Anyone, repeat, ANYONE who has ever had to deal with church internal politics, especially in the Anglican communion - will laugh uproariously at this one.
The gist of this comedy, which was written and produced just as the Church of England started ordaining female priests, was to explore the inevitable conflicts that would arise as a result. In the first episode, the staid and fictional upper middle class Oxfordshire town of "Dibley" had lost its old vicar to old age. And on the next train arrives the new vicar, who turns out to be a very pleasant and very zaftig and very obviously female priest, the eager and ever-smiling Rev. Geraldine Grainger.
Cue the staunchly Anglo-Catholic landowner and head honcho in the village having a serious, serious problem with this, meanwhile the town lecher is leering at her from the sidelines. Both of whom are in the weekly church committe meetings. Once again, anyone who has ever participated in a church committee of any kind will see these scenes and laugh at the polite veneer of community, meanwhile there's personal politics and ambition afoot.
Primarily, the new vicar wants to bring new ideas and new life into the community, including a service for animals similar to the St. Francis services held annually in many places. This becomes first a laughing stock, but then a triumph as the community indeed rallies around its new vicar and their shared love for their animals. After all, it is a farming community. This is in stark contrast to some in the church who are rather happy with the way things are, including the near-absence of any parishioners apart from the weekly-meeting committee. When she becomes a minor celebrity and gets into the newspapers, it almost tears the town apart as the papers also mention everyone else in the village, in less than glamorous terms - doing the paparazzi treatment on all concerned, with nobody in the town having signed on to be the target of their vicious barbs.
The series takes great care to show the humanity of a cleric, whose original aspirations were inner-city helping disadvantaged youth sort of thing, transplanted into a thatched cottage with a name rather than a street number in a quaint sleepy rural upper middle class backwater. She has crushes on people. She has a weakness for chocolate. She stalks a man she fancies who she sees out with another woman. A weekly gag is her telling an off color joke to her mentally challenged verger at the end of each episode. In fact, the writers of the series sought out and consulted quite heavily Rev. Joy Caroll, one of the first ordained women in England, and many of the vicar's personal problems and challenges and mannerisms are based on the Rev. Caroll.
Rounding out what is in reality a nice, inoffensive little show are some blink-and-you-miss-them sight gags about rural living, for example a woman knitting wool straight off a sheep. But there is some clever situational comedy going on. At one point the Rev. Greer glosses right past a marriage proposal believing his question "will you marry me" to actually mean "...to someone else". You almost forget that "the other woman he's with is actually his sister visiting him from another town" is a plot device so old it has great-grandchildren in terms of its execution.
But one of the things that makes this work, especially for church folk, especially for those seeing dwindling church attendance and the challenges of holding together staunch traditionalists with new ideas and new blood - is that the basic humanity of all concerned is celebrated. The slack-jawed yokel might very well be interfering inappropriately with livestock (we're not sure quite how, but the photos he sent to "Man and Horse" magazine were confiscated by police) but he's welcome on the board and in the parish, Germaine can get giddy and schoolgirlish when Johnny Depp makes an appearance in the village - in contrast to how a woman of the cloth is supposed to act, and the verger is delightfully screwy even as one might question the choices she makes. Even the almost-antagonistic local landowner and upper middle class conservative foil has moments where one is sympathetic to his loneliness and his refusal to recognize that he's of a dying breed, and though he's more than once tried to get Germaine fired because she's a woman, and she sabotages his political aspirations, they're fundamentally fond of each other on some level.
User spiregrain has informed me that the theme song, a choral setting of Psalm 23, was written as a theme by a celebrated composer of TV tunes, but has since come into use itself as a legit choral setting of said Psalm.
It's a very, VERY Anglican comedy.