Saturday 3 July 2010

Why I believe in Rev Adam Smallbone

I have to declare an interest here. I'm not involved in the show. But I do go to church. In fact, I'm on my local PCC. I like the Bible and all that. (In fact, I have a degree in Theology) And as a result of all this, I wasn't expecting to like Rev, the new comedy on BBC2 starring Tom Hollander and Olivia Colman. Usually, when sitcoms or TV shows in general are made about things you know about, you can bet they're get some basic things wrong and you'll never be able to forgive them.

I had heard that they had done their research, but I still wasn't convinced it would have the ring of truth about it - until I watched it. I was pleasantly surprised. And I believed it.

There are a number of good things to be said about Rev - and I'll say some of them in future postings. And one or two here. I was interested to read that almost no reviewer was prepared to say them. Most reviews I read said 'This seems okay' or that it could be a grower. I was saddened by a review in the Independent that said that you have to be very careful about making up your mind on a sitcom too early; not because sitcoms take time to appreciate, but because you don't want to look like an idiot in the future if you make up your mind too quickly, like his mate who slagged off Father Ted after one show. Most reviews for Rev that I've seen centre around spoiling the plot for you by telling you what happens, and whether it would happen in real life, rather than having a stab at why the show is actually rather good.

So here's the reason I'm most pleased with Rev. Our vicar is a believer. He really does believe in God. This sounds daft but it must have been so easy to have created an angry vicar who resents his life situation and wishes he'd never become a vicar in the first place. Or you have a type who would never have become a vicar in the first place. Instead, we have a vicar who wants to do the right thing, but the right thing isn't immediately obvious. Does he shunt some locals' wedding to please the local headmistress so the local MP can get his son into the school having made a hefty donation to fix the broken window? How does he know what to do? He takes a moment to himself in the church to think it through - it wasn't a funny scene, but it was an important one. He kind of prays. And it's not naff. It works. I was pleased.

There's another scene where he tenderly explains why he's not too worried about Richard Dawkins - and what he says has a ring of truth to it, and isn't a simplistic answer that makes us think less of him. Ultimately, I believe in Rev Adam Smallbone. I believe he is a vicar, with a real faith, albeit fuzzy at times. And I believe that this job of being vicar is not really the job he signed up to do. He finds himself being asked to do things - rather than being a pastor. And he doesn't quite know how to move forward. (The only bit I don't believe is telling those builders to f**k off. But I also don't belive builders would just openly laugh at a vicar like that - even if that bit is based on a true story).

The show reminded me of Lead Balloon. In fact, I preferred it to Lead Balloon, since I never really believed Jack Dee's character. But I mustn't say too much more in case the rest of the series isn't any good and I look like an idiot...


  1. Really enjoyed reading your review, was looking forward to what you had to say. There were some genuinely hilarious bits in Rev for a first show, however the rest of the series pans out. I really liked how the Rev 'got alongside people' and his feelings were very human, breaking that 'deluded religious type' stereotype. Also how they dealt with the whole 'getting into a faith school' saga. Couldn't help thinking of Roo at some points!. There were some terrible/cringy bits though! Anyway, great review.

  2. I also enjoyed reading your review especially from your point of view. I don't usually post comments on the internet but i am today. Thanks

  3. looks like they're going to put the boot into evangelicals tonight - although most of it looks like fair comment from what I've seen in one clip!

  4. I watched both episodes and it's definitely growing on me, having been to church for 26 years I can see many similarities in the real church. Can also relate to the 'showmanship' side of worship they showed in last nights episode. It seems like it could and does actually happen in Churches and Adam the vicar is played well by Hollander, there's a beleaguered feel to the way he portrays but it is because he wants to please God and has to overcome alot of challenges. The scene where he quotes 18:21-22 forgive "seventy times seven" to stop a church goer being barred was very good too.

    I also didn't believe the bit where he told the builders to F off. I think this was a blip in an otherwise good first episode. Some members of the clergy might think to say that but in reality almost all of them wouldn't actually do it.

  5. Jam
    Was really keen to hear your comments having seen both episodes so far.
    The charismatic evangelical character scared the life out of me and it was a horrible caricature. But I did wonder whether that's how those of us on the Bible side of teh C of E are perceived; bullying, fadist, youth loving and insincere. I found myself rooting for Adam and wanted to cheer when he gave the speech about Colin.
    Keep on blogging on this one; I'm eager to hear what you have to think.
    Just for the record Rosslyn doesn't have a thing about lifts.

  6. It's a really good show, I am a vicar and what I see is painfully honest and real and very very funny. I love the fact that Adam is a true honest and slightly baffled believer, his wife is brilliant, and this show shows the reality of (some aspects!) of church life and the characters we meet. It is a bit like The Office for churchers. I hope the standard stays as high!

    If you want you can read my review here: