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    The Vicar of Dibley - The Complete First Series

    BBC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 174 mins . PG . NTSC


    It’s hard to believe this show began in 1994. What’s harder to believe is it’s still as funny as it ever has been. The Vicar of Dibley set a bit of a benchmark upon its original release with mainstream humour finally getting to the roots of religion.

    The series begins with a bunch of unusual country folk farewelling their long-time compatriot in Reverend Pottle, the 102 year-old local priest who dies mid service. Then, adding a modern slant to this seemingly familiar English backdrop, comes modern hip chick Geraldine Granger as the town’s new vicar. Just graduated from Vicar School, Gerry finds the eclectic collection of weird townspeople (possessing all the whimsy of country folk) are at first taken aback by this modern update to their peaceful rural existence. Most opposition is found in local councillor David Horton, a man who has had his way over the townspeople for far too long. Gerry soon wins the hearts of the locals, however, and a long-standing battle of wills with Horton begins in earnest.

    "...a babe with a bob and a magnificent bosom!"

    With a wonderful assortment of loopy characters surrounding her at every parish council meeting, Gerry soon falls in love with the humble town and sets about injecting her own unique style into the sleepy village. This collection of oddballs about her both challenge and bemuse as she begins to fit in to her new surroundings; Gerry’s slow-witted yet loveably hopeless verger Alice is secretly in love with painfully shy Hugo, the only son of the self-righteous David Horton. There’s a crude old lady who experiments with bizarre food combinations, a backwards talking old geezer, a boring trainspotter and a coarse farmer with varying bodily ailments to help fill out this perfectly cast... erm, cast. All players bring the roles to rurally-accurate life, and these characters all manage to find new strengths in themselves the longer Gerry is vicar. However, David Horton is intent on getting rid of her and regaining control of the town that is slowly waking up to him and his selfish ways.

    It’s all at once a charming series, with a sweet outlook on love and faith, with some good old British sexual innuendo thrown in for good measure. The ribald attitudes of Gerry (among other modern niceties) are in direct opposition to her devotion to Christianity and her parish, yet she manages to find time to be both a modern woman and a traditional vicar. Blending the two themes was a stroke of genius and one that developed a strong audience among the BBC in England and here on the ABC. Viewers were charmed by this loveable show that was instantly different from anything that had come before and its popularity gained it two more seasons for a total of 16 episodes, three of which were specials. (At last notice, the BBC have cancelled any further episodes of the show).

    Fans will be pleased to know that the entire first series is presented here (all on one disc, thank you very much) and naturally includes all six episodes. These run as follows:

    • Arrival
    • Songs of Praise
    • Community Spirit
    • The Window and the Weather
    • Election
    • Animals

    This is truly a special show and one that cleverly blends humour, sadness, faith, devotion, weirdness, silliness and some of life’s more interesting provocations to excellent effect.


    The case warns (in teensy tiny little writing) that the DVD will play in all Australian players, but your TV must have NTSC capability. Handy. What’s more, I played this for ten minutes in PAL before I remembered and was disappointed in the picture quality. Switching over to NTSC it was only marginally better. The opening titles on each episode are taped-off-a-tape grainy and very soft edged. The show improves, but it isn’t the clearest picture I’ve ever seen. The colours are okay, if a little blotchy at times with flesh tones being generally alright. Blacks are true, yet shadows ruthlessly retain their details. Also, the vision is in the made-for-TV format of 4:3 of course, and the edges do get a bit soft on sporadic occasions.


    Perfectly adequate audio here in the Dolby Digital stereo delivery. There aren’t any major flaws and dialogue is well understood and clear. Sound effects, whilst used sparingly, are all suitable to the task and there are only rare instances of stock use. Musically the show relies on its moderately whimsical soundtrack with occasional bouts of choral singing. These all come out just fine and are resonant enough for the purposes here.


    Not a single ecclesiastical extra! Not even subtitles! It is rumoured to contain the Christmas special: ‘The Christmas Lunch Incident’, but I turned the disc inside out and I couldn’t find it.


    Regardless of its picture woes and elitist TV preferences, this is still a good one for the fans. Some perfectly delivered humour with an unusual bent that is still entirely watchable for upwards of the fifth or sixth time. Heartfelt performances and some sweet storylines show that there can be more lasting comic drama than toilet gags or topical sketch comedy and the (albeit sporadic) continuation of this series is more than a testament to that.

    This is definitely a great disc you can play for your parents when they visit without cringing at rude words or porno scenes, but unfortunately it's let down by no supporting extras. However, the weight of the show’s enduring laughs will no doubt be strong enough to hold up the disc. Dawn French is her ever-hilarious self, playing the role of Gerry to the ground, replete with her myriad human foibles and feelings. Simple comedy with simple characters doesn’t get much better than this, with some genuine human emotion smattered about as well. A modern classic.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3157
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      And I quote...
    "Classic British comedy with this complete first season, but sadly delivered in grungy old NTSC."
    - Jules Faber
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    • Video Cables:
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