by Allan Fish
(UK 1995-1998 636m) DVD1/2
I love my brick!
p Geoffrey Perkins, Lissa Evans, Mary Bell d Declan Lowney w Graham Linehan, Arthur Matthews m The Divine Comedy
Dermot Morgan (Father Ted Crilly), Ardal O’Hanlon (Father Dougal Maguire), Frank Kelly (Father Jack Hackett), Pauline McLynn (Mrs Doyle), Maurice O’Donoghue (Father Dick Byrne), Dan Wycherley (Father Cyril Macduff), Jim Norton (Bishop Len Brennan), Graham Norton (Father Noel Furlong),
Father Ted wasn’t a perfect comedy series. In truth the second series was not up to the standard of the first and third. Perhaps it was overexposure. Perhaps it was merely a certain complacency that set in after the rapturous acclaim for the first series. The fact remains, though, that the third series was a triumph, and also a very poignant one. Star Dermot Morgan tragically died but days before the first episode of that final series aired on Channel 4, and thus it had a sense of the dedicatory about it. Actually, it had been agreed that series three would have been the last anyway, so let us savour what we have, and over a decade on from the airing of that last episode, and we last said goodbye to our heroes as they headed disconsolately back from the airport to the Craggy Island Parochial House, it has lost not one bit of its truly mad genius.
The series revolves around the household of the said Parochial House, situated on a barely civilised island off the coast of Galway in Ireland. The locals are a strange, almost inbred seeming bunch – the husband and wife who run the local shop try to kill each other when no-one’s looking, village idiot Tom wears scary T-shirts, sits on walls and kills people, you get the idea – and the whole parish seems like exile for any decent priest. There is a reason for this, of course. Ted Crilly had been caught using the money donated to send a sick girl to Lourdes to go to Vegas and had been banished here as punishment. As further punishment, his priestly assistant, Dougal Maguire, is, to quote Edmund Blackadder, “thicker than a whale omelette”, doubts the existence of God and needs even the simplest things explaining. To make things even more insane, they have the task of looking after another ancient priest, Father Jack Hackett, who has sunk so deep into alcoholism that he will drink anything in liquid form – Toilet Duck, Windolene, Castrol GTX, you name it – smells and looks truly disgusting and sits in a chair in the corner of the shabby living room swearing and cursing and dreaming of happy days judging schoolgirls in wet T-shirt competitions. Making up the quartet, there’s Mrs Doyle, a mad woman who lives to serve the trio, makes sandwiches by the tonne and tries to persuade everyone to have a cup of tea – and woe betide anyone who doesn’t accept.
Everyone has their favourite moments and episodes; ‘Entertaining Father Sloane’ when they get an annual visit from the dullest, most boring priest in the world; ‘The Passion of St Tibulus’ in which they are told to boycott a blasphemous film and only succeed in attracting more viewers (the couple holding placards outside reading ‘Down with this sort of thing’ and ‘careful now’); ‘Grant Unto Him Eternal Rest’ in which Father Jack seemingly dies; ‘A Christmassy Ted’, one of the funniest Christmas specials ever written for any comedy series, in which Ted and Dougal get lost in the lingerie department of a massive store and Mrs Doyle goes through the name of every priest in Ireland to guess someone’s name; ‘Speed 3’ in which Dougal has to keep a milk float going round a roundabout as there’s a bomb onboard; and best of all ‘Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse’, which is just utterly unforgettable and needs no explanation.
The writers must be praised for their consistent anarchy, and the much missed Morgan was immortal as Ted, yet it’s equally O’Hanlon’s eternal idiot we remember, along with McLynn’s dotty housekeeper and the immortal one-time Gobnait O’Lunacy Frank Kelly as the legendary Father Jack, hilariously shouting “yes!” in an AA meeting when someone admits to downing a bottle of vodka a day. It’s eccentric comic brilliance. Oh, and remember, that money was just resting in Ted’s account.