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Father Ted
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Father Ted

Father Ted is a surreal 1990s television situation comedy set on the extremely remote fictional Craggy Island off the west coast of Ireland. The scripts were written by Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, who also co-created Big Train. All of the interior scenes were shot in London, while all of the location footage was shot in the Republic of Ireland.

In it, three disgraced priests preside over the parish: Father Ted Crilly (played by Dermot Morgan), the simple-minded Father Dougal McGuire (played by Ardal O'Hanlon) and the perpetually drunken, lecherous and foul-mouthed, elderly priest, Father Jack Hackett (played by Frank Kelly). They have a housekeeper Mrs Doyle (played by Pauline McLynn), who is hell-bent on serving tea to all and sundry.

Their boss is the fearsome, uncompromising Bishop Len Brennan, (played by Jim Norton), who is responsible for Ted, Dougal and Jack's exiles, which were imposed on them for various reasons:

Also appearing regularly in the series are various parishioners, including shop-owners Mary and John who, whilst striving to appear sweetness and light to the clergy, are in reality at each other's throats.

Another is Tom, a homicidal maniac with a polite tone to friends. He also wears a T-shirt on which he claims 'I shot JR'.

Other characters to appear frequently included the extremely enthusiastic Father Noel Furlong (Graham Norton) and his reluctant St Luke's Youth Group, who turned up in uncompromising places such as a tiny caravan, a dark cave and on a plane with a lack of fuel. Also recurring was Father Larry Duff, an unlucky priest whom Ted claims is 'tremendous fun' around others, yet whenever Ted calls him on his mobile phone he suffers an unusual fate or tragedy in which he either dies or is seriously injured, yet always reappears unharmed in a subsequent episode (much like Kenny McCormack in the animated series South Park). These events include car and skiing accidents, a disastrous donkey derby and mishaps with a stapler and some Rottweiler dogs.

Although superficially about Catholic priests, the show actually deals with many different situations, often using the church as a microcosm of the whole of society, so including dishonest, corrupt and insane priests and nuns. This last detail has lead to the show being criticised as anti-Catholic, though most Catholics don't take such accusations seriously and many count themselves as fans of the programme.

The show also invented many catchphrases, most notably Mrs Doyle's 'Go on, go on' and Father Jack's cursing, with short words like 'Drink!', 'Feck!', 'Arse!' and 'Girls!'. Dougal could also be heard saying 'Ah right, yeah...' when agreeing with a statement, although this was not seen as such a popular catchphrase as the other two. The word 'feck' is assumed in the UK simply to be a inoffensive, made-up substitute for a taboo word for intercourse. Such a cagey neologism would seem to part of a long line of made-up profanities in British sitcoms, like 'naff' in Porridge and 'smeg' in Red Dwarf. However, 'feck' was not invented by Matthews and Linehan, and has in fact long been used widely in vernacular speech in Ireland. Its use in Ireland is not regarded as remotely offensive; while it seems to be just a corruption of the 'f-word', it is not a precise synonym, and none of its common usages in Ireland includes intercourse.

Contrary to frequent rumours, Mathews and Linehan did not originally pitch the series to the Irish network RTÉ, but rather offered it directly to Hat Trick Productions and Channel 4 in the UK. Nevertheless, it is a rich irony that what went on to be one of the most popular TV shows in Ireland, performed by a largely Irish cast, and containing so many accurate (albeit comically exaggerated) depictions of national eccentricities, was paid for and shot by a British broadcaster. Somewhat controversially, RTÉ initially did not buy the rights to broadcast the show in the Republic of Ireland, perhaps for fear of offending more conservative viewers. However, Channel 4 is available on cable in very many Irish homes and the show became a hit in Ireland without any help from RTÉ, who eventually responded to the obvious demand and broadcast the show themselves.

The theme tune for the series was the song "Songs of Love", written and performed by The Divine Comedy. The band also contributed the ridiculous "My Lovely Horse" song used in the episode "Song for Europe".

Three series and one Christmas special were completed. In addition Morgan and O'Hanlon in character hosted an hour of Comic Relief, during which Kelly and McLynn made brief appearances as Father Jack and Mrs Doyle in one of the routines. Just after the completion of Series 3, Dermot Morgan died of a heart attack, aged 45. As a result, series 3 - particularly the last episode - was heavily edited, and the series was first broadcast a week later than originally planned, out of respect for Morgan. Both the writers and co-stars agree that the third series was always intended to be the last, despite Morgan's sudden death.

