather than paper-thin stereotypes. The show’s sources come from the liberal wing of the church, so this vicar smokes, drinks and swears, and in episode two, the evangelicals do suffer from stereotyping. Yet while the grittiness often makes it thought-provoking, it still manages to be more comedy than docu-drama. It is funny because people are funny and there is a wealth of character in this densely populated bit of city.

Hollander and co-writer James Woods succeed in getting laughs without them being at the expense of the characters. There is plenty of respect, with each episode including a prayer and a conversation with Colin.

As well as the usual outtakes and extra scenes, both of which are quite slight, extras include interesting commentaries on all episodes (apparently, many vicars relate strongly to Adam suffering from an oppressive archdeacon); a making-of documentary and three shorts, the best of which is Colin’s three-minute (in-character) tour of Hackney. The actual vicar of the church used in the show also gives a tour of the building, which has some unusual history.


Derek Walker