What do the stereotypes of Christians presented on TV say about British society’s view of people of faith? Is growing hostility to religious belief on the comedy circuit adding to this perception?
What about the nature of offence and satire, especially with all the recent debate about freedom of speech – how far is too far? Is it wrong for a vicar character on TV to say the ‘F word’ or is it refreshingly realistic? And if we get frustrated with a supposedly Christian character in a TV programme, does that say more about us or about the people who made the programme?
These are just a few of the many questions that Bryony Taylor poses and explores in this humorous and insightful romp through some of TV’s most well-known depictions of Christians over the last 20 years. From the cuddly and loveable vicar of Dibley to The League of Gentlemen’s sinister Revd Bernice Woodall, More TV Vicar? gets under the dog collar of ‘the good, the bad and the quirky’ through a wide host of characters, from comedy to crime fiction, and from soap to stand up.
Some are satire, some are pure nostalgia, others can be too toe-curlingly accurate at times! As well as well-known favourites such as The Vicar of Dibley, Father Ted and Blackadder’s terrifying Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells, the author also discusses newer characters such as the Padre in Bluestone 42, the curate from Broadchurch, Adam Smallbone from Rev and some of the more controversial clergy characters played by Rowan Atkinson over the years.
In examining ‘the good, the bad and the quirky’, More TV Vicar? offers a detailed analysis of characters which fall into each category, asking why they are depicted in this way, how the public and media have reacted to them, and how we as Christians can respond. In doing so, she draws on interviews with television actors, writers and directors, and clergy, as well as behind the scenes information, media coverage and analysis, and anthropology. She also responds to the rise in aggressive anti-Christian comedy from atheist comedians such as Ricky Gervais, Tim Minchin and Jimmy Carr.
A final section poses the question, ‘what would Jesus watch?’, arguing that Jesus gave modern comedians a run for their money in terms of being offensive, telling funny stories, challenging authority and being satirical. ‘Can we learn to laugh at ourselves’, asks the author, ‘and realise that religion, although a serious part of life, can also be a source of humour or even entertainment?’
Premier’s Ian Britton went along to meet curate Bryony Taylor and hear more about her book More TV Vicar?.