Press clippings

"Do Muslims go to heaven?" is just the sort of question to throw hapless vicar Adam into a bit of tizz - especially when it comes from a small child in school assembly. And it sets him off on a quest to learn about the Islamic faith. Of course it is a very lackadaisical, Adam-style quest, which ends up not in a voyage of discovery but an inter-faith football tournament. Which proves a little embarrassing because Adam's attempts to put together a St Saviours' team demonstrate his usual brand of hopelessness. A church notice fails to attract much interest. "One name! Why hasn't anyone else signed up for our football team?" he demands. "Because you have a congregation of women of 60 with hip problems," replies Nigel (Miles Jupp), the lay reader, pointedly.

Just to make life worse, Adam's highly admired headmistress Ellie (Lucy Liemann) has a hunky new member of staff who, it appears, is more than just her work colleague - causing some very unvicarly jealousy to raise its head. And some unvicarly language. "Is it me, or is Mr Feld a bit of a d---?" demands Adam when his patience runs out. As usual, this series proves more charming and whimsical than actually funny, but Tom Hollander as the bumbling Adam is a class act.

Terry Ramsey, The Telegraph, 30th November 2011

Islam and lap-dancing. Not two subjects you'd usually expect to find rubbing shoulders in the same sitcom but then the life of a modern London vicar is nothing if not rich and varied.

Tonight's episode sees the Rev opening his church to a children's Muslim prayer class and visiting the local gentleman's club with Lucy Liemann's sexy headmistress - purely in the interests of research, of course.

There are plans to open a lap-dancing club right next to the C of E school and before Adam objects he needs to have first-hand knowledge of what it is he's opposed to exactly. That it doesn't even occur to his wife Alex (Olivia Colman) to object to either the lap-dancing or the headmistress tells you everything you need to know about Adam's wholegrain moral fibre.

His unique selling point is his "well­­meaningness" and Tom Hollander portrays him beautifully.

Jane Simon, The Mirror, 12th July 2010

In a medium awash with lazy stereotypes, it's original thinking that stands out. The most compelling television provides a new perspective on an old story, and challenges the laziest of preconceptions with wit, humour and more than a dash of bravado.

BBC Two's new series Rev is pretty much a masterclass in how to pull this off. Take one fine actor (Tom Hollander), add an equally brilliant supporting cast (Olivia Colman, Steve Evets, Miles Jupp, Lucy Liemann, Simon McBurney, Ellen Thomas), choose a fraught subject (religion), throw in some punchy writing (James Wood) and get Peter Cattaneo (of The Full Monty fame) to direct the lot and what have you got? A damn fine reason to stay up late on Monday nights, that's what.

Firstly, the subject matter: religion, or more specifically, the Church of England. With the notable exception of Father Ted, comedies involving vicars tend to be soporifically safe. Not only is Rev travelling without seatbelts, it is also doing 90 miles an hour down country lanes with the roof off and the stereo on full blast. This is no gentle cake-and-cassock comedy; it's the story of an ordinary, fallible vicar living in a tough, brutal world who is trying to do something very extraordinary: stay true to his faith.

That the Reverend Adam Smallbone is an ordinary fellow we know from his behaviour. He is a man who jumps the lights on his bike, who gets nervous and drinks too much at parties, who tries (and fails) to have sex with his wife. His flawed but irresistibly likeable persona comes across loud and clear in just a few opening moments, brilliantly pinpointed by the direction, the writing and, of course, by Hollander himself, whose performance is outstanding.

The themes, too, are unrelentingly contemporary. Smallbone is in charge of St Saviours, a grand, dilapidated church in a run-down inner-city area of London with a confusingly mixed catchment. There are the regulars, a rag-tag collection of locals led by Colin, the neighbourhood ne'er do well, who has a fond affection for the "vicarage"; and there are the newcomers, in the shape of the arrogant, urbane middle classes, led by the local MP, played as a modern-day social Flashman by Alexander Armstrong. Simon McBurney is deliciously oily as the Archbishop, who Smallbone only ever seems to encounter in the back of a taxi, all black leather gloves and dark threats.

