Rev. (BBC2) ****
One of my favourite TV comedies of all time is The Vicar of Dibley. One of the most popular comedies to have aired on Channel 4 is Father Ted. What is it about vicars? Rev.‘s another good one to add to the list; it returned last week to BBC2 (the channel of the year so far in my books). Tom Hollander plays the despairing reverend in a starry cast that includes Olivia Coleman and Miles Jupp as regulars and Vicki Pepperdine, Ralph Fiennes and Hugh Bonneville as guests through the series – everyone wants to be on BBC2 at the moment. I didn’t initially warm to Rev.‘s first series back in 2011, and I get the feeling a number of people new to it might have a similar response. It’s fairly bleak – ‘Why are there so many more Muslims than Christians?’ moped Adam – and quite subtle, you don’t expect big whooping laughs.
However it’s the harder edge to Rev. that contributes to my love for it. And don’t get me wrong with saying there’re no big laughs either: I laughed throughout. You just know a programme’s going to be good when it begins with Hollander running down a busy London street, as Coleman gives birth in the back of a taxi with a perplexed archdeacon: ‘I think it’s a head, it’s got hair’. Wonderful.
The Walshes (BBC4) ***
When you think of Irish sitcoms what comes to mind? Father Ted? Mrs Brown’s Boys? The Walshes? Ok, not the last one – it’s the new one (I say new, but it finished last week). I didn’t initially warm to this either. Unlike the other two, there’s no laughter track here – not a bad thing – and it’s slightly more realistic. The first episode was fine, I like the matriarch (maybe it’s just the way she speaks), it wasn’t hilarious – it was fine. It has gotten better as it’s gone along though, and I’ve come to be rather fond of them – the Walshes. They’re a nice family, unpretentious and kind of cosy. It’s still not hilarious, but it’s very comfortable to watch and I imagine that, should it come back, it’ll only get funnier as is it goes on and we get to know them better.
Joanna Lumley Meets will.i.am (BBC1) ***
There are some programmes that have the ability to raise eyebrows based on titles alone. Channel 4’s Hairy Women, for instance. Another is BBC1’s Joanna Lumley Meets will.i.am. It’s the sort of title you can imagine a panicking BBC worker giving when pressed to give a programme idea in an ideas session – I’m sure they have these.
Apparently, it was will.i.am’s idea. Apparently he knows who Joanna Lumley is. She’s an interesting person, with an interesting career – ranging from acting and modeling to political activism. Will.i.am is a rapper and music producer publicly but there’s a lot more to him than that – he’s actually rather intriguing. Lumley thinks so too. So how did the programme stack up then? Well first up I’m still recovering from the sight of Joanna Lumely singing the music of will.i.am whilst driving an open top car in LA. In other words, this was as bizarre, wonderful and eccentric as you could imagine from that title. ‘When you’re with him you can feel the energy’ says Lumley – this is a man who gets just 4 hours sleep a day (‘you can do a lot in 20 hours’) – and so, unsurprisingly, she often struggles to actually pin him down. The camera has the same problem at times too, jumping around to track him down. He’s a man with an extraordinary story, having gone from the ghetto to fame. It’s all very impressive. Lumley’s clearly very impressed throughout too, hence her constant use of a thesaurus to describe him (‘extraordinary’, ‘incredible’, ‘revelation’).
Will.i.am himself comes across as quite childlike in his own fantastic toyshop, full of trinkets and incredible technology. He gets what he wants (he can’t swim, so he built a 3ft pool), but there’s a sense of softness there. He won’t swear here because his mum will watch it. He’s odd, but rather nice really. Much like this programme.
In other TV, TheVoiceUK has been recommissioned for two more years. It’s quite the commitment for a programme whose ratings regularly slide, that Kylie Minogue (attributed to a more positive response this year) could be leaving, and that has yet to uncover a real star.