Belfast Telegraph

Rev: Local viewers get revved up about the unholy hour comedy hit is being aired

By Maureen Coleman

It's the award-winning comedy that has inspired devotion among its faithful flock of viewers and provided BBC2 with its highest ratings for a sitcom.

But while the rest of the UK was sitting down to enjoy the critically-acclaimed series Rev at 10pm on Monday, viewers in Northern Ireland were subject to local scheduling, having to wait until almost midnight to tune in.

Back this week for a third series, Rev, starring Tom Hollander and Olivia Colman, is becoming something of a cult classic, with television critics and viewers alike commending its plausible portrayal of a vicar with an inner city parish.

The Bafta-winning series has even won praise from the Church of England itself, and the Rev Richard Coles is an adviser on the show.

However, in Northern Ireland tweaks in scheduling meant viewers tuned into an Irish language double bill instead – a repeat of newsroom drama Scup and Filiocht Anois, an animated exploration of poetry. The local shows were followed by current affairs programmes Newsnight and Stormont Today, with Rev finally airing at 11.50pm.

Belfast Telegraph television critic Joe Nawaz said he was disappointed with the scheduling.

"The BBC comedy Rev is one of the very best things on television," he said.

"Yes, we can watch one of the best comedies the BBC has done in years on iPlayer two days later during a quickly eked-out lunch break, in a bus shelter or the like. I'm depressed even saying that sentence.

"But I have a much better idea. Put Stormont Today and obligatory 'cultural' programming on during daytime to compete with the likes of Loose Women, and those multitudes who find gratuitous footage of chuntering MLAs and dramatically-trained Gaelgoirs indispensible can learn to set their TiVos."

It's not the first time viewers here have been unhappy with local television scheduling. Popular shows like Have I Got News For You and Gardeners' World have also been put back to allow for regional programmes to air.

But media commentator Don Anderson pointed out that both BBC NI and UTV had responsibilities to make – and broadcast – local programmes.

"The BBC and UTV in Northern Ireland have a requirement from different authorities to produce programmes relevant to audiences in Northern Ireland," he said. "They have to put these programmes somewhere. That is the conundrum.

"Television viewing is changing... more people are wanting to schedule by themselves and that means making full use of 'watch again' facilities."

A spokeswoman for BBC NI said it had a commitment to show local programmes to audiences in Northern Ireland, which meant "on occasion decisions are made to time shift network programmes to later slots".

"The Monday night 10pm slot on BBC2 has a tradition of Irish language programmes," she added.

"We ensured that the scheduling of Rev was clearly communicated to our audience through TV listings. Audiences wishing to watch Rev at 10pm can do so live on the BBC Two nations variants on cable and satellite, or live on the BBC iPlayer."

PROFILE

A new series of Rev is currently being broadcast on BBC2. It has provided the channel with its highest ratings for a sitcom. The third series stars Tom Hollander and Olivia Colman, with Hollander playing a vicar in an inner city parish. It has won a Bafta and television critics, viewers and the Church of England alike have commended its portrayal of the couple's life.

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