Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Vicar of Dibley, The (1994-2007)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Vicar of Dibley, The (1994-2007)
BBC, tx. 10/11/1994 - 1/1/2007
3 series of 13 x 30-40 min episodes total, plus 7 40-45 min specials, colour
Created byRichard Curtis
Production CompanyTiger Aspect
ProducersJon Plowman, Sue Vertue, Margot Gavan Duffy, Sophie Clarke-Jervoise
WritersRichard Curtis, Paul Mayhew-Archer

Cast: Dawn French (Geraldine Granger); Gary Waldhorn (David Horton); James Fleet (Hugo Horton); Emma Chambers (Alice Tinker); John Bluthal (Frank Pickle); Trevor Peacock (Jim Trott); Roger Lloyd Pack (Owen Newitt); Liz Smith (Letitia Cropley)

Show full cast and credits

A female vicar takes up a job in an eccentric rural community.

Show full synopsis

The Vicar of Dibley was originally conceived in the early 1990s, before the Anglican church had lifted its ban on female vicars, when Richard Curtis wrote an early version called 'The New Vicar'. An inspiration was the Reverend Joy Carroll, one of the first female vicars ordained in Britain, with whom Curtis and Dawn French consulted while developing the character of Geraldine.

Alongside Geraldine was an ensemble of mad villagers: the spectacularly dim verger Alice; her love interest, the equally dense Hugo, son of local millionaire David Horton; pedantic parish clerk Frank; coarse farmer Owen; elderly Jim, whose verbal tic provided the show's only catchphrase; and church flower arranger Mrs Cropley, renowned for her grotesque cookery.

Curtis's political agenda was overtly liberal in intention, at a time when the issue of women vicars was still somewhat topical. In the first episode, Dibley is dumbstruck at finding the new vicar is a woman, and the response of David, in particular, represents those Christians who most vociferously opposed female clergy; his description of the situation as "heresy" and "an insane joke" almost convinces the villagers to drive Geraldine out of the parish.

Later in the series, the humour arose less from the female vicar element than from the interplay between Geraldine and the peculiar locals, but the madness of Dibley's villagers was innocuous and reassuring, in stark opposition to the sinister eccentricity of The League of Gentlemen's (BBC 1999-) Royston Vasey.

Although the series' brand of comedy was undeniably mainstream and undemanding, French's characterisation of Geraldine as sexy, outspoken and modern was a genuine innovation from earlier comic depictions of the clergy. Curtis's prior forays into ecclesiastical comedy - most notably the vicar sketches with Rowan Atkinson in Not The Nine O'Clock News (BBC 1979-82) - tended to be more direct and less gentle in their satire than earlier examples like Bless Me Father (ITV, 1978-1981), All Gas and Gaiters (BBC 1967-71) and Oh Brother! (BBC, 1968-70). Geraldine, however, escapes all but the mildest censure.

Dibley has been accused of blandness - particularly by comparison with the spikier, more surreal Father Ted (Channel 4, 1995-98) - and of wasting Curtis and French, whose roots lay in alternative comedy. Nevertheless, repeats over the years have proved it to be an enduringly popular entry in the BBC sitcom canon.

Hannah Hamad

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. The ancient curse of the rabbit (2:35)
2. John Inman (2:12)
3. Watership Down (2:10)
Complete episode: 'The Easter Bunny' (38:26)
Curtis, Richard (1956-)
French, Dawn (1957-)
Smith, Liz (1921-)