The Church of England ordained its first female ministers in March of 1994. Before that year was out, while churchgoers were still adjusting to this new development, The Vicar of Dibley debuted on BBC. Their old vicar has passed away, and the residents of the fictional village of Dibley are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the man who is to be their new spiritual leader. Only—guess what—he is actually a she! And not just any she, but a liberated, intelligent, outspoken she! Geraldine Granger, chocolate lover (as I’m sure she would like to be described), is either the answer to the villagers’ prayers, or a woman ready to lead them down the highway to hell.
Luckily for everyone involved, it turns out to be the former. Geraldine is a refreshing breath of fresh air for Dibley, and a strong bond soon grows between her and her eccentric parishioners. The main players are the members of the parish council: David Horton, staunch conservative and occasional blowhard; Hugo Horton, dimwitted but sweet son of David; Frank Pickle, the most boring man alive; Owen Newitt, foul mouthed and foul smelling farmer; Letitia Cropley, “culinary genius” and inventor of such perennial favorites as lard and fish paste pancakes; and Jim Trott, a ditherer with a weakness for the ladies. Add one verger to the mix, dimwitted and sweet Alice Tinker, and you’ve got some entertaining chaos. (Does my description of Alice make you think of another character? Hmmm….a match made in heaven perhaps?) The supporting actors in this series are all talented, but the boisterous Dawn French (Geraldine) is the lynchpin that holds the series together.
Even watching as many British comedies as I do (and having been to the UK twice), I’m occasionally stymied by references to unfamiliar British products and British celebrities, but these cultural barriers don’t detract too much from my appreciation of this show. Also, I feel I should mention to wary viewers that this show is respectful to both Christianity and Christians. I’d happily recommend The Vicar of Dibley to even the most devout of my acquaintances (and all the rest of you too). This is one of my favorite Britcoms!