Lockdown Binge #3: The Vicar of Dibley

Our writers tell us what TV series are getting them through being stuck in their houses - next up for your consideration is the most sinfully funny sitcom on television

The Vicar of Dibley

There are some people who are turning to spirituality during these troubling times, whether that’s through tarot cards or live-streaming Sunday services. But I’ve already found all the spiritual solace I need at the moment: in Dawn French’s Geraldine Granger

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That’s right, for today’s #StayAtHome sermon, I’m singing the praises of the heavenly Vicar of Dibley. Hang onto your dog collars.

What is The Vicar of Dibley about? 

And lo, it came to pass that a female vicar came unto to the sleepy village of Dibley. And she was called: Geraldine. And the glory of Geraldine shone around Dibley, and all the villagers were sore afraid… or more accurately, horrified. 

Because back then, in the halcyon grainy-blurry past of mid-90s telly, the Church of England had only just introduced female vicars. And when Gerladine rocks up in her bright yellow raincoat and Monica Geller-style printed waistcoat, the conservative Dibley parish council aren’t best pleased with their new vicar.

“You were expecting a bloke – beard, Bible, bad breath,” Geraldine says during the pilot episode. “And instead you got a babe with a bob cut and a magnificent bosom.”

The parish councillors – led by the wealthy and crusty David Horton – even contemplate sacking her.

But, of course, the show is called “The Vicar of Dibley”, because – spoiler alert – Dibley of course warms to its fabulous female vicar, who injects new life into the little village. 

How long is The Vicar of Dibley? 

Three seasons and a slate of Christmas specials (including “The Vicar in White”), with each episode clocking in around 40-50 minutes. 

How can I watch The Vicar of Dibley?

All ye Netflix subscribers: rejoice! For the entire box set is currently available to binge-watch now

And BritBox subscribers, ye are also blessed with all five seasons (if you include the two sets of mini Christmas seasons) available to watch here.

Unfortunately the Comic Relief shorts – including the ones featuring a young Johnny Depp and Sting – are missing from both streaming platforms. We pray for rectification.

Why should I watch The Vicar of Dibley?

The Vicar of Dibley - Series 2 - Picture shows: Geraldine (Dawn French)
The Vicar of Dibley series two. Picture shows: Dawn French as Geraldine. (Courtesy of UKTV)

Overlook this sinfully funny sitcom at your own peril – it’s the perfect tonic for the times, at once nostalgic and prescient, with still-poignant lessons to be had on sexism, body positivity, and sex-positive clergy members. 

Plus, for the more discerning members of the congregation, there’s a young Richard Armitage to look forward to in the last season. Verily, your prayers have been answered. 

But for those uninitiated few who are taking their first communion at the altar of Saint Geraldine, let’s cut to the chase: there’s a reason BBC execs keep encouraging Dawn French to don the black cassock “one last time” (see BBC One’s Big Night In skit). The character is just so – Lord forgive me – goddamn joyful. 

Forget Fleabag’s Hot Priest: Geraldine is the original desirable priest(ess), a left-leaning bonne vivante whose eccentric (read: mad as hatters) fellow parish councillors almost all fall in love with her at some point or another – even if it’s just to admire her “lovely arse, Vicar”

Vicar of Dibley S1 - Picture shows Dawn French as Geraldine Granger
Vicar of Dibley series one. Picture shows Dawn French as Geraldine Granger. (Courtesy of UKTV)

Among the parish councillors, there’s a host of memorable characters. There’s the snooty David Horton (MBE, FRCS – and don’t you forget it) and his bumbling adult son, Hugo. 

There’s also foul-mouthed, inappropriate farmer Owen Newitt, and stuttering, sex-obsessed Jim Trott, whose constant repetition of the word “no” gets him into trouble – and whose Full Monty-inspired striptease  (complete with tearaway red thong) during a village fundraiser always leaves me in hysterics. 

Then there’s walking-culinary-disaster Letitia Cropley, and Frank Pickle (“Britain’s most boring man”), whose coming-out via the Radio Dibley airwaves will bring an unexpected tear to the eye. 

Finally there’s Geraldine’s gormless verger, Alice Tinker, absolutely convinced of her own potent sexual “allure”, and whose dim-witted and confused responses to Geraldine’s jokes almost always round off each episode.

Throughout the show, the comedy blends clever, tongue-in-cheek quips and throughly British sarcasm with toilet humour, dirty puns and pratfalls. 

The Vicar of Dibley - Series 2 - Picture shows: Dawn French as Geraldine, Gary Waldhorn as David Horton, James Fleet as Hugo Horton, Emma Chambers as Alice Tinker, John Blunthal as Frank Piggott, Trevor Peacock as Jim Spicer, Roger Lloyd Pack as Owen Newitt
The Vicar of Dibley. Picture shows: Dawn French as Geraldine, Gary Waldhorn as David Horton, James Fleet as Hugo Horton, Emma Chambers as Alice Tinker, John Blunthal as Frank Piggott, Trevor Peacock as Jim Spicer, Roger Lloyd Pack as Owen Newitt (Courtesy of UKTV)

Despite this being a “Lockdown Binge” suggestion, I haven’t technically been bingeing Vicar of Dibley – I’ve been rationing myself with a nightly episode, purely because I want to stretch out the joy for as long as possible. 

Even the opening credits make me smile: the soaring choral theme ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’; the scenic shots of rural Oxfordshire; the funny little vignettes in the early episodes that show ‘typical’ rural life, like a woman knitting straight from her sheep. (Oh, and another thing: Geraldine’s Nineties-style knitwear. Especially the cream jumper with crucifixes). 

The whole experience is like being enveloped in a warm hug.

At the time of writing, I have just finished the episode where Geraldine meets Harry (Armitage), an accountant, “towny b*****d” – and her future husband. It’s a brilliant episode, including a life drawing class, a Keeley Hawes cameo, Sense and Sensibility references, and a throwback to Geraldine’s iconic jump into a seemingly bottomless muddy puddle. 

Vicar of Dibley S1 - Picture shows Emma Chambers as Alice Tinker and Dawn French as Geraldine Granger
Vicar of Dibley series one – Picture shows Emma Chambers as Alice Tinker and Dawn French as Geraldine Granger. (Courtesy of UKTV)

I started my binge watch around Easter, beginning with the episode where Geraldine secretly dresses up as an Easter bunny – meaning that I still have the first few episodes to loop back to and watch when I reach the end of the last series. 

Purists may disagree with my methods and demand that I atone for my sins – but I’d argue that it makes it all the more fun being able to watch the last ever episode, and know that you still have some more to go.

Amen to that. 

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All three seasons and Christmas specials are available to watch on Netflix and BritBox