The opening theme is current and controversial: "On your knees, avoid the fees", chirps Armstrong's villainous MP, as he horse-trades a place for his delinquent son in exchange for cash to repair the broken stained glass window of St Saviours. It's a merciless commentary on modern life; but it also has a surprisingly strong moral, dare I say thoughtfully theological, core. The temptations that assail Smallbone may be very contemporary in their nature; but they are as eternal as the themes of the Bible itself: right v wrong, truth v corruption, the poor v the rich.

As to the comedy, it's of the organic kind, not the obvious gag kind. Outside the church, the Reverend and Colin share a bottle of beer and discuss Richard Dawkins (as you do). "If I met him I'd kick him in the bollocks," says Colin, with customary frankness. Earlier Smallbone, confronted for the nth time by a group of sneering builders and their spectacularly unfunny jokes about choir boys, pauses. Slowly, and with a look of weary resignation, he removes his dog-collar. "Why don't you just f*** off," he says. The viewer punches the air with joy.

Sarah Vine, The Times, 29th June 2010

Tom Hollander stars in this new BBC sitcom about a C of E Vicar struggling with an under-funded inner-city parish. Think In The Loop meets The Vicar of Dibley.

Hollander's Reverand Adam Smallbone isn't your average clergyman. He likes a smoke, he loves a drink and has ambivalent feelings towards his parishioners - particularly the devoted lost soul Colin, who's christian beliefs don't quite extend to "them asians".

But despite his foibles the Rev is well meaning and continues to open his door to the lost, the homeless, the poor, the insane, and to local crackhead Mick, who's constantly in need of 20 quid to visit his dying mother - who's died three times in the last 12 months.

Featuring guest appearances from Olivia Coleman as the Rev's long-suffering solicitor wife, Alexander Armstrong as a local MP and Lucy Liemann as prim primary school headmistress Ellie, this is a slow burner of a sitcom, low on belly laughs but with enough potential to keep us tuning in.

Sky, 28th June 2010

This intelligent new sitcom offers a much more gentle take on clerical comedy than Father Ted. Actor and co-creator Tom Hollander, who stars as the Reverend Adam Smallbone, was intrigued by the idea of a classic Church of England vicar being thrust into a parish in the unforgiving urban jungle of London.

The cast clearly had faith in Hollander's vision, because he's got the wonderful Olivia Colman (Green Wing, Peep Show) as his wife Alex and Lucy Liemann (Moving Wallpaper, Reggie Perrin) as the local headmistress, alongside Alexander Armstrong guesting hilariously this week as an MP.

With the London landmark of St Leonard's church in Shoreditch standing in for the fictional St Saviours in the Marshes, tonight the Rev is delighted to see the meagre ranks of his congregation swelling - until he discovers the parents are just trying to boost their religious credentials to get their kids into the good C of E school round the corner. And Adam faces a moral conundrum about whether he should award places in return for money.

The Archdeacon (a brilliant turn by Simon McBurney), who holds very unsentimental views about a vicar's role in the inner city, would undoubtedly think so. He seems to be constantly circling the capital in a black cab and there's a lot of mileage in this character, in every sense.

Rev's mission isn't to make you roll on the floor laughing. It's subtle and thoughtful, with heart and soul as well as a funny bone. I'll say Amen to that.

Jane Simon, The Mirror, 28th June 2010

This week, Reggie (Martin Clunes) is having trouble with small talk. Of course, Reggie is struggling with bigger and worse things, but it's the small talk where it breaks out. Whether chatting by the water-cooler or having a glass of wine with his mother, he can't hit the right note, and those vivid fantasy moments he has don't help. He also continues to pine for Jasmine (Lucy Liemann), the gorgeous woman at work. Liemann has practically nothing to do, but does it well. Likewise, Fay Ripley seems wasted as Reggie's wife and tonight Geoffrey Whitehead and Wendy Craig add to the roster of comic talent worthy of more and better material. Better is the occupational health "wellness woman" whose response to any ailment is a perky "Oh that's horrid! Oh you sad sausage!" But it's a brave move for the script to mock poor-quality TV - luckily it's in one of the better lines, as Reggie notes, "Quite tiring the telly, isn't it? At one point I seemed to be watching CSI: Bournemouth."

David Butcher, Radio Times, 1st May 2009

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