Christmas Eve, 1996.
I’m at 9pm Mass with my Mum, Dad and sister and hoping (as usual) that the priest doesn’t preach for too long. Sermon time comes and the priest says, ‘Now, I won’t be keeping you too long this evening’. An audible sigh of relief spreads across the congregation. The priest continues, ‘Sure, I know we all want to get back home in time for the Father Ted Christmas Special’. I’ve never heard so much laughter in a chapel in my life. He was right though, the whole country wanted to catch the Christmas Special and when it was shown that night, it attracted Channel 4’s largest ever non-film audience viewing figures.
Looking back it’s hard to remember just how ground-breaking Father Ted was. This was still Catholic Ireland after all and a sitcom set in a parochial house with three dysfunctional priests was considered a touchy subject.
The show follows the misadventures of three Roman Catholic priests who live in a parish on the fictional Craggy Island, located off the west coast of Ireland. Father Ted Crilly, Father Dougal McGuire and Father Jack Hackett live in Craggy Island’s parochial house, along with their tea-obsessed housekeeper Mrs Doyle. The three priests answer to Bishop Len Brennan, who has banished them to Craggy Island as punishment for different incidents in their past: Ted for alleged financial impropriety (apparently involving some money ‘resting’ in his account and a child being deprived a visit to Lourdes so that Ted could go to Las Vegas), Dougal for something only referred to as the “Blackrock Incident” (resulting in many nuns’ “lives irreparably damaged”), and Jack for his alcoholism and womanising, particularly for an incident at a wedding. The show rarely deals with issues of religion (although Fr Dougal’s attempts to get his head around Catholicism are particularly funny focusing instead on Father Teds schemes to beat his nemesis Fr Dick Byrne or take part in parish events. Writer Graham Linehan called Ted and Dougal, “just two people who happen to be priests’.
In 1996 and 1999, the show won the BAFTA award for Best Comedy, while Morgan also won Best Comedy Performance. In 1995 the show won Best New TV Comedy at the British Comedy Awards, with O’Hanlon receiving Top TV Comedy Newcomer Award. At the 1996 British Comedy Awards the show won Top Channel 4 Sitcom Award, McLynn took the Top TV Comedy Actress award. In 1997 the show was given the Best Channel 4 Sitcom Award.
In August 2012, Channel 4 viewers voted the series as the No 1 in C4’s 30 Greatest Comedy Shows.
Quotes from Father Ted have entered the national consciousness here in Ireland, from ‘careful now’ to ‘down with this sort of thing’ and ‘that would be an ecumenical matter’, it’s now incredibly hard to offer anyone a cup of tea without slipping in to your best impression of Mrs Doyle. Don’t even get me started on trying to explain perspective……
So, here are my Top Ten Episodes of Father Ted. To be honest, I could do my Top Ten Moments from each episode but that would be ridiculous…..
1. Kicking Bishop Brennan Up The Arse (aired 17 April 1998)
Having been exposed as a cheat in a previous episode, Fatherr Ted must complete the forfeit and kick Bishop Brennan up the aforementioned arse
2. Speed 3 (aired 27 March 1998)
Fr Dougal, a bomb and a milkfloat. Keanu who?
3. Think Fast Father Ted (aired 15 March 1996)
Father Ted puts a dent in a competition prize car. His attempt to fix it is somewhat unsuccessful.
4. A Song for Europe (aired 5 April 1996)
My Lovely Horse. Genius. What more can I say?
5. And God Created Women (aired 19 May 1995)
Mrs Doyle says the ‘F’ word that’s worse than ‘Feck’.
6. Rock A Hula Ted (aired 19 April 1996)
Featuring the now legendary ‘Lovely Girls’ competition – ‘of course they all have lovely bottoms’
7. Night of the Nearly Dead (aired 24 April 1998)
With Eoin McLove, who smells wee….
8. Tentacles of Doom (aired 22 March 1996)
Before a visit from the Bishops, Ted and gang do some cramming….
9. Hell (aired 8 March 1996)
A lesson for us all in perspective….
10. And to finish, a nice cup of tea? Ah, you will……
Happy St Patricks Day everyone!