18 November 2020 12:30

Dawn French as Geraldine Grainger in Vicar of Dibley during the BBC's Big Night In earlier this year.

The Vicar of Dibley is often considered one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. became a staple on our TV screens as the beloved residents of Dibley and the show remains popular to this day, with the BBC even confirming that the show will be returning with three more episodes over Christmas! Over the years, many stars appeared in the comedy such as James Fleet and Emma Chambers, and of course Dawn as Geraldine Granger. However, since the show aired its last special in 2007, a number of the much-loved castmates have sadly passed away. Emma Chambers played Alice Tinker (later Alice Horton) who was the Verger in the church alongside Geraldine.

Alice was known for her lovable but slightly dim nature who went on to marry fellow Dibley resident Hugo (played by James Fleet). Throughout her acting career, Emma also appeared in Notting Hill, Drop the Dead Donkey and How Do You Want me. Sadly, in February 2018, Emma suffered a heart attack and passed away aged 53. Her co-star and close friend Dawn French paid tribute to the actress. Playing the role of Owen Newitt was Roger Lloyd-Pack.

Roger become well-known and loved for his role as Owen; however, earlier on his career he had already made a name for himself playing the role of Trigger in other much-loved sitcom Only Fools and Horses. In February 2014, Roger sadly died from pancreatic cancer aged 69. His funeral was held at St. Pauls, Convent Garden and was attended by plenty of well-known TV stars who knew and worked with the actor over the years including Sir David Jason, Nicholas Lyndhurst and Nigel Havers. John Bluthal played the role of loveable Frank Pickle in the comedy, but the actor was established in his acting career before appearing in the show. On 16 November 2018, his agent confirmed that the actor had passed away from natural causes aged 89 in Australia.

Dawn remembered her co-star after his sad death, writing on Twitter: "Tons of happy laughs remembered today. Liz Smith, born Betty Gleadle, played Letitia Cropley in the sitcom. As well as the Vicar of Dibley, the actress was equally as well known for playing Norma Speakman (Nana) in The Royle Family from 1998 until 2000. Prior to her time on these two shows, she had appeared in the film A Private Function, for which she won a BAFTA for her supporting role, and 2point4 Children. We've got a bit of a thing for comedian, writer and actor Dawn French right now. And we'll all be tuning into her new wholesome Sky film, Roald & Beatrix: The Tail Of The Curious Mouse, which will see French stepping into the shoes of beloved children's author Beatrix Potter. The star has now just given us another reason to love her this year, with the news that she's bringing back 90s TV classic, Vicar of Dibley. You may also like Dawn French will play beloved author Beatrix Potter in this Christmas film Anyone who grew up in the 90s will of course remember the BBC comedy drama, which follows the story of a female vicar who upturns a sleepy Oxfordshire village with her laugh-out-loud humour and progressive thinking. Earlier this year, French briefly reprised her role as the vicar, Geraldine Grainger, as part of the Big Night In fundraiser during the first lockdown. The success of this has inspired the show's creator, Richard Curtis, to produce three more ten-minute special episodes for Christmas. Teasing fans about what to expect, the synopsis reads: "During lockdown, post-lockdown and pre-another-lockdown, Geraldine has been writing and delivering monthly sermons to her parishioners via Zoom… when she can make it work." It continues: "Geraldine will be helped by Hugo Horton (James Fleet) as well some of the local primary school children as the vicar discusses all the important topics, including how it's never a good idea to let Owen Newitt cut your hair, or make home-made wine. Dawn French as Geraldine Grainger in Vicar of Dibley during the BBC's Big Night In earlier this year. French said in a statement: "Back in the do collar, back in Dibley and back on your telly at Xmas. Bless you." And Curtis added: "Like every village in the country, there's been a lot happening in Dibley this year – and Dawn has got a lot to say about it." You may also like Dawn French described herself as a "functional introvert" and we really relate The special episodes will air after repeat showings of classic episodes this Christmas. And if you just can't wait, you can catch up with the full Vicar of Dibley boxset on Netflix during lockdown. Dawn French will return as maverick Vicar Geraldine Grainger in three ten-minute Vicar of Dibley specials this Christmas on BBC television. The Vicar of Dibley, which was created by Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill writer Richard Curtis, originally aired on BBC One from 1994 to 2007 and is now available to stream on Netflix. The vicar returned for a lockdown sermon last April and the new shows are very much set during the pandemic era, with the vicar's monthly sermons to her oddball parishioners taking place via Zoom. French told the BBC about the news that she "couldn't be happier" to be back in the role, and Richard Curtis hinted at what's in store for us. "Like every village in the country, there's been a lot happening in Dibley this year - and Dawn has got a lot to say about it." he said.