Another TV Vicar – Reese Shearsmith on Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas 

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Being in a mood for some Christmas comedy I decided to watch Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas from 2009. I had totally forgotten this masterful turn by Reese Shearsmith – giving a kind of 21st century version of Rowan Atkinson’s litany of vicars.

Maybe a little too close for comfort for some! Watch until the last shot. Any vicars out there will empathise! 

Enjoy! 

Hammy and hokey but fun, my review of ITV’s Midwinter of the Spirit

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This autumn saw ITV release a new drama with a clerical lead, Midwinter of the Spirit, based on the popular books by Phil Rickman. Of course, I had to tune in, given that the main character, Merrily Watkins (bit of a daft name) is a woman priest recently trained in the art of Deliverance Ministry (or what-we-used-to-call exorcism).


During my training I had more than one person ask me if I would get to ‘go ghost hunting’ as a priest. Because of films like the Exorcist the whole area of priests and demons is a source of much fascination – the two often go together, although in the popular imagination, the exorcist priest is always a man and always Roman Catholic. So Phil Rickman, in creating a woman priest exorcist character is tapping directly into this fascination by adding a further layer of interest: what, a woman exorcist? Does the Church of England get involved in that?

Well yes it does as it happens and this TV mini series pulled out all the stops in this dark horror, complete with creepy music and the evil lady’s maid from Downton Abbey playing a sinister occult leader.

Friends of mine that have read the books have said that the character of Merrily was not how they’d imagined her. I haven’t read the books so can’t comment on that. I thought she was quite well-drawn, shown to be a vulnerable woman, a single mother having moved to a new place to help her get over her abusive (?) husband’s death in a car crash. Merrily’s bishop, played by Nicholas Pinnock, is young, black and handsome. So far, so good.

There are a few flaws in the production, however. The horror set ups are a little hammy, the music warning you about each jump (although it is quite genuinely scary, the scene in the hospital will make me nervous about night visits for a while!) The most irritating flaws, however, are down to the costume department. The bishop wears a black cassock over his purple shirt that clearly looks like it’s come from the bottom of a dressing up box. It doesn’t fit him and looks all wrong. It kind of clashes with his character who is sharply dressed and dynamic. Merrily is seen at one point coming out of a baptism service wearing a chasuble with a stole over the top – totally wrong. She also, although this is more a matter of taste than anything, wears a really hideous denim clerical shirt! Why is this an issue? Well you could argue that people watching Casualty or The Bill would point out similar errors (my husband is always pointing out the cheap stethoscopes doctors use on Casualty that you’d never be seen dead using). Make a programme about a particular profession and people are always going to point out mistakes. However, for me, it is important to get these things right – and not that difficult. Many people will have watched Midwinter of the Spirit and found out for the first time that Church of England vicars do get involved with deliverance ministry. The programme will have had a lot of curious viewers. So to get some of the basics wrong just lent the whole thing an air of inauthenticity, and perhaps, incompetence. This was frustrating as it somewhat diluted the thrill of having a black bishop and a single mum priest on prime time television.

For the sake of the drama/plot quite a few rules are broken. I can’t imagine someone being made Diocesan Exorcist by a bishop when they’ve barely completed the training. But then, rules and regulations (especially those of the Byzantine Church of England) certainly do not make for compelling television!

That said, I predicted when interviewed about my book earlier this year that we would see more vicar characters on TV precisely because ministry in the Church is an area alien to a lot of people, and therefore arouses curiosity. Coupling this with a bit of horror tapped right into people’s fascination with the darker edges of ministry today.

On the whole I enjoyed this new thriller, I liked the fact that the lead character was a woman priest and was well-rounded and realistically portrayed, experiencing the same challenges as any other single parent might. I enjoyed the exploration of the occult and the hokey historical storyline of saints and demons. Roll on series 2!

More TV Vicar? Christians on the Telly: The Good, the Bad and the Quirky by Bryony Taylor, is available now in paperback and eBook priced £9.99.

This review first appeared on the DLT Blog.

Listen to an interview on BBC Newcastle about my book ‘More TV Vicar?’

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I had the exciting opportunity to go on the radio this morning at BBC Newcastle and be interviewed by Ingrid Hagemann on the breakfast show about my book ‘More TV Vicar?’

You can listen to the interview in full here:

‘More TV Vicar?’ a book by Bryony Taylor – YouTube playlist – watch along as you read!

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In this collection of videos on YouTube I’ve included many of the characters and scenes that are discussed in the book ‘More TV Vicar?‘ So you can watch along as you read, the clips appear in the order in which they come in the book.

Video blurb and full interview with Bryony Taylor about the book More TV Vicar?

Cartoon by Chris Bambrough in More TV Vicar? Book
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Here’s a short video blurb explaining what my book, ‘More TV Vicar?‘ is about. This is part of a much longer interview with me about my faith and the book on Breakout Radio which is available as a podcast here.

Read the beginning of More TV Vicar? by Bryony Taylor – out now from @DLT_books

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My new book ‘More TV Vicar?’ is out now. You can buy the book from the publisher here or download the Kindle version here.

Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the book to whet your appetite. If you can’t read the extract below, click on the Kindle link and go to the ‘look inside’ option.

book preface1

book preface2

More TV Vicar? – book launch 9th June 2015, 3pm, @religiousRC #Durham

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An illustration from the book by Chris Bambrough

An illustration from the book by Chris Bambrough

As you may now be aware, I have a book coming out on 28th May published by DLT called ‘More TV Vicar? Christians on the Telly: the Good, the Bad and the Quirky’. The book contains illustrations by the wonderful cartoonist Chris Bambrough.

There will be an official launch event (including tea and cake of course!) at the Durham Religious Resources Centre, Cuthbert House, Stonebridge Lane, Durham, DH1 3RY at 3pm on Tuesday 9th June 2015 – all are welcome to attend. There will be an opportunity to hear a reading from the book, an interview with me and of course I’ll sign copies.

If you can’t make that event you can come to a coffee morning at St Michael and All Angels, Houghton-le-Spring on Saturday 18th July at 11am where I will also be doing a reading and signing.

If you would like me to speak at an event about the book or provide an interview for TV, radio or print media please email me.

9780232531701