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The Vicar Of Dibley

Geraldine Grainger is the jolly, down-to-earth female vicar of Dibley, a small country village inhabited by oddballs. After overcoming the town's initial shock at her gender Geraldine helps to improve the village

Genre:
Sitcom
Broadcast:
1994 - 2013  (BBC One)
Episodes:
25 (3 series)
Starring:
Dawn French, Emma Chambers, Gary Waldhorn, James Fleet, John Bluthal, Trevor Peacock, Roger Lloyd-Pack, Liz Smith
Writers:
Richard Curtis, Paul Mayhew-Archer
Production:
Tiger Aspect Productions

Life in the miniscule, sleepy Oxfordshire village of Dibley is thrown upside-down when ancient Vicar Pottle dies - and the diocese send a new-fangled female vicar, Geraldine Grainger, as his replacement.

Her arrival is met with a mixture of wonder and horror from the assorted collection of rural yokels who call Dibley home: "You were expecting a bloke with a beard, a Bible and bad breath. Instead, you got a babe with a bob cut and a magnificent bosom," she observes.

Autocratic head of the Parish Council and local landowner David Horton is particularly appalled; when it becomes clear that Geraldine does not intend to play second fiddle, he resolves to call in any favour possible to have her removed.

However, David's plans fail and the new female vicar steps - perhaps naïvely - undaunted into their quaint and utterly batty country world. Geri and her flock soon find common ground and, although the journey is bumpy, join forces to revitalise life in the small community.

It's not long before even David must admit that Geraldine's the best thing to have ever happened to Dibley - and she that Dibley is the best thing to ever happen to her.

Our Review: Predictably, a cosy family-friendly sitcom set in the shires was met with as much critical negativity as it was with public adoration, when it launched upon an unsuspecting British public in 1994. This warm, quirky sitcom quickly earned a loyal and devoted audience, with its pacy scripts and variety of absurd but wonderful characters.

Unfortunately, the series was revived in late 2004 after a break of five years: the selection of specials that followed are, in our opinion, a stain on the memory of the show that The Vicar Of Dibley once was. There was no longer the feeling of a cosy sitcom, but of something alltogether far too knowing and self-aware. The illusion of Dibley's reality, the suspension of disbelief needed for the series to work, is lost almost entirely - French in particular seemed to be playing a caricature of herself playing Geraldine, rather than in any way being the character.

Certainly, these episodes have odd scenes that could have easily fitted in any episode from the mid 1990s, but they are too few and far between - and the less said about the rape of the series to launch the socio-political campaign 'Make Poverty History', the better.

The final specials over the 2006-7 Christmas period were a step back closer to the programme's early tone and spirit, but we still find them to be needlessly cloying, driving unnaturally toward a stereotypical 'happy ending' rather than character truth. They retain wonderful elements of humour, but are nevertheless a disappointing ending to the series that we first welcomed to our screens in the early 1990s.