The History of Christmas Specials: French & Saunders and Vicar of Dibley

by Lynn Connolly

The path of telly history is littered with Christmas specials and for many of us, it simply wouldn’t be Christmas without them, so today, we’re taking a look at the contribution that Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders have made to this grand old tradition.

In 1987 Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders launched their own sketch show which would go for six series and would produce some of the funniest Christmas specials of all time. We’ve gathered together a few clips for you to enjoy again the magic that is F&S.

This one is from their 1988 Christmas special

And from the same year, the classic Two Old Men

This clip is from their mickey taking parody of the film, The Piano from the Christmas special in 1994.

And this one is Dawn’s impersonation of Catherine Zeta Jones delivering the Christmas message…

Dawn went on of course to write and star in Vicar of Dibley, the Christmas specials of which rapidly became tradition and again, Christmas just wasn’t Christmas without a Vicar of Dibley special.

Not that they were all light hearted and fun – though most were – and the New Year 2005 special saw Geraldine trying to get the villagers enthusiastic about the 20th anniversary of Live Aid.

She encourages them to write to the Prime Minister about the Make Poverty History campaign but when they aren’t overly interested, she shows them a short video showing two poverty-stricken children. It made me cry at the time and put a downer on the rest of the show, but of course, it was a very important message. Here’s a clip from it.

Happily though, the last Christmas special wasn’t nearly so serious but to date, it was in fact the last of our visits to the Vicar. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for a special this year but so far, it hasn’t been confirmed that there will be one.

Geraldine was of course married to the lovely Harry – Richard Armitage – in the last special but in Christmas 1996, she got her wires crossed when she thought a man she fancied was proposing to her but in fact, he wanted her to officiate at his wedding to his Irish fiancée with a difficult name! Here’s a clip from that episode…

Here’s a clip from the final show in which Geraldine thinks when Harry asks her to marry him that he means, as in 1996, that he wants her to officiate. This time of course, he wants to marry her and she makes that fantastic strangled noise when the penny drops that he is in fact proposing to her…

One of my favourites of the Dibley specials was the 1996 one where Geraldine had to eat several Christmas dinners. Here’s a clip that shows Geraldine forcing down sprouts in order to help Hugo win a bet with his dad…

Which has been your favourite French & Saunders of Vicar of Dibley Christmas special?

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.