Friday, September 3, 2010

A Summer Drought for The Vicar of Dibley

Summer TX: 1/1/2000

Is there ever a series that you really like and rarely ever get around to watch it? I think I can place The Vicar of Dibley into this category. The series started in 1994 and it is about Geraldine Grainger who, as a vicar, is placed in a parish in the small village of Dibley. When the series started, it was a pretty big deal in the town of Dibley for a woman vicar. Dibley Chairman of the PCC, David Horton couldn’t believe their new vicar could be a woman. In real life, the struggle was getting much bigger with male priests threatening to leave the church if woman were allowed in.

In a very appropriate timing sort of fashion, this week’s episode is called Summer. This works out real well as Summer is just about over and this seemed to be as good of time as any to view this episode. It is summer and Dibley is in a drought. Worse yet there is a water ban. Weeks go by where no one can use any water or do any bathing. Everyone is pretty ripe by this stage. After fierce complaining to the water board, a representative shows up to give an update on a new plan. This plan simply consists of Dibley which is deep in the valley to be completely flooded and thus being turned into a reservoir for the other nearby villages. Needless to say this idea does not go well and they protest. The way the water board explains that the plans have been on display for a long time is very reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ writing for The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A lot of the villagers stand to get a lot of money for the buyout of their land by the water board. David Horton stands to get about £4 million. People like Frank and Jim who do not own their own property would get nothing. Although they all seem happy about the move out of Dibley at first, they in fact our not and decide to fight. Geraldine decides the only action to take is to chain herself to the church. Soon, the other board members do the same. Eventually, the Water Board changed their mind and decided not to turn Dibley into a reservoir and the board decides to erect a statue of Geraldine. Well, not Geraldine the Vicar but Geraldine the infant daughter to Alice and Hugo.

Like I said, I rarely watch this show although whenever I see it or put in a disc, I love it though there are still a lot of episode I have not seen. This is one of them. If I hadn’t known better, this could have passed as a final episode. Not so much a happy ending but a sort of Little House on the Prairie type ending where everyone needed to save Walnut Grove but once they realized they could not fight it, they blew up Walnut Grove. Of course, I knew that wasn’t going to happen but there was something very final about the early part of the episode where they all had to come together to save their village.
Now, I am confused about one thing. This grouping of episodes that have titles of the seasons, is it a series (which would make it Series 3) or are they specials? I have seen this differently in a few places. My DVD collection is The Ultimate Vicar of Dibley Collection (Universal, 8253202) which has these episodes on the Disc 4. Disc 3 is listed as The Complete Second Series but Disc 4 is titled as The Seasonal Specials. BBC programs, which sells the series to PBS stations lists this as Series 3 which also makes sense since it is a grouping of four episodes. I suppose it really doesn’t matter and since the episodes aired on BBC1 within days of each other, Series 3 may be the best description.

The episode itself is quite funny though I don’t think I would rate it among the best offering from the series. The solution to chain themselves up to the church really didn’t seem all that interesting to me though there is a great moment when the vicar is presiding over a service while the congregation is in the church and Geraldine is chained up to the outside of the church. It is even funnier when they all have to leave after the service and the only way out is for all of them to crawl underneath her, through her legs to get through. The thing that makes The Vicar of Dibley so special is the characters in the village. Each one of them is basically stupid, with the exception of David. These people could easily be annoying or disgustingly creepy but the actors who portray these characters make them very loveable. I think Owen is the greatest evidence of this. He comes from a family of murderers, he mutilates animals, there are hints of bestiality but he is a warm character. I applaud Roger Lloyd-Pack who plays Owen because it just goes to show what a great actor Roger really is in that role. It also shows how versatile he between roles like Owen and when he plays Trigger in Only Fools and Horses.
Speaking of Owen brings up an interesting point. It is easy to get trapped into thinking this is a feel good series about a woman who is a vicar. If someone is not knowledgeable about the subject, they could think this could be categorized along the lines of Touched By an Angel or Highway to Heaven. No, no no. Folks, this is British comedy! Just that fact alone means that it will not be categorized along the lines of Touched By an Angel or Highway to Heaven. There is going to be a twist to it. It is going to take the subject and make it real and put some real humor to it. There is a great tradition of Clergy-type comedies to show how real these people can be, including faults. I love series like Bless Me Father, All Gas & Gaiters, and of course, Father Ted. Sometimes the people playing priests are not very bright, or they gamble and drink. Geraldine likes men and she loves to have a laugh. She also stays true to her faith though she may have unconventional ways to preach the faith to others. Geraldine may be unconventional but she is incredibly kind.
Under the sugar-coated top layer of being misled into thinking this is a kind-warm fuzzy feeling program, there is the darker side to The Vicar of Dibley. Not counting the above paragraph about Owen, there are more nods towards bestiality, sex among pensioners with hookers and other people, incest, and general rudeness. It sounds like a list of horrible, horrible crimes but it works really well as a very funny and odd comedy.
I also took some time to look at The Story of Dibley. It’s one in a series of programs about the background and making of some of the BBC’s greatest programs. It was very good and gave some solid background on what was going on in world at the time in regards to women wanting to be priests. It was very enjoyable and although it was not about the making of the final episode, The Vicar in White, it was made during the making of that episode and aired after the series had ended.
Next week: We are in September and what I like to do in September is automatically watch the first episode of anything I pick. I will be watching All Creatures Great & SmallHorse Sense. The first episode of one of the greatest TV series ever made. I cannot wait.

1 comment:

Michael Fett said...

It is funny as much as mom does not like British Comedy this is one of the few DVDs she took from my collection. I always found it odd. She looks at this series as the perfect thing to watch during the Christmas season.