Irreverent (miniseries, 2022): Peacock’s new crime dramedy comes as a deja vu. You’ve seen it all before. Criminal-turned-faux reverend Paulo has been–if not a complete rip-off–a mediocre amalgamation of many that came before him. The ferociously disconnected and aptly named sunny town of Clump is a poor man’s, Stars Hollow. Appropriately attractive, charming mob-man Paulo’s frustrating transition from working in the glamorous shadow of Chicago crime families to being a disappointing reverend in a hopeless Down Under town almost lingers as a faint Ozark spin-off. And unfortunately, although not surprisingly, Irreverent is not an acquired taste, unlike vegemite.
Way too clumsy for a negotiator Chicago’s most dominant crime families would trust their sensitive business with, Paulo makes a massive mess at a meeting and kills his boss Lorenzo’s firstborn. Sloppy! And if that wasn’t enough, he loses the stolen $1.6 million to a comically incompetent priest whose place he now must take in the secluded town of Clump. A lot could be done with a premise as convenient as this one. But Irreverent takes a road that proves way too safe for its good.
Sullying the excellent name of cliche, show creator Paddy Macrae fills the fictional town with mostly endearing, likable-to-a-fault people who get shockingly melodramatic and misleading introductions. While that may have worked in the 90s and the early 2000’s feel-good small-town comedies with the rewatch value being carried on the shoulders of their fascinating leads, it doesn’t come together for Irreverent. The only thing that works for the show is the linear cascade of events. In an unlikely desperate state of no other available entertainment–even if you find some rush in the empty mediocrity–the climax is sure to let down any expectation you have of shock.
Clump loses its third reverend to an unforeseen croc attack, and that too in the middle of a wedding. The breezy seashore town awaits the coming of the new reverend Mackenzie (P.J. Byrne), but his life is about to go down a road he could never expect. On his way to Clump, right after being dumped by his wife, Mackenzie meets Paulo (Colin Donnell), a criminal negotiator on the run with stolen money. Paulo has stuffed it up with his mobster boss Lorenzo (Steve Mouzakis), who is now after him for the death of his son.
As luck would have it, Paulo and Mackenzie end up staying at the same hotel, and too bad for Paulo, the insufferable padre takes the “seize the day” speech a bit too seriously. After a blackout night with alcohol and painkillers involved, Paulo wakes up to find that all his money is gone. What choice does he have but to go to Clump and pretend to be the new savior reverend?
After a hellish drive, Paulo reaches the cut-off town, but his grand entrance includes him passing out at the wheel, crashing the town’s electric pole, and sending it into a complete blackout. Queue Daft Punk’s Instant Crush–Paulo is taken to the police station by the only cop in town, and the only one who’s not a complete caricature, Piper (Kylie Bracknell).
Sixteen-year-old Daisy (Tegan Stimson) has been staying at the “manse” that is meant for the reverend because she needs a permanent address for the court case on account of her painkiller theft. It doesn’t take Daisy more than a few hours of meeting the fake reverend to figure out that he is not who he says he is, but she decides to keep it to herself.
Finding a reception in Clump is as difficult as it is to climb the tower to make a call. After an intense trial and error session, Paulo manages to get a hold of Mackenzie. Mackenzie is living it up in a lavish hotel with free Zumba classes, expensive wine tasting, and buying pretentious art–but all of that is meant for his wife Charmaine (Anita Hegh), who he hopes will be back. Paulo plans to visit Mackenzie, but Clump-life has other plans for him.
Even in a seemingly harmless town, Paulo finds a way to get himself involved in nefarious activities. Clump’s illegal chop-chop (tobacco) distributor Agnes’ (Susie Porter) ne’er-do-well sons lose cartons full of tobacco in the water. While most of the boxes are captured by Piper and her force, some are taken by Daisy and her friend Cam (Ed Oxenbould). Unable to keep trouble off his back, Paulo entangles himself in Agnes’ business in order to protect them. The church becomes the distribution and storage spot for tobacco, and he partners up with Daisy.
Ironically enough, being a convincing reverend doesn’t come easy for Paulo. He fumbles through officiating a wedding with the help of Mackenzie’s on-call advice and fakes his way through an essential funeral with the help of Cam and Daisy. Without even giving it much thought, Paulo gets soft for the townspeople. He cares about Daisy so much that he risks having his cover blown and visits the courthouse to save her from juvie. When a visit from the Bishop threatens the church’s very existence, he goes as far as to meddle in an age-old family feud and reunite the rivals so that he can get the Sunday church service attendance high. And he does it all not just because the church is helping him keep his cover–but because he has learned how important the church is for Peter (Wayne Blair), whose wife, Helen (Anna Lise Phillips), suffers from MS.
The growing romantic tension between Paulo and Piper comes to a halt when Charmaine shows up in town. It doesn’t take her long to get on board with the feeble ruse when Paulo promises her half of the money that Mackenzie stole. The two attend Piper’s surprise birthday party, where she gets engaged to her boyfriend Aidan (Jason Wilder). Charmaine double crosses unsuspecting Paulo and gets to Mackenzie before he does.
