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Vicar of Dibley - The Specials
After a successful first series, The Vicar of Dibley marked the time before Series Two by treating fans to a couple of specials, one broadcast at Easter; the other at Christmas. Unlike so many "specials", The two episodes - The Christmas Lunch Incident and The Easter Bunny - manage to uphold the uphold the high quality of the first series.
In The Easter Bunny, each of the villagers faces a personal challenge when they agree to give something up for Lent, on pain of paying a fine if they fail. Can Geraldine possibly survive six weeks without chocolate? Meanwhile, she comes up against another quirky Dibley tradition - each Easter, an unknown villager dresses up as the Easter Bunny to deliver chocolate eggs to every house on Easter Sunday.
The Christmas Lunch Incident, meanwhile, sees Geraldine suffer as a result of her own kind nature. Not wanting to leave any of her parishioners on their own at Christmas, she accepts not one, not two, but three invitations to Christmas lunch. Better get some Alka Seltzer in!
Like many specials, these are slightly longer than a standard episode with a run time of around 40-45 minutes. This can sometimes be a problem for Specials, leaving them feeling stretched (like a single episode just spread over a longer time) or a little disjointed (like two episodes have been artificially bolted together.
Neither of these problems are apparent in either of these two. Both episodes feel perfectly paced; both offer just as many laughs as a standard episode and feature a coherent (if slightly bonkers) storyline. The extra time has been used to good effect, building in even more ridiculous banter and arguments between the main characters that will leave you wanting even more. The Easter Bunny episode even manages a shock (very rare in comedies) that is both tragic and funny. The ending of The Christmas Lunch Incident loses its way ever so slightly, introducing a new plot element that does feel a little bolted on, but it just about gets away with it.
Much of this is down to the excellent cast. For a new sitcom, the cast appear to have settled into their roles very quickly. It's not so much that the characters they play are anything special (they are little more than thinly veiled stereotypes representing people's innate prejudices about vicars or country dwellers), it's more the way their respective actors play them. It's clear the cast are having the time of their lives, relishing the chance to play these wonderful, rather barmy characters.
They all demonstrate a fantastic sense of comedy timing. Goodness knows how much rehearsal time went into getting these episodes right, but it all feels so natural. It's impossible to spot a weak performance amongst the principle cast and all are given their chance to shine. If you've watched series one, you know what's coming from each of the characters (Owen's swearing, Jim Trott's "no-no-no-no-no", Mrs Cropley's horrific recipe combinations), but this doesn't make it any less funny. In fact, if anything it makes it funnier, since the anticipation is greater. You know what's coming and can't wait to hear each characters' signature punchline.
There's also more fantastic interplay between them all and the ridiculousness of some of their banter and bickering is charming, surreal and highly amusing - often all at the same time. In some ways, The Vicar of Dibley shouldn't work - it should come across as so completely stupid and unrealistic. Yet because of some excellent writing and even better acting, it manages to rise above any such criticism.
The secret lies in the fact that the comedy is shared out. Dawn French might be the purported star, but the programme would be nothing without the other characters, and they contribute massively to its success. Even where the focus of a particular scene or episode is on a particular character, they all get a fair share of the laughs. Whether it's jokes about the church, rural life or simply shrewd (but funny) observations on human nature, the script rarely misses its mark. In fact if you don't laugh out loud several times during these episodes, you might want to check yourself for a pulse because it's entirely possible you could be dead. Religion has never been so much fun!
Looking back on the series, there are a couple of jokes which mis-fire. This is not necessarily because they are not funny, but because they rely on events topical at the time the episodes were first broadcast (John Major as Prime Minister, OJ Simpson's trial etc.). If you remember the incidents or personalities in question, the jokes are still strong enough to raise a smile; if you don't, they will completely pass you by. Thankfully, this type of topical/political humour is limited, so the humour is, for the most part, pretty timeless.
There is one real annoyance which is nothing to do with the actual series itself. And that's that that stupid, idiotic, brainless morons who put this package together... PUT THE EPISODES THE WRONG WAY ROUND. For goodness' sake, there's only two episodes - how hard can it be to get them in the right order?
Well apparently very: because on the box, the DVD and the menu screen, The Christmas Lunch Incident (which was broadcast second) is listed before The Easter Bunny, which was broadcast first. Now, you might wonder why on earth I'm getting so het up about all of this. After all, I've already said that these are standalone episodes. Well yes: except The Easter Bunny contains a fairly significant development (and quite a major shock) which is referred to in The Christmas Lunch Incident. So, if you watch them in the order the DVD suggests, this surprise is rather robbed of some of its power. Muppets.
Amazon are selling this for new for about £12 or second hand for a few quid. Better still, though, buy The Ultimate Collection which gives you every episode ever made (specials and all) in a set for £15. It's well worth the money
© Copyright SWSt 2012
The Vicar of Dibley is one of my most favourite sitcoms. This is probably due to the fact that this show was being aired whilst I was young and continued to be aired as I grew up. The programme centres on a small Oxfordshire village called Dibley. After the death of their Vicar, which occurs in episode one, the village are assigned a female Vicar, Geraldine Granger, and this is were all the fun begins.
Upon her arrival Geraldine is met with a certain amount of hostility in the form of Councillor David Horton who is also the chairman of the Parish council. Despite his opinions however the rest of the village, especially the somewhat dozy Verger Alice Tinker, warm to her. This is integral to the coming storylines of show as all the characters play equally important roles in them and it is often their relationships with one another that generate the laughs rather than the actual content of the episode(s) in question.
The Vicar of Dibley Specials DVD contains two episodes: 'The Christmas Lunch Incident' and 'The Easter Bunny'. Both of the episodes are of a fantastic standard and tell another highly amusing tale. Due to the nature of the programme each episode can be watched as a stand-alone piece of comedy but as with most programmes they work much better when viewed in the original order.
A comment about the order in which you view these episodes is therefore important, as the order in which they appear on the DVD is for some reason wrong as 'The Easter Bunny' episode comes before 'The Christmas Lunch Incident'. This may seem like a minor point but for these two episodes in particular it is quite important that you watch them in the correct order.
In 'The Easter Bunny' the villagers of Dibley are eagerly awaiting the traditional appearance of the Dibley Easter Bunny. Everyone in the village, except Alice, is aware that the Easter Bunny is simply one of them dressed up, but who is behind this annual chocolate visit? Geraldine is eager to find out who but due to the fantastic sense of humour of one Dibley local it looks like she won't be the only one to find out.
'The Christmas Lunch Incident' is a fantastic episode in my opinion and makes me chuckle every time I watch it. In this episode Geraldine's plans for a quiet Christmas at home are thwarted by the mass of Christmas Lunch incidents that keep falling at her feet. But being the Vicar she feels she must treat all her parishioners equally and therefore must subject herself to an incomparable amount of turkey and more Christmas puddings than your or I could count.
Both of the episodes contained on this DVD begin with a small comical event that is often animal related. After the last credits have rolled viewers are also in for another treat as Geraldine tries, although frequently fails, to tell Alice a joke. The jokes themselves aren't exactly the most witty you have ever heard but this is simply were the humour lies, as poor Alice never quite seems to understand them and so the main bulk of the humour comes from Geraldine having to painstakingly explain the logic behind them.
In total the two episodes take up 1hr 22mins. The DVD itself unfortunately contains no special feature and subtitles are not available. This however is not important because the programme itself is so fantastic that you'll find yourself eagerly wanting to move onto future series that special features would more than likely be pushed to the wayside anyway.
The series can readily be purchased online. Its RRP is around the £10 mark, but it is well worth shopping around, as the entire box set can often be bought for not much more than this price.