Irreverent Creators on Combining Crime Drama with Comedy for New Peacock Series
Jan 11, 2023
Irreverent, a new Peacock series about a criminal masquerading as a priest, seems like a cross between the delightful British shows Death in Paradise and Rev. It has the same bright, sunny, and loose demeanor of the former with the latter’s emphasis on community and the intersection of religion with existential problems, and the result is a very fun series that feels just as inviting as the quirky town in which it’s mostly set, Clump.
Created by Paddy Macrae, Irreverent begins with career criminal Paulo (Colin Donnell) involved in a serious mafia screw-up that sends him packing with a bag full of money on a plane to Australia. Along the way, he meets the reverend Mackenzie Boyd (P.J. Byrne), who is being sent to a new parish in the very small reef town of Clump, though he’s in the midst of a spiritual and existential crisis after his wife left him. While Paulo is blacked out from alcohol and painkillers, Boyd takes his money and ostensibly his identity, leaving Paulo his in return, along with a small car, the black frock, and Godly clerical collar.
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With nowhere to turn, Paulo assumed Mack’s identity and heads to Clump, where he hides out and plots revenge. The small town mostly embraces him, though, and the incongruity between this profane man and the sacred man of God he’s masquerading as creates tension and humor in equal measure. Macrae, along with producers Debbie Lee and Alastair McKinnon, spoke with MovieWeb about Irreverent.
Paddy Macrae on the Personal Origins of Irreverent
The genesis of Irreverent, his first series as a creator and showrunner, stems from Macrae’s life and the religious themes of his youth, building off his work as a writer. “It was spiritual, it was biographical, and it was an idea that I couldn’t shake. The trifecta of inspiration,” joked Macrae. “I grew up in a small town, I grew up in the church, and my dad’s a reverend, a real reverend as far as I know, and not a criminal. But I grew up in a small country congregation in the vicarage nextdoor to the church with my dad, my mom, and my sisters and brothers.” Macrae continued:
The world of a small community congregation is one that I know inside out, and one that I know the complexities of, the amount of drama and stories that are in it. It’s a dream for a television writer, episodes just walk in the door and announce themselves. So I knew that world very well and the amount that a good reverend is a pillar of the community, and that them and their whole family become involved in every facet of the lives there, from the school, to the police station, to the farms, to the fire brigade. They become part councelor, part negotiator, part reverend, part footballer, so I wanted to make a show centering around that, because you get into every corner of the community.
Related: Exclusive: Irreverent Stars Colin Donnell, P.J. Byrne, and Kylie Bracknell on Their Fun New Peacock Series
“It’s so much story material,” said Macrae, “but what I wanted to do is give it a bit of a TV twist. Inspired by my parents, who were liberal protesters and agitators, I wanted to create someone who had a criminal skill set and didn’t care, didn’t know anything about theology or about church, but to stress test this idea that if someone was good with people, is a good mediator or a good negotiator, that they could bring people together irrespective of religion or organization. So it’s a delicious premise, that this character is a crook who is forced to pretend to be a reverend and in doing so, very reluctantly discovers that he likes it just a little bit.
Debbie Lee on Combining High-Stakes Drama with Warm Comedy
Debbie Lee has been a producer on some of the best Australian shows of the past couple of decades (Please Like Me, The Family Law, John Safran’s Race Relations, and many more), so it’s safe to say that her instincts are finely tuned when it comes to television. “I think that when stories come from such a personal place, and when people have such a personal connection to a story, that’s what always draws me in. It’s like, ‘why do you want to tell this story?’ And Paddy has such wonderful reasons for that,” said Lee.
“Also, I’m a lover of high-stakes drama, but also comedy, so Irrevent has this perfect combination of really edge-of-your-seat drama, like there is real dramatic jeopardy in this story, but with such warmth and heart and humor, and lots of big laughs as well,” explained Lee. “I think that lots of comedy nowadays is quite ‘cool,’ whereas Irreverent has got some real laugh-out-loud moments, which is a joy to me. So it’s that ‘make them laugh and punch them in the guts’ sort of storytelling, which I love.”
Alistair McKinnon on Why the World Needs Irreverent
Alistair McKinnon has worked with Lee on a few series, and his Matchbox Pictures production company was interested in doing it again with Irreverent. “I think it was just the strength of the idea,” said McKinnon, explaining why he got on board. “When Paddy first pitched it, it was obviously something that was very personal to him, and it came from a really authentic place that, even though he was pitching something that was clearly heightened, it felt very relatable.” McKinnon elaborated:
Matchbox has always made shows where they have to be ‘about’ something, you know, we’re a passion led company. We don’t make things just to make money. We don’t make things just because we can. They always have to be things that we really believe in, and something that really spoke to me about this was that it’s a very respectful show. Whatever your belief system, whether you’re a true believer or a non-believer, this is actually about human connection.
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“There was something very powerful about that, particularly in the times that we’re in,” continued McKinnon. “It felt like this was a really important, relevant time to tell a story about people coming together and understanding each other, whatever your background and wherever your belief system comes from. Because in the challenging times that we’re in, this felt like a safe and comfortable place to come where, yes, there is danger and jeopardy, but also heart and humor and connection, and it felt like it was really time to tell this story. That’s what really spoke to me about.”
Clump May Continue in More Seasons of Irreverent
The first season of Irreverent has 10 episodes, but it seems like the kind of premise that could go on for quite a while. The place itself, Clump, and its ebullient community seems like a kind bedfellow to beloved TV communities like Cicely in Northern Exposure or Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls.
“I see many, many seasons, Emmys every year,” joked Macrae. “No, when you make something like this, you hope it’s a huge hit, not for the lofty accolades and the glamour of it, but hopefully it connects with people. You hope that your creative work means something to other people, the more the better. But in terms of creative ambition, I mean, it’s a show in a world that I think can generate stories, can generate beauty and suspense and laughter and heart, for a long, long time. So I quietly have massive ambitions for where we can take it.”
“I think that we will fall in love with Clump and its people, and just want to go back there,” added Lee. So take it from Clump’s tourism board — Irreverent is a truly nice place to visit. From Matchbox Pictures, Screen Queensland, and Netflix in Australia and New Zealand, Irreverent will be on Peacock starting November 30th.
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