'Vicar of Dibley' lockdown special divides opinion with tribute to departed stars

Albertina Lloyd
·Entertainment reporter, Yahoo UK
·4-min read

Watch: How The Vicar of Dibley chose to pay tribute to past characters

The Vicar Of Dibley fans were divided by the sitcom lockdown special’s tribute to characters who have passed away.

Dawn French returned as Geraldine Granger in a new 10-minute episode on Monday evening, and as the vicar addressed her parishioners over Zoom she was heard shouting off camera at Frank Pickle to “Go away Frank, you incredibly annoying old git!” after he interrupted her sermon.

Pickle was played by John Bluthal, who died in November 2018 at the age of 89.

Geraldine also read out a letter from farmer Owen Newitt, played by Roger Lloyd-Pack who died at the age of 69 in 2014.

James Fleet and Dawn French are bringing back their 'Vicar of Dibley' characters. (BBC/Tiger Aspect Productions Ltd/Des Willie)
James Fleet and Dawn French revived their characters from The Vicar of Dibley in the new special. (BBC)

Some fans of the sitcom – which came to an end in 1998 – were disturbed by the reference to these characters as if they were still alive.

One viewer tweeted: “#vicarofdibley should have been left in the past. These ten mins come over more as a religious broadcast than comedy. Referencing characters whose actors have passed away is weird too. 3 our of 10 [sic].”

Read more: Dawn French filmed eulogy for Emma Chambers in Vicar Of Dibley Christmas special

Another commented: “I am more annoyed with the #VicarOfDibley for pretending certain characters are still alive than any political protest. It could have been a beautifully poignant moment to pay tribute to the loss of the actors who played Alice, Frank and Owen.”

Another wrote: “It's so weird seeing this #vicarofdibley thing given how much of the cast is dead, the show was the cast not just the vicar. Shouting at dead Frank is just odd....”

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However other viewers very much enjoyed the revival of the hit comedy and the inclusion of all their favourite characters, and felt it a fitting tribute.

Jamie Bevan tweeted: “Nice to see Geraldine back tonight. Also sweet the characters of Frank and Owen are still about keeping the memory alive. Hugo was daft as always. #vicarofdibley.”

(Emma and Dawn appearing in The Vicar of Dibley. (BBC)
Emma and Dawn appearing in The Vicar of Dibley. (BBC)

PaulyD22 wrote: “I think including the dearly departed, in their individual jokes and moments was a light comical nod to their memory, well played indeed #vicarofdibley.”

And a_Troglodist posted: “This lockdown episode of #vicarofdibley is perfect. We should feel gratitude too for the dearly departed friends of this really warm & wonderful programme.”

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French had previously revealed the reboot would include a tribute to its past stars.

Dustin Hoffman wanted to direct The Vicar of Dibley, but ex-BBC Head of Comedy turned him down
John Bluthal, who played Frank Pickle, died in 2018. (BBC)

French, 63, revealed on The One Show: “There are silly jokes, but we also pay a tribute to those who aren’t with us anymore, so you know, Dibley has always been able to wrap its arms around the truth as well as being silly and funny.”

Read more: The Vicar Of Dibley Christmas special a tribute to those no longer with us

Other original Vicar Of Dibley cast members who are Emma Chambers, who played verger Alice Tinker in the sitcom and tragically died aged 53 from a sudden heart attack in 2018.

Letitia Cropley actor Liz Smith, whose character died in the 1996 Easter special, passed away in 2016 aged 96.

Watch: Dawn French admits it was tough filming an emotional tribute to Vicar Of Dibley's Alice Tinker