But there is a much darker side to Colin, than that of simply providing an amusing foil to the religious self-doubt of Adam. Colin is, in many ways wrecked. Alcoholic, drug addict, prone to outbreaks of violence when he’s ‘under the influence’, even against those who have previously helped and supported him, he has adopted an equally derelict dog called Bongo as his faithful companion.
In the final episode of the 3rd series we saw Adam in bed with depression, broken in spirit, having been betrayed by several people, Colin among them. Then Colin turns up at the door with Bongo in his arms. Bongo has died – because Colin himself ignored advice and fed him a chocolate Easter egg stolen from the local store.
At this lowest moment, Colin comes to the priest and finds only his wife Alex, not known for her own religious devotion.
“You can do a Bongo funeral can’t you Mrs Vicarage?”
To me, this was the most heart-breaking moment of the entire series.
Alex finds herself put on the spot, helps Colin bury Bongo outside their house, and says a few kind words about Bongo. Then she offers that they say the Lord’s Prayer together.
To me, in Rev, this is a Kairos moment – a moment when the very highest shines through in the very lowest.
When in his most vulnerable, wrecked, broken state, this vagrant goes to the one person who can somehow bring some divine perspective into his pain – even though that person is himself broken.
I believe this is the heart of the Christian faith and what Christ was all about.
We all need some divine perspective in our very lowest moments. Thank you to all those who helped to create Rev, and give us this among many other insights.
I’ve loved many TV sitcoms over the years and have attended sitcom writing workshops when I aspired to write sitcoms myself. I think it’s true to say that a few sitcom characters have influenced my own fiction. My current favourite is Rev (BBC 2 Monday 10pm). Our family has watched every episode of the 2 previous series and is now enjoying series 3 broadcast on BBC 1 on Mondays at 10pm.
There’s much in common between a novelist and a sitcom writer, and as a story-writer I like to ask myself why Rev is so compelling and so good on several levels.
Here’s a selection of characters who particularly appeal to me as archetypes:
In Rev we have an endearing main character (the Revd. Adam Smallbone, played by Tom Hollander) who is modest, self-effacing, well-intentioned but hapless: he’s supposed to be in a position of authority but often seems to be a bit of an underdog – the fall-guy. And yet there is an underlying message which tells a different story.
Then there’s Colin (played by Steve Evets), the unemployed alcoholic, who we often see sitting on the bench outside the church with the Rev. We love Colin so much because he’s an archetypal philosopher tramp. Words of wisdom and insight come from the most unlikely mouth, along with foul language, tales of drug-peddling and the low life.
Then we have the cunning Mick |(played by Jimmy Akingbola), an oddball drug addict and street loafer, cunning and opportunistic, always calling at the vicarage door and making contradictory claims and asking for – but never receiving – money. Until, that is, he hits on inspiration – by bringing back the child Rev left in the grocery store, insisting on exchanging the child for money, and threatening to tell “the nasty Mrs Vicar” what Adam has done.
We have the Archdeacon (played by Simon McBurney), sardonic, high-handed, revelling in his status higher up the church hierarchy than Adam, and sometimes rivalling the Spanish Inquisition in his interrogations and threats to Adam that his church might be closed down; he’s the authority figure who’s always on Adam’s case, ditches him unexpectedly out of taxis, and accepts offers of tea then ends up throwing it away. And yet again there’s another message; the moments when the Archdeacon relents, the revelation and the twist in the relationship when Adam unexpectedly meets him with his gay friend out of working hours…
Then there’s Roland Wise, the media vicar, (played by Hugh Bonneville). He answers his mobile during his “Transforming Church” course and tells Adam, “Oh it’s Michael Burke pestering me to do The Moral Maze again.” and accuses Adam of having “conflicting personality blocks” on his Myers Briggs personality type indicator test; to which Adam replies, “That’s because I filled it out as Jesus.”
And finally I might mention Nigel, Adam’s Lay Reader (played by Miles Jupp), whose main problem is that he’s a bit ‘anal’ and pedantic. He takes himself too seriously, he always tries to play by the rule-book, and would really like to be in Adam’s position. Occasionally his frustration causes him to break out, but usually when he does he ends up being reprimanded or overruled in some way.
One of the most effective elements of Rev is the voiceovers. We hear the thoughts in Adam’s head as he talks to God. “People like rules. If Christianity had as many rules as Islam, perhaps my church would be full too,” and “Why does the church want me to be a businessman rather than a vicar?” and “I bend over backwards to try and please everyone and I end up pleasing no-one… maybe that’s what You want, me in a lot of trouble. Jesus liked trouble.”
And the truth is that Adam is good-hearted, caring, unpretentious and real.
I hope you too enjoy this brilliant sitcom. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it!