Easy nut to crack, Mackenzie falls for her manipulation and wakes up to find that she has fled with all the money. While inconsolable Mackenzie drowns himself in cheap motel alcohol, Paulo lands himself in more trouble by messing with the bikers sent by the tobacco buyer. Of course, a charming guy like him finds a way to reinstitute peace, but Cam accidentally destroying one of the bikes makes them demand the kind of money Paulo doesn’t have.
He and Daisy hatch a plan to steal the cash from the local sugar mill’s safe, and he awkwardly hides the whole safe in the forest. The safe then finds its way back to them because–well–Cam found it and brought it back. To protect his feelings, Daisy and Paulo lie to Cam about why they stole the money and tell him they will give it to the poor mill workers instead. The impulsive do-gooder that he is, Cam, decides to save Paulo the trouble, distributes the money, and mindlessly gives out hints that Paulo stole it.
Meanwhile, an accidental credit-card usage by Mackenzie leads Lorenzo’s hitman Farah to him. He kidnaps Mackenzie and Charmaine and drives to Clump to find Paulo. Things don’t go according to Farah’s plans. Charmaine dies in the trunk of the car, and after burying her, Mackenzie overpowers Farah, convinces himself that he is dead, and runs to Paulo. On the other hand, Paulo is secretly busy saving Piper from the bikers who settled for getting tobacco instead of cash. Piper’s tobacco bust puts her boss, the sergeant, in a difficult position because, as it turns out, he is the buyer. After sending Mackenzie on his way out of Clump, Paulo manages to convince the sergeant to let him be the tobacco distributor. Getting the money back from Mackenzie finally makes it possible for him to think about leaving the town.
Irreverent Ending, Explained
Does his past catch up to Paulo?
Impressed with Paulo’s unorthodox and effective sermons, the Bishop decides not to sell the church. Instead, the town installs a massive cross on the church bell tower, and Clump reaches the 21st century with long-overdue internet access. Piper is working on finding out who saved her. When Paulo visits her at the station to say his muted goodbye, he lies about being present at the cross installation. On the other hand, Aidan has had enough of Piper’s obsession with work and gives her an ultimatum–they either get married in a few hours on the same day, or they don’t get married at all. After bidding goodbye to everyone and everything he cares about, Paulo sets out on his journey. Mackenzie is also planning to go wherever life takes him, but his phone call with the airlines is cut short when he sees Farah driving to Clump.
Paulo gets a call from Farah and learns he has taken Daisy hostage. He can’t possibly let anything happen to her. As he returns to Clump, Piper and Aidan are waiting at the church to proceed with the wedding. While waiting, Piper gets to know that it was, in fact, the reverend who wasn’t present at the cross-installation event. She connects the dots and runs out of the church to look for him. At the beach, Paulo meets Farah and tries to convince him to take the money, lie to Lorenzo and his wife, and be off on his way.
While Agnes’ sons try their best to help, Farah can’t let it go. Piper catches up to Paulo, puts a gun to his head, and demands answers. Knowing there’s no point in lying anymore, Paulo confesses that he isn’t who she thought he was. But before he can say anything more, Farah attacks them both. Just as things are getting impossible to handle, Mackenzie drives his car into the tower. Farah meets his end when the giant cross crushes him. Puzzled with the chaos she has just witnessed, Piper wonders what she should do now. For what seems to be the first time, Paulo doesn’t have an answer.
In all the destruction and disorder, Mackenzie’s faith is renewed. He’s arguably the underdog who went through the strangest transitions and confusion throughout the events. From a faithful servant to God to a greedy good-for-nothing and then back to being Christ’s warrior, Mackenzie wasn’t just a plot device that would serve the climax. Not only did he play a significant part in Paulo getting close to the town’s people–but he was also the most unapologetically unhinged and unpredictably brave person to rise and steal the show.
If the premise wasn’t generic enough for you to steer clear of Irreverent, rest assured, the pilot will be. For the most part, the show paces up haphazardly, with neither the air nor the characters being sure what to do. Colin Donnell’s Paulo begins as a crisp criminal with a disapproving frown, and by the time he reaches Clump, he is a whole other person who smiles a bit too big and isn’t even faking it. What was perhaps erroneously intended with the faux-padre falling in love with the people of the stingy little town is as grand a miscalculation as everyone in the room agreeing to produce the show when it was pitched.
Sure, the townspeople are agreeably charming in their atypical ways. But they’re also flat and exhaustingly stereotypical, with nothing but their oddities trying to color up the story. There’s a heart for heart’s sake; sweetness for sweetness’ sake. It is as though the cumulative goal of the theme was being liked. It is as though its desperation for being wanted to misdirect its entire mission of being interesting. And while the show isn’t what I call brave, it’s undoubtedly a fatigued commotion of unnecessary complexities.
P. J. Byrne as Mackenzie is the air you will breathe if you decide to dip in Irreverent’s mucky waters. Byrne is consistently glowing with his caliber in making the tasteless jokes work with his fantastic physical comedy. While supporting characters exist as failed laughingstocks, Byrne’s Mackenzie makes the ten episodes somewhat watchable.