Table of contents
1 List of episodes

List of episodes

Series 1

  1. "Good Luck, Father Ted" - A film crew offers to interview Ted. He wants to make sure they don't meet the other two.
  2. "Entertaining Father Stone" - The most boring priest in the world, Father Stone, pays his annual visit to Craggy Island. The title is a pun on Entertaining Mr Sloane.
  3. "The Passion Of St Tibulus" - Bishop Brennan orders the priests to ensure a blasphemous sexually explicit film being shown on the island is a failure.
  4. "Competition Time" - Ted, Dougal and Jack all plan to appear in the All-priests Stars in Their Eyes lookalike contest. Ted is particularly keen to beat his arch-enemy, Father Dick Byrne of Rugged Island.
  5. "And God Created Woman" - Ted finds himself falling for a steamy novelist. The title is taken from And God Created Woman.
  6. "Grant Unto Him Eternal Rest" - Father Jack dies after consuming a bottle of floor cleaner.

Series 2

  1. "Hell" - Ted, Dougal and Jack take their annual holiday and encounter Father Noel (played by Graham Norton).
  2. "Think Fast, Father Ted" - When Ted holds a raffle, he destroys the prize - a new car.
  3. "Tentacles Of Doom" - Three Bishops visit the island. A worried Ted gives Jack elocution lessons beforehand.
  4. "The Old Grey Whistle Theft" - Dougal starts hanging around with a rebelious priest, Father Damo Lennon. Meanwhile a valuable whistle is stolen. The title is a pun on the BBC music show The Old Grey Whistle Test.
  5. "Song For Europe" - Ted is goaded by Father Dick Byrne into attempting to write a song for the Eurovision Song Contest.
  6. "The Plague" - The parochial house is infested by rabbits, just as the very rabbit-phobic Bishop Brennan plans a visit.
  7. "Rock-a-Hula Ted" - A feminist singer visits the island just when Ted is judging the annual lovely girls competition.
  8. "Cigarettes And Alcohol And Rollerblading" - In a game of one-upmanship with Dick Byrne, Ted decides the three priests must give something up for Lent. The title is taken from that of an Oasis song, 'Cigarettes and Alcohol'.
  9. "New Jack City" - Jack's hairy hands get him sent to an old priests' home. Unfortunately his replacement is even worse. The title is taken from the movie New Jack City.
  10. "Flight Into Terror" - A flight back from a pilgrimage runs out of fuel and there are only two parachutes.

Christmas special

Series 3

  1. "Are You Right There, Father Ted?" - Ted's "Chinaman" impression goes down badly with Craggy Island's newly-arrived Chinese community.
  2. "Chirpy Burpy Cheap Sheep" - Ted makes a large bet on the King of the Sheep competition. Unfortunately, Chris, his chosen sheep, has heard rumours about a sheep-eating beast and isn't feeling at all himself. The title is a parody of the 1970s song "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" by Middle Of The Road. There is a hidden pun in the show's plot - it's all about sheep worrying.
  3. "Speed 3" - this is of course a parody of Speed. When Ted and Dougal expose the philandering milkman, he takes revenge on his replacement, Dougal, by putting a bomb on the milkfloat. If Dougal's speed drops below four miles an hour...
  4. "The Mainland" - Ted wins some money on the horses and must travel to the mainland to claim it. This is a very bad idea. Even Richard Wilson doesn't believe it.
  5. "Escape From Victory" - Ted takes great steps to ensure he wins a bet with Dick Byrne on the outcome of the All-Priests Over-75's Five-a-Side Football championship. The title is a pun on the soccer movie "Escape to Victory", originally titled "Victory", about a soccer game played between prisoners of war and their guards in World War II.
  6. "Kicking Bishop Brennan Up The Arse" - the only episode to follow on directly from the previous one. Exposed as a cheat, Ted waits in terror for Dick to inform him of his forfeit.
  7. "Night Of The Nearly Dead" - The visit of a young singer causes excitement in the island's aging females. The title is a pun on the movie Night of the Living Dead.
  8. "Going To America" - Ted gets the opportunity of a lifetime, but can't bring himself to break it to the others that they're not invited. The title is a pun on the movie Coming to America. The last scene of this episode was going to show Ted climbing onto a window ledge along with another priest to commit suicide. This was then replaced at the last minute with clips from all the previous episodes.

Pauline McLynn reprised her role as Mrs Doyle in 2001 for a small set of adverts for the UK Inland Revenue, reminding people to get their taxes in on time by uttering her catchphrase ('Go on, go, on') over and over again. Not surprisingly, it was voted the most irritating ad campaign of that year, beating off competition from the now-infamous Ferrero Rocher advert. Ironically, Mrs Doyle was also involved in a spoof of this confectionery-related advert in the episode Tentacles of Doom.