I love British humor. I don’t know if it’s the accents or the delivery, but there is something so damn clever about it that American comedy sadly lacks. Maybe it’s subtlety? Can’t be, as there is nothing subtle about the Irish-British co-produced television show Father Ted.
The show follows the misadventures of three Roman Catholic priests. Father Ted Crilly (Dermot Morgan), Father Dougal McGuire (Ardal O’Hanlon), and Father Jack Hackett (Frank Kelly) live in a parish on fictional Craggy Island, located off the west coast of Ireland. With them is the housekeeper Mrs. Doyle (Pauline McLynn), who constantly tries to serve them tea, even when they don’t want any.
Father Ted is mainly about the priests’ lives on the island. Sometimes it’s about church matters, but more often than not it’s Father Ted trying his best to resolve a situation with the parish or trying to help the Craggy Island residents. That is not to say he is completely selfless: he often tries to one up his arch-nemesis, Father Dick Byrne of the Rugged Island parish, as seen in my favorite episode, “A Song for Europe” (Season 2 Episode 5).
My favorite part of the show is the delightful duo Father Ted and Father Dougal. Father Ted is often the straight man to Father Dougal’s silliness. Father Dougal lacks some basics as both a priest and a functioning adult. He needs a chart to remind him of the difference between fantasy and reality and often hints at a lack of belief in God and Catholic teachings. He is easily distracted, often misled, and constantly playing practical jokes, but he is so innocent and smiley that he reminds me more of a golden retriever than a priest. You can’t help but love him, and laugh at Father Ted’s exasperation over Father Dougal.
Though I love those two together, my favorite character is Father Jack, an elderly priest. To the household he is a nightmare, but to the audience he is a blessing. Father Jack is a drunk, womanizing, half-cracked man whose actions usually involve swearing, and throwing or shooting at things he doesn’t like. A generally hard-to-get-along-with individual, he still sometimes can elicit warmth and kindness, especially towards booze.
Though the show often pokes fun at priests and Catholicism, it’s more about the human condition. It is a way to show that even the most revered (at least at the time) religious men around us are fallible and have their own problems and, yes, times of doubt. I don’t think the show meant any harm towards Ireland or Catholics: as they say in comedy, “nothing is sacred”. It’s a delightful show and is available to watch (for now) on YouTube. I highly recommend those of all faiths and beliefs to go watch it!