“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” Jesus Christ, failed Hebrew Messiah, in the Book of Revelation as revealed to St John the Divine, 3:15-16
Since he controversially revealed his calling some years ago “people” have often misunderstood Aerial Telly‘s complex atheist spirituality and he has had to break it down on numerous occasions. As such, there is no one better qualified to judge why BBC2‘s Rev has a ring about it at soulless and hollow as when that sick piece of shit Billy Cudrup says “I love you and our baby too”. It’s not a show that anyone will dislike and, just like with the church it represents, that’s its main problem.
“The Church of England is not a proper religion. It’s the church for liberal dipshits too pussy to be atheist, hedging their bets with a piss weak belief in “some kind of force in the universe” or whatever phrase the spiritually bankrupt are currently using to cloak their narcissistic pick-and-mix new-age horseshit.”
The component parts of Rev should add up to a winning comedy but as granite jawed boot-camper Fabio Crapello recently discovered, the right ingredients alone do not make the cake. Reverend Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander, superb in In the Loop as dissembling fucknut Simon Foster) fronts a modern inner-city London parish with all the frustrations that entails. The parish nutter Colin (Steve Evets) is an ever present companion, local parents turn up en masse to services in the hope of getting into the local church school ran by the attractive headmistress Ellie (Lucy Liemann) who Adam would quite like to get into but never will as his solicitor wife Alex (Olivia Colman) watches him like a bored vicar’s wife should – almost like she cares. So it’s technically adept, well acted and is unlikely to nause you out. So what gives?
What gives is that too much of the humour in Rev is premised on a vicar being significantly different from any other scum-sucking lower middle class schlub and this simply isn’t the case. The Church of England is not a proper religion. It can’t raise an army1, damage children for life or dictate policy in developing nations. It lets people get on with their lives and as such is as close to irrelevant as makes no difference. It’s the church for liberal dipshits too pussy to be atheist, hedging their bets with a piss weak belief in “some kind of force in the universe” or whatever phrase the spiritually bankrupt are currently using to cloak their narcissistic pick-and-mix new-age horseshit.
Why should this matter? Primarily because the comic dynamic is fucked when the clergyman is just like you or I. Adam takes off his dog collar to tell some builders who have been persistently haranguing him to “fuck off”. This is clearly intended to be funny but it really isn’t and not just because the removal of the dog collar crudely telegraphs it. He drinks and shags like a man – why on earth wouldn’t he swear like one? A nun telling builders to fuck off, that might be funny. A rabbi tucking into a bacon sandwich, an Imam slugging from a bottle of Jack – there you might have something. But a vicar in a tutu is something any man can get used to and Rev? He’s a living sign.
“A rabbi tucking into a bacon sandwich – there you might have something. But a vicar in a tutu is something any man can get used to and Rev? He’s a living sign.”
Likewise when Adam misjudges a traffic light and runs into the side of a black cab, the driver says “watch it, you wanker!” then sees his dog collar and corrects himself “watch it, your worship, you wanker!” Are we supposed to be shocked into laughter by an aggressive cabdriver or by a clergyman having no status in England? Neither is news to anyone.
Rev is nonetheless astute on diocese politics (there’s an Archdeacon hovering who is essentially a very poor man’s Bishop Brennan from the peerless Father Ted) but much of that feels like reconstituted offcuts from The Thick of It. That is not this show’s DNA – it is an artificial limb that will be rejected by the host. Fundamentally, this sitcom’s longevity will depend on Adam either being a compelling character or in a compelling situation and neither of these applies. The premise drives everything and Rev’s is just not strong enough. A terrible irony for a show about religion. It has no soul.
The verdict on Rev: Needs to move towards the light.
Marks out of 10: 6
1 Unless we’re talking Salvation Army
Imagined: Tuesday, June 29, 2010