Dawn French just kicked off this year’s festive TV with the first of three The Vicar Of Dibley special episodes. Here’s why the vicar of the moment, Geraldine Granger, is the hero we all need to wind down 2020 with.
Geraldine Granger was a bit of a family friend when I was a kid. To mark her weekly appearances as The Vicar Of Dibley on our telly, my mum would make a special tea of triangle sandwiches, crisps and cake, then let my brothers and me stay up to watch it while curled up on the sofa together.
Geraldine – created by Richard Curtis and played to perfection by Dawn French – was the progressive, kind, smart, Mel Gibson-obsessed and very, very funny vicar who caused a stir among her new parish when she arrived in the sleepy town of Dibley. But she quickly won over the hearts of everybody, including us watching at home. Because, ultimately, she was a great vicar, a wonderful person and a fantastic friend we all want in our lives.
Sure, there were a lot of “grown up” jokes and innuendos that flew over my head as a youngster. But each show was also full of pure and simple comedy moments that I suspect made families around the country burst out into laughter together: Geraldine jumping into a human-sized puddle on a romantic walk, Geraldine stuffing yet another Brussels sprout into her gob at her third Christmas dinner of the day, and her best friend Alice Tinker getting married with the Teletubbies for bridesmaids.
But, along with the funny stuff, there were always valuable life lessons to learn from the vicar about love, forgiveness, community, friendship and everything else in between. And with Geraldine always confidently overcoming the fact that she was a woman in a heavily male-dominated profession, she was the unexpected feminist figure we didn’t know we needed.
That’s why I, along with so many other Netflix subscribers, turned to old episodes of the Vicar Of Dibley again during lockdown. She reminded me of home, of my family, and of how laughter can help make us feel hopeful.
It was an added bonus when she returned to our screens for a lockdown special on the BBC’s Big Night In. These one-off sketches of our favourite old series are very much hit or miss, but it was a total nostalgic delight to see Geraldine trying to figure out Zoom and working her way through her Easter egg stash.
So when it was later announced that The Vicar Of Dibley would be returning for three more special episodes in December, it was clear they had to be added to the Christmas 2020 TV guide.
The first episode aired on BBC One tonight (7 December) and, although it could never be quite the same as those original episodes, it still delivered on providing some treasured nostalgia, familiar faces and comforting laughs.
It sees Geraldine (“your buxom ‘vicarette’”) giving the village a video update on the Dibley website. Thanks to patchy wifi, she accidentally tells the parish that “this is the end of the world” and “you are inevitably going to catch this virus and die”. We also get an insight into the vicar’s daily exercise regime (which you will laugh out loud at).
In another video, Geraldine prematurely ends a Zoom call with a class of inquisitive school pupils who ask tricky questions about the Bible. And she catches up with Hugo Horton who is hiding in the toilet while in lockdown with his overbearing dad Frank. Hugo’s wife Alice – played by Emma Chambers, who sadly died in 2018 – is noticeably absent, but the BBC has promised that her presence will be felt in the other two episodes.
Geraldine’s parting message? “I’ve discovered that the time it takes to wash my hands properly is precisely the time it takes for a Ferrero Rocher to disintegrate on your tongue if you don’t chew…”
That’s exactly the kind of guidance we go to this vicar for.
You can catch up with The Vicar Of Dibley in Lockdown on BBC iPlayer. Episode two will air on Monday 14th December at 8:50 pm on BBC One.
Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…