TV Recommendations—”Rev” and other Television Depictions of the Church of England

February 20, 2015


Above: Tom Hollander from "Rev." 8.5 x 11.5 inch Japanese Lined Journal. Pentel Brush Pen (ColorBrush) with Pigmented ink, shaded with a Colorbrush with dye-based, fugitive ink and a Niji Waterbrush. Color is all from Montana Markers (15mm tips), and there's some patterning with Staedtler Pigment Liners.

When I looked up Tom Hollander on IMDb to tell you something besides the Kiera Knightly "Pride and Prejudice" that he's been in (I've seen him in other stuff but that's what popped right into my brain—he does a marvelous version of Mr. Collins the clergyman cousin who proposes to Elizabeth and then marries Charlotte Lucas), I read that he played Witwoud in "The Way of the World" for which he won an award in 1992. It just seemed so right when I read that.

I'll leave you to explore his IMDb Filmography and learn that he's been doing voices for characters you probably watch all the time too.

But today I just want to write a moment about "Rev." This series evidently ran from 2010 to 2014. I'm just watching it now because my local PBS station is showing it late at night in the spot where endless loops of "As Time Goes By" run. (I love "As Time Goes By," so I am not complaining at all, just making a statement of fact—I have seen those scant episodes so many times I know the dialog off by heart and enjoy it still, in part because anytime you can look at Judi Dench working it's really a thrill—and if you want more of a thrill, watch "Playing Shakespeare," which I've written about before [but can't find a link to as it's a post within a post] in which you'll see a young Judi Dench change gears without so much as a shrug at the request of her director; oh and there's a brilliant bit of Ian McKellen doing a speech of Antonio's from "Merchant of Venice" that is just bold-faced showing off and there should be a half hour of this every night for all of us to enjoy…)

But I digress.

Hollander plays Rev. Adam Smallbone, a Church of England inner city (London) vicar who has talks with God and tries to get through life while tripping over his own all too human feet—all in the warmest and funniest way possible. And supported by an excellent cast.

150208_RevHairDetailLeft: Detail from today's image to show you how crazy-fussy I'm being with that hair. I am fascinated by it.

I don't know what to say about my fascination with shows about Church of England vicars. I'm totally in love with "Grantchester"—not a funny show but a murder mystery show with some angst—the episode in which a closeted gay man is murdered captured the claustrophobic horror of laws too long upheld in a way I'd not seen before. And blog readers will know how I feel about Dawn French and "The Vicar of Dibley" (which I also know pretty much off by heart).

I really don't know how to explain this fascination, except to say that perhaps if you take a young girl, deposit her in a new country, and send her off to a Church of England school where there's a bit of wholesome religion every morning which isn't preachy, and is pretty-down-to-earth-nuts-and-bolts-be-your-best-self-and-help-others-to-be-so-too, that you might end up finding it a totally palatable platform for comedy of the best sort, which is really just about being human and making your way through the world in whatever whacky way you can. (Which, now that I've written that out, is actually how I try to live my life, with little success, except for the whacky bit. Go figure.)

And I have to go on record that it is well known I don't care for, or have much patience with, organized religion of any sort as a general rule in my life (in fact perhaps the number one rule in my life)—and then every once in awhile this insistence hits those childhood experiences. 

Whatever the reason for my affection for a religion I do not follow, this show is a gem that everyone should watch. The first episode I saw was not the first in the series. There is a cameo by Ralph Fiennes as the Bishop of London. This is not to be missed. Fiennes' character "leads" Hollander's to a "moral decision" with pretty much a look and a silence. The same look and silence treatment was used on me when I was young, by a certain canon, after I had behaved rather badly. (Regular blog readers will recall that I was quite a "lippy" child.)

In the same episode Hugh Bonneville (who is excellent in Downton Abbey, but really should be required to produce a larger quantity of comedy for the rest of us) plays one of the Rev. Smallbone's friends from his school days. (Evidently this is a recurring role that I've not been able to enjoy as I've just found the series. Why isn't all of this STREAMING on ACORN!!!???)

OK, I also have to mention that I just saw an episode with Richard E. Grant who also is incredibly funny without, it seems, having to try. (Go watch "Posh Nosh" if you don't believe me. And why isn't that STREAMING on ACORN!!???) He played an alcoholic business man who didn't feel he got enough "love" from the hoi polloi at St. Savior's AA meeting.

I think you get the idea. Find this show and watch it.  

"Grantchester" and "The Vicar of Dibley" are available online. PBS is still streaming the first and "Dibley" shows up on Netflix, Amazon, and Acorn in constant rotation. I believe it is a series that must be watched in order so that the full import of the Easter Bunny and the many recurring themes such as Jim's vast sexual expertise and experience to list just one of many themes, can be fully savored.

