More TV Vicar? Christians on the telly: The good, the bad and the quirky
Church Times Bookshop £9
MORE TV VICAR is a book that never quite lives up to its witty title. It is a book about the way in which certain Christian characters have been portrayed on television over the years, especially the small-screen clergy of drama and comedy. It triggers dozens of fond memories of the Vicar of Dibley, Father Ted, and, of course, Rowan Atkinson in his several guises. It quotes many of their funniest lines.
The trouble is that it is not clear whether the book sets out to be an anthology or an analysis of its subject. If the former, it leaves out too much key material — where was the section on Dave “May your God go with you” Allen? — and, if the latter, it is too subjective and opinionated.
In the preface, the author owns up to being a telly addict. Then Bryony Taylor also admits to being a Christian, adding “Hey, that’s not so easy in this day and age. It’s like saying you’re a trainspotter but worse.” That line sets the tone for the book, which ends with a chapter “What would Jesus watch?”
The TV characters are categorised as good, bad, or quirky, and then given a scored assessment. Adam Smallbone of Rev is given 98% for realism. Dot Cotton of EastEnders gets 54% for endearment. Rowan Atkinson’s Archbishop of Canterbury impression scores 81% for offence.
The book is an entertaining read, but could hardly have failed, given the material available to select from. The arrival of Dibley’s new vicar is a classic. “You were expecting a bloke, beard, Bible, bad breath. . . And instead you got a babe with a bob cut and a magnificent bosom.” Yet it is also an opportunity missed, and one that could have resonated with a far wider churchgoing and non-churchgoing readership.
Ted Harrison is a former BBC religious affairs correspondent.