Christenings, weddings and funerals. These are the three occasions when even God-less wretches like myself are forced inside a church. Two out of these three occasions have the potential to raise a smile; this is similar to the gag to smile ratio of BBC Two’s church-based sitcom, Rev. Even the most ardent heathens will be able to enjoy themselves.
Tom Hollander is back as Reverend Adam Smallbone, the village preacher plonked unwittingly in the centre of inner city London and tasked with the job of keeping his (rather small) flock on the straight and narrow. Along with his wife, Alex (Peep Show’s Olivia Colman), Adam encounters all manner of pushy MPs, do-gooder busy bodies and drunken tramps as part of his daily duties. Despite his drinking, smoking and swearing, he does a good job of carrying out the Lord’s work.
The opening episode of season two tells the story of his accidental nomination for a Pride of Britain award after our dog-collared protagonist fell on an unsuspecting handbag thief. One loyal member of his congregation, Adoha (Ellen Thomas), promptly tells a local paper of his pavement heroics and Adam finds himself at the centre of a media whirl he was not prepared for.
This sitcom may not exactly be a LOL-athon but what it lacks in side-splitting gags, it makes up for with a constant supply of hearty smiles produced by solid humour and good writing. Comparisons with The Vicar of Dibley and Father Ted are inevitable but Rev. is a very different creation. Smallbone and his God-fearing congregation are made up of pretty believable characters and the show relies upon a far more subtle undercurrent of satire to draw out the laughs. The church itself is not poked fun at in the same way as in Ted or Dibley, rather it is the decision-making processes and hierarchies which provide comedy mileage.
As such, Adam’s attempt to book a school coach trip for underprivileged kids turns into a health and safety nightmare that ends with a convicted kidnapper jumping on board (no prizes for guessing who). His wife Alex also reaches boiling point with the busy reverend early on in this episode and her pining for a baby looks set to cause the stressed out Smallbone plenty more turmoil in weeks to come, but one of James Wood’s many strengths as a writer is a knack for blending serious relationships, a light tone and comedy.