Beloved sitcom ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ returning for lockdown-themed Christmas specials

The popular British sitcom The Vicar of Dibley will be returning to our screens for a miniseries of Christmas specials, with actor and comedian Dawn French reprising her role as everyone’s favourite priest Geraldine Granger. 

The miniseries, titled The Vicar of Dibley in Lockdown, will be made up of three ten-minute episodes in which Geraldine attempts to deliver sermons to her parishioners through Zoom meetings. These will follow repeat screenings of episodes from the original show, and a 30-minute compilation of all three segments will be aired at a later date prior to Christmas. The first episode will be shown on BBC1, at 8:50 pm on the 7th of December.

Features of the specials will include Geraldine trying to explain social distancing to her parishioners, as well as explaining “important topics” to primary school children. For example, letting Dibley parish council member Owen Newitt (played in the original show by Roger Lloyd Pack) cut their hair would apparently be a very bad idea. Alongside French, meanwhile, actor James Fleet will be reprising his role of the intellectually slow but kind-hearted Hugo Horton. Fans of the show, however, are likely to sorely miss other notable characters. These include the aforementioned Owen, with Roger Lloyd Pack having died from pancreatic cancer in 2014. Additionally, actors Emma Chambers and John Bluthal, best known to longtime viewers as Alice Tinker and Frank Pickle, both passed away in 2018. 

James Fleet and Dawn French in ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ 2020

The original Vicar of Dibley show first aired in 1994, in the wake of recent reforms in the Church of England that allowed women to become priests. Despite only running for two full series between 1994 and 1998, as well as ten specials, the show placed third in the polls for the BBC’s media campaign Britain’s Best Sitcom. It also has some of the most successful ratings of any “digital era” British show and has three British Comedy Awards, two International Emmys, and multiple BAFTA TV nominations to its name.

Between 1997 and 2015 the show has also seen six short charity specials, three of which were made for Comic Relief. Dawn French also appeared in April on The Big Night In, a BBC telethon made in collaboration between Comic Relief and Children in Need to support those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. In September she and several other female thespians, including singer Beverley Knight, staged a two-minute silence outside London’s Lyric Theatre to protest ongoing lockdown restrictions that have left many in the theatre sector without a stable source of income.

French has reportedly stated that she “couldn’t be happier” to reprise her beloved signature role. The BBC’s controller for comedy commissioning, meanwhile, said that the miniseries would be a “triple festive treat” and “the warm comedy hug we’ve all missed”.

In a year that has ben full of nasty surprises, I for one am glad that the BBC are bringing some nostalgia and comfort back to their broadcasting schedule.

Words by Emma Curzon

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