The award-winning1 The Vicar of Dibley is a BBC comedy show written by Richard Curtis2, based in the small, rural village of Dibley and centred around the parish vicar. Dawn French plays the title role of the vicar of St Barnabas' Church, Geraldine Granger, and portrays the full-of-fun, chocolate-and-Sean Bean-loving vicar to perfection. Other characters include Alice Tinker, the loyal but very naive verger; Owen Newitt, the foul-mouthed farmer; and Jim Trott, who precedes almost every sentence with 'no no no no no.' Hugo and David Horton are two more main characters - Hugo is madly in love with Alice, and almost matches her in stupidity, while David (Hugo's father) is grumpy and very right-wing, and often comes to (verbal) blows with the vicar over her more liberal attitudes. David Horton also can't stand Alice and her stupidity.
Although based around her, the vicar is actually a 'straight' character - the only jokes she tells are after the credits and all the comedic events just seem to happen around (and to) her, usually due to the other villagers.
The Vicar of Dibley ran for three series, the first having six episodes and the latter two having four each. There have also been an Easter and Christmas special, and two sketches for Comic Relief. Although Dawn French has said she would continue making episodes so long as Richard Curtis is writing them, at the time of writing there are no plans for any more.
Like most good sit-coms, The Vicar of Dibley is not just a string of jokes. It touches on many important issues, the first of which is that of a woman doing a traditionally male job. When the village of Dibley is due to get a new vicar, after their last one dies at the ripe old age of 102, everyone is looking forward to the arrival of the new vicar, Gerry. Until, that is, they find out Gerry is short for Geraldine... Many villagers are horrified at the thought of a female vicar, but by the end of the show's run she is one of the most loved inhabitants of the village.
The programme also covered issues such as the role religion plays in modern society, whether the church should involve itself in politics, and, of course, that terminally stupid people can still be lovely in their own little way. All these situations are addressed through comedy, but still get the message across.
The character of the vicar was loosely based on Joy Carroll, one of the first female vicars to be ordained in the UK. She helped the show by giving advice on which clothes should be worn when, etc.
The theme tune of the show is the words of the 23rd Psalm3 set to what appears at first to be a traditional tune. The melody is, in fact, original and composed by Howard Goodall especially for the show. The piece is longer than that heard in the show's opening and closing credits, Goodall said 'My intention with the Dibley theme had always been to treat the series as if it were not a comedy, and write a piece of popular church music that might have a further life'.
- Geraldine Granger (Dawn French) - the main character of the show. The vicar of a small village church with an addiction to chocolate and an equal love for Mel Gibson and Jesus.
- David Horton (Gary Waldhorn) - The inhabitant of the village manor, who believes he is above the other villagers.
- Alice Tinker (Emma Chambers) - The highly naive and innocent verger of the church, and Geraldine's best friend.
- Owen Newitt (Roger Lloyd Pack) - A local farmer with questionable personal hygiene and a foul mouth to match.
- Letitia Cropley (Liz Smith) - An elderly lady with a rather experimental approach to cooking.
- Jim Trott (Trevor Peacock) - No no no no no no...
- Hugo Horton (James Fleet) - David Horton's son, and another, well, 'differently intelligent' member of the village.
- Frank Pickle (John Bluthal) - Dibley's most boring resident, and Jim's best friend.
Each episode has its own little plot, however there are a few main storylines running through them all. One such storyline is that of Hugo and Alice, who are obviously in love but it takes the vicar to get them together. Hugo's father disapproves strongly, and it takes a huge amount of courage on Hugo's part to stand up to his father, and marry Alice.
The Joke At The Beginning
Every episode starts with a visual joke, usually the villagers doing something strange. For example, one episode started with a shot of the villagers doing Tai Chi.
Arrival: The whole of Dibley waits nervously for their new vicar. However, they don't realise that Gerry isn't short for Gerald, but Geraldine...
Songs Of Praise: On hearing about Dibley's new female vicar, the BBC decide to film Songs of Praise in St. Barnabas' Church. Nobody is very enthusiastic about the idea, until Geraldine sees the show's gorgeous producer that is!
Community Spirit: It's village fete time, but Geraldine isn't impressed by the amount the event usually raises. She tries to find a celebrity to open the fete and drum up enthusiasm for the event, however no celebrity is forthcoming. Until Alice points out that her cousin is called Reg Dwight...
The Window and The Weather: A storm hits Dibley, and a tree is blown over into the stained-glass window of the church. Everyone agrees it should be replaced, but did the old window depict Jesus, or St. Barnabas, or a librarian...? After David points out that replacing the window would cost over £11,000, it's down to Geraldine's skills of persuasion to raise the money.
Election: Village elections arrive, and Geraldine thinks even David could do a better job than the current councillor. What she doesn't realise is he is the current councillor! The villagers come up with a new candidate - Geraldine - and David isn't happy that it seems that they will all vote for her.
Animals: Seeing as Dibley is a rural community, Geraldine decides that a church service dedicated to the animals of the village would be a good idea. The Bishop isn't happy, but Geraldine sticks to her guns and prays it will turn out for the best.
Engagement: Geraldine decides that it's up to her to play Cupid and get Hugo and Alice to kiss for the first time. It takes a long time to get them started, but once they've got the idea, will they ever stop?
Dibley Live: The vicar sets up Dibley's own radio station, for one week only. All the villagers do a stint, and Frank makes a surprising revelation. But was anyone listening?
Celebrity Vicar: Radio Dibley went so well, that the vicar is invited to join Terry Wogan on his radio show. She ends up surrounded by media attention, but of course, she won't let it all go to her head... will she?
Love And Marriage: Alice and Hugo prepare for the wedding of the year (complete with Tellytubby bridesmaids), but Alice tells Geraldine something that could put an end to the whole thing.
Autumn: David's brother turns up, and love is in the air. Alice is expecting her and Hugo's first child.
Winter: Geraldine decides to put on a nativity play with a twist, but doesn't anticipate such a life-like stable scene...
Spring: The new baby is christened Geraldine Horton, and the vicar accepts a marriage proposal. Will Dibley see another wedding?
Summer: The end of Dibley could be nigh - plans for a new reservoir would see the village submerged. The villagers fight for their homes, but will they win?
The Easter Bunny: Geraldine decides to give chocolate up for Lent, but will her will power see her through? The vicar is surprised that Alice not only believes in the Easter Bunny, but thinks that it lives in the village. But she's more surprised when the rest of the villagers believe the same.
The Christmas Lunch Incident: It's the biggest gig of the year for a vicar, and Geraldine is nervous about her Christmas sermon. She has bigger things to worry about however, as she is invited to more than one Christmas dinner, and a refusal would offend...
Comic Relief 1997 - BallyKissDibley: Father Peter Clifford from Ballykissangel visits Dibley on an exchange programme.
Comic Relief 1999: Johnny Depp is in Dibley, shooting his latest film. Geraldine can't resist hosting a party for all his celebrity friends, however a power cut means she can't actually see any of the guests. David thinks the whole thing was a joke, until the Duchess of York nips back...
The Joke at the End
At the end of every episode, after the credits, we see Geraldine and Alice sat around a table, and Geraldine will tell Alice a joke which Alice will always fail to understand. Not only are the jokes funny, but Alice's confusion as she tries to understand is hilarious. One such joke goes 'What do you get if you eat too many Christmas Decorations? Tinsilitis!' at which Alice goes into a rant about the poor, neglected victims of tinsilitis, imagining them with bits of bauble hanging out of their mouths...