As miraculous transformations go, Rev's shift from gentle, quietly likeable sitcom to dramatic tour de force was astounding. Belly laughs never did seem to be the goal of the show's creators, Tom Hollander and James Woods, but the courageous decision to relinquish them altogether and instead dwell increasingly on the central character's breakdown was fully justified by the quality of the third (and final?) series.
This sort of comedy - which deals with the dark stuff with a wry smile rather than cheerfully whistling 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' in its face - isn't exactly new; see Getting On, for example, another understated BBC triumph whose stars Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine also appeared in Rev. It did prove to be neatly topical, however - the episode on gay marriage airing shortly after it was legalised, and the series coming to a climax with Adam Smallbone's personal and religious crisis just as David Cameron sparked a debate about the place of faith in modern Britain.
Hollander, as the rev, was the star, but the ensemble cast - with Scanlan, Pepperdine and Olivia Colman (once again playing Smallbone's wife) joined by the likes of Hugh Bonneville and Ralph Fiennes - were uniformly excellent. And any show that can cast Liam Neeson as a tracksuited tramp who turns out to be God has to be a bit special.