TV Review: Vicar Of Dibley In Lockdown, BBC One

Review: Vicar Of Dibley In Lockdown, BBC One

Well that escalated. A few weeks ago writer Richard Curtis and star Dawn French must have thought that wouldn't it be delightful, not to say timely, if the Vicar of Dibley returned for three lockdown specials in the run-up to Christmas. Give the nation something uncontroversial to smile about in these difficult times. Pretty harmless fun, surely.

Then just before the first episode ran two stories were covered in the press. Firstly that the BBC was getting political by featuring lady vicar Geraldine Granger supporting Black Lives Matter, an idea which hardly seemed edgy to me. And then former UKIP leader Gerard Batten posted a picture of Granger on Twitter and said: "Dawn French, the BBC’s Vicar of Dibley wears an upside down cross. This is a symbol of Satanism. This isn’t a prop depart mistake. This is what we are forced to pay the License Fee for. DEFUND the BBC!". No comment from me...

But the BLM scene, which I gather is only a small element of an episode anyway, is not in the first episode, and that's the one I'm reviewing here, which features Geraldine Granger speaking to her flock online. This is classic Curtis whimsy territory. Granger asking people to be niceto each other, smart cute kids on Zoom asking questions – "did he saw a woman in half? Penn & Teller saw a woman in half" – and catching her out. The mood is very much about good-natured fun and coping in a crisis.

It's just a shame that some of the gags feel a little bit dated. Like half the country Granger has a bad lockdown haircut disaster, for example. And her wifi signal isn't great, turning her into a stuttering dog-collared Max Headroom at times. But then she lives in the countryside, it would surely be sacrilege if she did have superfast broadband.

Her opening sermon is about being gentle and kind and the programme is suitably cosy. Some bits don't quite work. The Covid diary format means that much of this opener is set around Easter, which feels a bit strange for something that was flagged up as a Christmas special. Nice to see Hugo (James Fleet) pop up briefly. Shame more of the cast aren't involved. But in the words of Geraldine Granger, "let's all be forgiving."

Maybe not groundbreaking then, and not as good at this year's stand-out lockdown comedy, Staged, with Michael Sheen and David Tennant, which showed the possibilities of the limited format. But hardly so bad that it would make any reasonable person want to defund the BBC. It'll be worth sticking with it over the coming weeks, however, just to see how the BBC fights the latest culture war skirmish it has prompted.

Pictured: Hugo Horton (JAMES FLEET), The Reverend Geraldine Granger (DAWN FRENCH)

The Vicar of Dibley in Lockdown, Episode One, Monday, December 7, 8.50pm, BBC One, then on iPlayer.

Picture: BBC/Tiger Aspect

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