Judge Roy Hrab plans on going to visit scenic Craggy Island for his next vacation.
Father Jack: Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!
Another great comedy series from Britian? Who knew? Probably very few in North America. In recent years, Ricky Gervais's The Office and Extras have crossed the Atlantic to significant commercial and critical success, yet Father Ted, produced in the mid and late 1990s, remains largely unknown. The religious subject matter of the show is probably the main reason for the lack of crossover appeal compared to the more readily identifiable settings and characters of Gervais's series. However, with the release of the complete Father Ted on DVD, there is no excuse for not taking a look at this funny and absurd show.
Facts of the Case
On remote Craggy Island, Ireland, live three exiled Catholic priests. The motley crew consists of Father Ted Crilly (Dermot Morgan), who tried to make off with some money intended for charity (although he never tires of claiming that the funds were "just resting" in his bank account), Father Dougal McGuire (Ardal O'Hanlon), who can politely be described as an idiot, and Father Jack Hackett (Frank Kelly), who is a violent, foul-mouthed, drunkard. Along with the three outcast priests is their tea-obsessed housekeeper, Mrs. Doyle (Pauline McLynn).
Father Ted: The Definitive Collection features all 25 episodes of the series on five discs:
Disc 1: Series 1
Disc 2: Series 2, Part 1
Disc 3: Series 2, Part 2
Disc 4: Series 3, Part 1
Disc 5: Series 3, Part 1
What is Father Ted all about? What can you say about a show that has one episode built entirely around one character kicking another character "up the arse"? Well, during the commentary on one of the episodes, the writers of the series, Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews, state that they were trying to create a live-action version of The Simpsons. And that is really all you need to know in order to understand (and like or dislike) this series. That is, Father Ted is, during the course of any episode: surreal, satirical, slapstick, and filled with non sequiturs, cartoonish violence, and bizarre jump cuts.
A lot, but not all, of the humor is directed, in a good-natured way, at organized religion and the Catholic Church. However, you don't need to be well versed in Catholicism to get the jokes. You just need to pay attention to the dialogue.
As with many unconventional comedies (e.g., Flight Of The Conchords: The Complete First Season), my view is that the best way to convey the nature of the show and help you decide if this your cup of tea, is to present some snippets of dialogue:
Given the cartoonish nature of the show, the acting is difficult to evaluate because all the main players, with the exception of Ted, are cardboard cut-outs. Frank Kelly, as Father Jack, is (almost) always swearing, throwing punches and completely wasted; he only occasionally approaches coherence. Ardal O'Hanlon, as Father Dougal, is always a wide eyed simpleton. Pauline McLynn, as Mrs. Doyle is always trying to push tea, cake or sandwiches on whoever has the misfortune of being in her presence. It is only Dermot Morgan, as Ted, that viewers can identify with as he lurches from one crisis to another, always dreaming of hitting some kind of jackpot that will free him from his island prison. Despite the limitations on three-quarters of the cast the show succeeds because everybody fits into their role perfectly and delivers nonsense with gusto. It's impossible to picture a different cast. The actors that provide occasional support are also strong, especially Jim Norton as Bishop Len Brennan and Tony Guilfoyle as Father Larry Duff (an Irish-Catholic priest version of South Park's Kenny).
The video and audio presentations are passable, but far from exceptional. This was a low budget show: the set looks like it could collapse at any second. On the video side, the color is not great and is mostly on the dull side. The audio is fine with all the dialogue being clearly audible.
The collection contains all the extras a fan could want. Every episode possesses an audio commentary provided by Graham Linehan. On later episodes O'Hanlon and then Matthews join Linehan. An interview with Linehan and Matthews, split into two parts, is on Discs 1 and 5. Disc 2 and Disc 4 feature footage from Tedfest 2007 (a fan convention). Disc 2 also has a photo gallery and biographies. Disc 3 contains a BBC documentary on the pre- and post-Father Ted careers of the writers and actors. Also, it has some memorable clips from the show (including the video for the song "My Lovely Horse") and footage from Comic Relief 1997, hosted by Morgan and O'Hanlon as Ted and Dougal. Disc 4 features some sound effects.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If you're a devote Catholic and don't like seeing your religion satirized in any manner then you will not like Father Ted. However, in its defense, I feel that the humor is not mean spirited, but you may feel otherwise.
Also, if you do not enjoy the comedic stylings of the The Simpsons you will probably grow tired of the zany action of Craggy Island rather quickly.
DVD sets don't get more definitive than Father Ted: The Definitive Collection. If you're a fan, this is a must have. And if you've never heard of Father Ted then it's time to take a look at this well written, well acted and funny series, especially if you enjoy other off-beat comedies like Flight Of The Conchords.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
• Commentary by Graham Linehan, Ardal O'Hanlon, Arthur Matthews
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