The Rev. Diaries by The Reverend Adam Smallbone, (by Jon Canter)
Now into its third short series on BBC2, the sitcom Rev continues to delight. It is simply hilarious, and absolutely hits the spot every time without being sacrilegious or blasphemous. What is so lovely about it is that doesn’t make fun of faith per se; its targets are the people and organisations who practice it.
For those who are not so familiar, Rev. is about a young Anglican country vicar who transfers to a church in the tough, multi-cultural inner city in Hackney, East London, and the trials and ordeals he faces as a priest in an old church with a dwindling congregation and a management and money-oriented Anglican hierarchy. Added to which, he and his long-suffering wife (the brilliant Olivia Coleman) are trying for a baby, and their relationship is always under pressure from the needs of his parishoners. Is it any wonder that the Reverend Smallbone is always on the brink of a crisis of faith – although his talks
with to God usually bring him around, (good psychiatry on God’s part that – make them talk it out). He has some regulars though – from Colin the drunk and smoking partner, to Mick the crack-head, from Adoha the adoring widow, to Ellie the headmistress of the local C of E school, plus curate Nigel. Archdeacon Robert can always be relied upon to turn up at inopportune moments too.
Rev was created by Tom Hollander (who plays Adam) and James Wood and is directed by Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty). Now, inspired by the first two series, Jon Canter who is one of the show’s writers has written Adam’s diaries with Hollander’s cooperation. Canter has written scripts for many a comedian – he writes for The News Quiz on Radio 4 for instance, and he has authored a fine comic novel too – A Short Gentleman (see Kimbofo’s review here) thus he has a good comedy pedigree. Books inspired by or based on TV programmes can often fall flat, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Rev. Diaries.
The episodes from the first two series form the backbone of a year of Adam’s diaries. Adam arrives at St. Saviours at the beginning of Advent – a rather busy time for a new vicar – and he soon meets Colin…
Colin’s a serious drinker who tends to think of my home as a pub, The Reverend Adam. He doesn’t really have a home of his own, so I don’t want to judge him. The church itself is sort of his home, which is as it should be, that’s our purpose. Rev Roy, my mentor, used to call the drinkers who came to his church ‘alcoholys’. They were people in need of booze and God, and a priest was there to minister to human need. Alcoholys were trouble but a priest didn’t flinch. ‘Jesus loved trouble,’ he told me.
People in need. That’s always the problem. There’s the lost and the lonely and the sick and the dying and the homeless and the unlucky. But there’s me too. And Alex. We have needs as well.
You can imagine Adam finally getting a moment’s peace at the end of a long day and having a chat with God as he writes his diary can’t you, expressing all his hopes and fears and getting things off his chest.
Along the way he has to cope with parents who’ll do anything to get their kids into Ellie’s school, the opening of a lap-dancing club, and accidentally pinning to the ground the mugger who had stolen Adoha’s handbag amongst many other escapades.
Already being a huge fan of the TV series, I relished reliving it through the pages of this book. Being a TV tie-in, it probably helps if you’ve seen the programme, but the main cast characters are all pictured on the back if you need an idea. Adam is a wonderful character; for the most part his faith is unswerving and his love for his parishoners is paramount, but he smokes, he swears, he watches The Wire – he is a modern man underneath the bumbling vicar and that is why I adore him.
This book probably would stand up on its own, but why not watch the TV series too – it’s subtle and clever, wonderfully acted by everyone and there have been some great guest stars – Ralph Fiennes, Richard E Grant to drop just a few names. The book, however, captures both the comedy and the heartache of Adam, perfectly developing his character further, and I’d heartily recommend it. (9.5/10)
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The Rev Diaries by Jon Canter, pub March 2014 by Penguin Michael Joseph, hardback 320 pages.
Rev – Series 1-2 Box Set [DVD]