Tag Archives: Hugh Bonneville

Holy smoke! Delightful Rev. is back with new episodes

'Rev.' returns to Hulu and Hulu Plus.

Inner-city vicar Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander, second from right) faces challenges from both church officials as well as his fussy lay reader, Nigel (Miles Jupp, far right) in Season 3 of ‘Rev.,’ which begins streaming Sunday on Hulu and Hulu Plus.


It’s been nearly two years since U.S. audiences have enjoyed new episodes of Rev., the hilarious, award-winning Britcom starring the fantastic Tom Hollander as a stressed-out vicar trying to keep his struggling church afloat in inner-city East London.
That extended hiatus wasn’t due to any quality concerns at its home channel in the UK (BBC2), where Rev. is revered as the highest-rated comedy series (it’s also carried in more than 140 channels worldwide). No, we haven’t seen Rev. for awhile simply because Hollander, its executive producer, co-creator and co-writer as well as star, is simply one of the busiest British actors working today, as is his leading lady, Olivia Colman, who was David Tennant’s detective partner in the shattering murder mystery Broadchurch.
As Rev. belatedly returns with six new episodes Sunday on Hulu Plus, time clearly hasn’t stood still in the neighborhood surrounding St. Saviour in the Marshes. For one thing, at the tiny vicarage, the Rev. Adam Smallbone (Hollander) and his patient wife, Alex (Colman), have welcomed their first child, daughter Katie, now approaching her first birthday (we see the frenzied circumstances of Katie’s birth in the opening moments of the season premiere).
What that means, most pertinently, is that Adam and Alex are dealing with the same stresses they’ve endured before, only with exponentially less sleep, especially now that Katie is going through a bout of explosive diarrhea. “Perhaps Satan is in charge of her bottom because you haven’t baptized her yet,” offers Archdeacon Robert (Simon McBurney) during one of his frequent visits to remind Adam that the size of both his congregation and his church coffers is a matter of growing concern among church officials.
In fact, two such officials – Area Dean Jill Mallory and Diocesan Secretary Geri Tennison (Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine, respectively, both of the Britcom Getting On) – also have stopped by to remind Adam passive-aggressively that, with the larger neighborhood now experiencing a sharp decline in its Christian populations as more Muslim residents move in, some old, high-maintenance churches such as St. Saviour may have to be shuttered.
That motivates Adam to collaborate with local Imam Yussef Hasan (guest star Kayvan Novak) on a fund-raiser to renovate a rusty and dog poo-choked playground in the season premiere. The event is a rousing success, although Adam and his flock are able to contribute only an embarrassingly tiny portion.
Episode two finds Adam on the horns of a different dilemma when two close gay friends of his ask him to officiate at their wedding. That being a no-no for the Church of England, Adam offers instead to lead a prayer for them at the regular Wednesday Eucharist gathering, but that event quickly spirals out of control.
Also returning to their occasional guest roles this season are Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) as cleric and motivational speaker Roland Wise and Ralph Fiennes as the Bishop of London.
Rev. is the kind of rich, character-driven comedy that rewards faithful viewing, so if you are joining the series in progress, be sure to take advantage of the fact that Hulu Plus is streaming Seasons 1 and 2 as well. Hollander recently has said that he’s not sure whether he’s up for a fourth season as Adam Smallbone, so by all means enjoy the myriad delights of Rev. while you can.
Olivia Colman in 'Rev.'

Vicar’s wife Alex Smallbone (Olivia Colman) unexpectedly goes into labor while her husband is officiating at a wedding in the season premiere of ‘Rev.’ on Hulu.

Lady Mary mired in grief as Downton Abbey returns Sunday

Michelle Dockery and Joanne Froggat star in 'Downton Abbey' Sunday on PBS.

Lady’s maid Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt, right) tries in vain to help her mistress, Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery), get over her grief in the season premiere of ‘Downton Abbey’ Sunday on PBS.


As Downton Abbey returns for its fourth season on PBS’ Masterpiece Classic Sunday night, a chilly day in February 1922 is dawning. Outside, a dense, clammy mist clings to the estate, while inside her bedroom, Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) sits in an emotional fog of her own. It’s been six months since her devoted husband, Matthew, met his death in a ridiculous plot contrivance motoring accident, and Mary is still numb with grief, clinging to her widow’s weeds like armor against further heartache. Worse, she acts completely disconnected from George, her infant son, referring to the boy as a “poor little orphan.”
Understandably, Mary’s refusal to rejoin the living is a matter of concern for both the family and staff of the house, a situation that may have dire repercussions for Downton Abbey. At the time of his death, Matthew had begun to make progress in converting the Crawley estate from a money pit into a self-sustaining business, but without his influence, Mary’s father, Robert (Hugh Bonneville), is inclined to return to his previous, regressive business plans.
Elsewhere in Sunday’s two-hour premiere, the usually woebegone Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) appears finally to have found happiness with London publisher Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), who, alas, is trapped in a marriage with a mentally ill wife whom British law will not allow him to divorce. He may, however, have found a loophole, one that demonstrates his deep devotion to Edith.
Also stirring things up for the Crawleys is headstrong young Lady Rose MacClare (Lily James), a visiting cousin from Scotland who has taken up temporary residence at Downton Abbey.
The opening episode features encore guest appearances by supporting characters who appeared fleetingly in past seasons. First, Charlie Grigg (Nicky Henson), Mr. Carson’s (Jim Carter) old music hall partner who tried to blackmail the Crawley butler way back in Season 1, returns with a completely different agenda. Edna Braithwaite (MyAnna Buring), the housemaid who last season was sent packing by Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) after she tried to become too familiar with widowed Crawley son-in-law Tom Branson (Allen Leech), also resurfaces, looking to cause more trouble.
PBS made available seven of the eight episodes in this season, enough to demonstrate that Season 4 is far sharper and more focused than last season was. One of the more interesting recurring subplots in these new episodes finds many of the characters “in service” fearing for their jobs as the changing social order motivates homeowners to reduce the size of their household staffs, not to mention new electrical appliances that also reduce the demand for as many servants.
In its fourth year, Downton Abbey is starting to repeat itself in some respects, and the coming and going of household staff – which begins with the departure of mean-spirited Miss O’Brien in the opening minutes of the premiere – hits such a frenetic pace that at one point an exasperated Robert wonders aloud whether he and his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) are living under a curse.
For the most part, though, there’s still plenty of life in Downton Abbey, which already has been renewed for a fifth season. The show is more of a dessert than a substantial meal, but as the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) once observed, “It seems a pity to miss such a good pudding.”
Sophie McShera and Lesley Nicol play members of the 'Downton Abbey' kitchen staff.

Assistant cook Daisy Mason (Sophie McShera, right) turns to Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) for romantic advice in season four of ‘Downton Abbey.’