Saturday 21 September 2019

A festive Last Supper with Rev

rev (BBC2) the butlin's story (utv)

You'll never bust a gut or crack a rib at Rev, but that's okay. Not every sitcom about a priest needs to be Father Ted -- or, mercifully, The Vicar of Dibley either.

When the characters are as sharply drawn, and the writing and performances as well judged and truthful as they are in Rev, which has been a revelation over its two series, you don't need a belly laugh every 30 seconds.

A continuous stream of chuckles and a warm glow of satisfaction at the end are more than enough.

This seasonal finale was a perfect Christmas treat that left you with both. There are just several sleeps to go before the big day for the long-suffering Reverend Adam Smallbone (the excellent Tom Hollander, the series' co-creator), who's one seriously pissed-off vicar.

In a neat nod to Groundhog Day, his mornings start at 5.30am to the sound of a depressingly cheery Christmas song on the radio.

Then it's off on his bike to serve breakfast to the homeless, play Santa to a group of hostile, foul-mouthed school kids and indulge his volatile, alcoholic friend Colin (Steve Evets), who's attached himself to Adam like a limpet since the first episode.

Along the way his bike wheels are stolen; Colin -- incensed that he can't come to Adam's house for Christmas dinner -- headbutts him; someone steals the camels from the church Nativity scene; the ambitious archdeacon, who's spending Christmas in the sun, stiffs him for a 46 quid taxi fare to the airport, and an elderly parishioner he's been promising to visit in hospital has died by the time he gets there.

And left him a present and a shiny box full of guilt.

Could it possibly get worse? Yes. Adam's condescending father-in-law Martin, "a social hand grenade" played by Geoffrey Palmer in cracking form, turns up to spend Christmas with Adam and his wife Alex (Olivia Colman) because his other daughter's kids have measles.

Oh, and then there's midnight mass, which is attended by a congregation of drunken yobs who start a singalong, but they're not singing hymns. "We're the religious equivalent of a kebab," sniffs Adam's lay helper Nigel (a great deadpan performance by Miles Jupp).

Adam, having taken a few too many glasses of wine, finally flips out on the altar, launching into an improvised, ranting version of The 12 Days of Christmas that details all the sh*t he's been putting up with lately. But it all comes good in the end.

Alex announces she's pregnant, Adam turns the other cheek to Colin (and doesn't get headbutted this time), there's a heavy snowfall and everyone, including Martin and the archdeacon, end up having dinner in the church on Christmas Day.

Not every comedy could get away with a final scene in which the characters accidentally arrange themselves into the tableau of Da Vinci's The Last Supper without it seeming slushy, even without snow.

Rev did. Lovely.

As a child, I never holidayed at Butlin's only Irish camp in Mosney, Co Meath, although I did spend some time there a few years ago when it hosted the Community Games and my daughter was roped, reluctantly, into playing handball.

With its run-down chalets and grotty bunk beds, it looked like the ruins of a prison camp rather than a holiday camp.

The nostalgic documentary The Butlin's Story featured archive footage of the camps in their glory days from the 1930s to the 1950s, before people discovered cheap foreign holidays.

They still looked like prison camps, albeit pastel-coloured ones.

The emphasis here was on the positive, with former inmates -- sorry, holidaymakers -- recalling the fun they had.

There was a heavy reliance on shamelessly promoting the three remaining Butlin's camps, which have been extensively revamped.

What this bland film really needed was someone who hated the place and had a few horror stories to tell.

rev HHHHI the butlin's story HHIII

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