Leading Ladies of British Comedy

The Vicar of Dibley – Reverend Geraldine Granger is assigned to the small Oxfordshire village of Dibley, its first female vicar following the Church of England’s quite tardy change of heart regarding the ordination of women.

Offering spiritual guidance to the tiny town’s cast of oddballs, the vicar negotiates her way around and through entrenched expectations, power hungry frogs-in-a-small-pond, and just plain cluelessness.

Played by Dawn French, half of the well-known comedy team of French & Saunders, each episode ends with the vicar telling a joke to her not-very-bright assistant Alice, played by Emma Chambers, who in her struggle to get the joke tends to take it literally in ways that are much funnier than the joke itself.

Absolutely Fabulous – Ok, if you haven’t heard of Ab Fab then you need to get out from under your rock more often. Starring Jennifer Saunders, the other half of the French & Saunders comedy duo, and a hard-edged, chain-smoking Joanna Lumley, the series follow Eddy and Patsy, two career women and former London “Mods”, as they spar with society’s expectations and their own slide into “that certain age” category with biting wit and cynical swipes.

No other Britcom did so much to elevate female comedians and writers as this show, in my opinion. Absolutely Fabulous is an absolute classic.

Keeping Up Appearances – Ok, I admit it, this is by far and away my favorite Britcom EVER. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced ‘Boo-kay’) is a social climber of the most annoying kind. Overbearing, obstinate, and rather obtuse, Hyacinth is all about candle-lit suppers, riparian entertainments, and ensuring any delivery vehicle in front of her home has the Royal seal of approval clearly able to be seen by her neighbors.

Flanked by her patient and long-suffering husband Richard, and obviously lower-class sisters Daisy and Rose (with generous mention of a fourth flower-themed, and rich, sister Violet, whom we see only once in the series) Hyacinth bulldozes her way through polite society in a quest to protect and enhance her self-proclaimed high-society credibility. In nearly every episode she receives a phone call from her son Sheridan, whom we never see, and who is always calling to ask for money.

Played by the incomparable Patricia Routledge, the character Hyacinth is at once exasperating and naively endearing.

As Time Goes By – This is one of those quiet comedies. Understated and comfortable, it follows the rekindled relationship between two former lovers, Lionel and Jean, played by Geoffrey Palmer and the great Dame Judy Dench, who hadn’t seen each other in over 40 years after Lionel had been posted to Korea and each had assumed the other had lost interest.

Navigating this new relationship, the show works through the mis-steps and mis-cues that go with being fully-formed people with full former histories that value their individuality while creating a new partnership between them. As a member of that “certain age” group, the writer’s do a wonderful job, and Dame Judy is just, well, the incredible Dame Judy.

A nice cup of tea or cocoa, a warm fire in the fireplace, and maybe a cat on the lap would go well with this show.

Looking for something a tad different? SPL has you covered with an excellent collection of British television.

     ~ Posted by Jay F.

3 thoughts on “Leading Ladies of British Comedy”

  1. I love Keeping up Appearances, and the Vicar of Dibley! I was lucky enough to discover them both a couple years ago while watching British panel shows on YouTube (WILTY, 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown) and ended up having to get BritBox TV to continue watching Father Brown once Netflix stopped showing it. Great post!

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