The Vicar Of Dibley (BBC1, 1994-2007)
Here’s another 90s sitcom that became a big success. One of the interesting things about the comedy double-act French and Saunders is that they have also had success individually in sitcoms. Jennifer Saunders was in Absolutely Fabulous (and I plan to review that one soon too), and Dawn French was the star of this one, and the combination of all this resulted in a show that couldn’t fail really.
The small Oxfordshire village of Dibley is rather sleepy, nothing much of note has ever happened there. One day their rather elderly vicar dies, and the locals anticipate the replacement, presuming it’ll be someone similar. They are rather surprised when they discover that it’s a woman, Geraldine Granger, who is also much younger than who they are used to, and it takes everyone a while to come to terms with this.
The locals are a group of rather unusual and memorable characters. These included Hugo, Frank, and Owen. But the one that stood out to me most was Jim Trott, one of those really bizarre comedy creations where you are just fascinated by his personality and everything he says. Or at least you would be if you knew what he was on about. And there was also the young Alice who is rather dense, and eventually marries Hugo.
The villagers soon begin to accept Geraldine though, even though they have to deal with things like her love of chocolate. Most episodes ended with Geraldine trying to tell Alice a story, which often amusingly fails. I remember that there was much interest in the first series, and I do remember watching the episodes at the time, and the first episode where Geraldine comes to the village seems to have been repeated lots of times.
Because of the top-level cast, they were much in demand and often working on other TV shows, meaning that there wasn’t much of a chance to do a regular six episode series, so most of the episodes were specials that were usually shown at Christmas, and these rare chances to catch up with the villagers would always do rather well in the ratings. They always managed to find the time to do a short special for Comic Relief though.
There have been 20 episodes of The Vicar Of Dibley, and they have all been released on DVD. As it’s a high-profile show, it has received several leading accolades, including several British Comedy Awards, Radio Times covers, and being voted as one of Britain’s best sitcoms. It’s also another one of those shows that has been repeated endlessly on various channels including UK Gold.