    • Julana
    • February 20, 2015

    Have you seen Richard Grant in the Scarlet Pimpernel? He is so good in that one. (I find Elizabeth McGovern’s character, in the same, quite grating, but was interesting to see them reunited in Downton Abbey.) Also, enjoyed him in Penelope. I’m not a big kid’s movie fan, but watched it just to see him, and it was pretty good. He is under used. We just started Acorn about a month ago, and love it. Foyle is just the best.

    • Leslie Schramm
    • February 20, 2015

    Tom also wrote Rev. so he’s even more talented. The series has dark moments, Adam struggles with his faith,friends and his fidelity. I loved all three series and the Christmas Specials, even though the last series does see great changes for everyone. Miles Jupp who plays Nigel is the son of a minister as well, and I’ve known both of them from many synods over the years. A “choir” of drunk ministers at 3am singing rugby songs is a memory even now, too vivid to enjoy. And porridge with prunes for breakfast as well.

  1. Reply

    I don´t think I have commented here before – love your blog and have followed it for a few months now. I think your portraits are so inspiring!

    Tom Hollander is indeed a genious and he was wonderful as the Duke of Windsor in “Any Human Heart” with Gillian Anderson as the Duchess – they should have made an entire film with those two in those roles, I think. Also, he did “Freezing” with Hugh Bonneville and Elisabeth McGovern, which I thought was quite funny. We have seen three episodes of “Grantchester” here in Sweden, and I am thoroughly hooked! It seems the Brits can do little wrong… 😀

    • Margo
    • February 20, 2015

    New for me series, I think you’d like it as well. Fortitude, lots of very sketchable people.

    • Julana
    • February 20, 2015

    Thank you for the recommendation. Look forward to your post on Foyle. We will miss that trip back in time, so much.

    • Alison A
    • February 20, 2015

    Yay, glad you like this, it is genius, and the Archdeacon is (horribly) awesome……

  2. Reply

    Leslie, thanks for pointing out that Hollander wrote the series as well. I thought I had in my review but that bit got left out.

    I love the dark moments in the series, because that’s life. I am in season 2 without seeing season one and wish I could have seen it.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the series as well! (I don’t think I could deal with porridge, prune filled or plain in the morning, being a stir fry girl myself.)

  3. Reply

    Thanks Viktoria for reading and joining in. I haven’t seen “Freezing” so I’ll look out for that. I’m glad you’re enjoying all these shows in Sweden!

  4. Reply

    Margo, I’ll look into this, I’ve not heard of it, or at least the name is not familiar.

  5. Reply

    I seriously do not know what I’m going to do when there are no more new Foyle episodes.

  6. Reply

    One of the things I love about this show is that each character is so well written and well acted that I feel they create a little world. I have to look into seeing the other episodes I’ve missed.

  7. Reply

    Hi Roz, I LOVE the hair! Do you have a tutorial on it?

  8. Reply

    Cathleen you made me smile. Nope, no tutorial on hair. We are however filming a series of Brush Pen Sketch lessons and I can guarantee you that there will be hair involved. In fact depending on which demos we use I’ll probably be working in one of my Japanese Lined Journals!

    I don’t know when these will go online though. I’m still trying to get the bookbinding class up and it’s taking a lot longer than I had hoped to set up the ecommerce bit. So first order of business is to get that class up and running and then turn to editing some of the others.

    If you like brush pen sketching and want to see a tutorial in that I’m hoping it will be online in the fall. Thanks for asking.

  9. Reply

    Hurry with the classes. No am in Roz withdrawal lol. Found a lady who will let me draw her birds. Even her chickens live inside.

  10. Reply

    Love Foyle and Grantchester. As another commenter said the Brits can do no wrong. Will look up Rev. Our PBS channels NOT showing it. Sigh! Ps also LoVeD Geoge Gently and Miss Fishers Murders though the last are Australian. Can’t wait for Wolf Hall. Amazing books. Bytw two comments becaus it would not let me post this bit.

  11. Reply

    Margaret, I wish I could “hurry” with the classes. I’ve got things ready to go with the one class and more in the pipeline BUT there are all sorts of e-commerce issues I’ve just started to deal with. It seems that since Jan. 1 of this year you have to collect VAT AND records of everyone IPaddress and keep them for 10 years. Of course I am starting a new business during TAX SEASON in the US when it’s hard to get into to see the accountant! I’d have 3 classes up and running already (another on journaling and one on drawing) if it were for these business details.

    So fun you have a chicken connection. Go regularly! Don’t wait for any more classes!

    Did you read my post about George Gently? I went nuts when I got to the end and the latest season wasn’t out yet. I was literally distraught. I am so attached to those characters. Miss Fisher is making a THIRD season. YEAH! I can hardly wait.

    I’m interested in seeing Wolf Hall.

    Sorry you couldn’t post all in one. HMMMM. There was a problem with comments a couple weeks ago but that was supposed to be fixed. Thanks for trying.

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