“ Genre: Television - Father Ted / Theatrical Release: 1995 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Actors: Dermot Morgan, Ardal O'Hanlon, Frank Kelly, Pauline McLynn, Tony Guilfoyle ... / DVD released 2002-11-18 at 2 Entertain Video / Features of the DVD: PAL „
It's been far too long since I last wrote a comedy review (about a month, I believe) so I decided that this would be the perfect time to write about one of the best, if not THE best, comedy series of all time: Father Ted. Although often regarded a triumph of British comedy, Father Ted is almost entirely an Irish production with all the actors and creators Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews hailing from our neighbouring country as well as the programme being set there. Only the scenes that required a studio were actually shot in London. Linehan's subsequent sitcoms (Black Books and IT Crowd) were both based in the UK, as was his sketch series Big Train, which are also some of the best comedy programmes to ever be produced in this country. One could say that it is the Irish who are the true comic world leaders, as along with comedians such as Graham Norton, Dara O'Brien and Dylan Moran, Graham Linehan truly is from a country that should pride itself on its comedy excellence.
Father Ted is certainly a very Irish sitcom, being as it is about a group of Catholic priests in what still is a very religious country. The show ran for three series before the tragic early death of lead actor Dermot Morgan, who played the title character of Father Ted, merely hours after production finished. Father Ted is a priest on the very quiet and rural Craggy Island and resides in the parochial house along with the aging priest, Father Jack (Frank Kelly), the young eejit Dougal (Ardal O'Hanlon) and their housekeeper, Mrs Doyle (Pauline McLynn). As with many sitcoms, Father Ted gathers its humour from the characters ending up in humorous and awkward situations, usually as a result of their own idiocy. While Dougal clearly has very few brain cells to rub together he is lovable and a brilliant comic character, whom Ted feels affectionate towards despite how annoyed they can be by each other.
The Best of Father Ted is a DVD containing five of supposedly the best episodes from all three series as well as the Christmas special, and it is this that I shall be reviewing for you today. This disc features such classics as 'A Song for Ireland', where Ted and Dougal enter the Eurosong Contest (we assume they weren't allowed to use the name Eurovision) with a song about a lovely horse, and 'Cigarettes, Alcohol and Rollerblading', in which the three priests try to give up these three vices for Lent with the help of a sadistic nun. These two episodes are also two of my favourites and I am very happy that they appear on this DVD. The other episodes, 'Competition Time', which details the events of an all priest lookalike contest judged by a British TV presenter; 'Speed 3', in which Craggy Island's milkman causes trouble by delivery more than milk to the island's women; and 'The Mainland', when the priests and Mrs Doyle leave the island for the day to do and see things on the mainland, are all good episodes and I enjoy them all greatly. I would say, however, that they aren't really the best episodes that could have been chosen and that there are many that I would have included in their stead. Where are 'Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse', 'Entertaining Father Stone' and 'The Plague'? If I had been in charge of choosing what to put on the 'Best of' DVD I certainly would have gone for these episodes ahead of 'The Mainland', for example, but maybe that's simply down to personal taste rather than what most people would class as Father Ted's best moments.
Despite this, I still think that this is a great DVD that would be a good place for anyone yet to experience Father Ted to start with. At a staggeringly low £3.50 from Amazon, this DVD is an absolute bargain and I wouldn't let price be a factor in your decision whether or not to buy it. Having said that, on the same website each individual series costs only £5 each, which represents much better value for money based on cost per episode (series 2 contains a total of eleven episodes compared to this DVD's six) and makes much more sense if you plan on owning the entire collection one day.
In conclusion, yes this is a great DVD with some cracking episodes, but I would recommend spending an extra £1.50 and getting an entire series in favour of buying this one.
Father Ted is one of Great Britian's most beloved sitcoms. Written by Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, it first aired in 1995 and ran for three seasons.
Father Ted Crilly, the show's titular hero (played by the late Dermot Morgan) is an Irish Catholic priest sent to the far-away fictional parish of Craggy Island, off the coast of Ireland. The show follows his life, and the lives of his fellow priests, the dim-witted and innocent Dougal McGuire (Ardal O'Hanlon) and the angry, mad and alcoholic Jack Hackett. The three priests are exiled on the island, all for different reasons, and livce together in the Parochial house. The only other person to live in the house is the housekeeper Mrs Doyle (Pauline McLynn).
Father Ted was (and still is) wildly original as a show. it featured ridiculous plots, usually taking some real world situations and turning the serious into a hilarious mockery. The lives of the people on Craggy Island is so dull anything becomes instant entertainment, and everything is taken to side-splitting extremes (like the episode where a disgruntled milkman rigs his milk float to explode if it goes above 6 miles an hour - a la "Speed"). Father Ted featured an array of mad and over the top characters that were just endlessly entertaining.
This DVD set contains six of the best episodes: Competition Time - where the island is holding its own Stars in their Eyes-style competition; Cigarettes and Alcohol and Rollerblading, in which the priests all try to give up their vices for Lent - even going as far as getting help from the terrifying Sister Assumpta; A Song for Europe - one of the most popular episodes which sees Ted and Dougal try to write a song for the Priest equivalent of the Eurovision song contest, Speed 3 which I mentioned above, The Mainland where the main characters all go to the Irish mainland for the day(with guest star Richard Wilson and Graham Norton) and A Christmassy Ted - the Christmas special which everyone remembers for its hilarious "lost in the lingerie department" scene.
All of these episodes are just hilarious (although let's face it, the whole series is) and perfect for the newcomer to Father Ted. It's a great taster for the series and gives you a good general idea of what the show is all about. While the die-hard fans are more likely to pick up the whole 3 seasons DVD, this one is great for a little taste of Father Ted
Father Ted is a popular sitcom televised between 1995 and 1998 featuring three priests, Father Ted Crilly, Father Dougal McGuire and Father Jack Hackett (now retired) who live in a house together on Craggy Island, somewhere off the coast of Ireland. All of them were posted there because of various dodgy events in their past! There were three series in all, sadly ending with the death of Dermot Morgan (Ted Crilly) at the very young age of 45. This disc aims to bring together the 'very best of' the Father Ted episodes, although of course this is a matter personal taste.
A word first of all on the main characters. Father Ted Crilly is played by the much missed Dermot Morgan. Ted is the most sensible of the three priests - just as well as he is the head of the household - and he is often forced to rein in his colleagues. Dermot Morgan is fantastic in the role. His comic timing is spot on and his expressions of long-suffering patience are hilarious. It is hard to believe, at times, that he is really a priest, but Ted does try to keep to the straight and narrow; it is just that everyone around him seems intent on making him behave badly. I know nothing of Dermot Morgan outside of this show, although I understand he was a teacher, before leaving to take up stand-up comedy - thank goodness he did. It is just a shame he died so very young.
Ardal O'Hanlon, who has had a great deal of success based on the series, plays Father Dougal. Dougal is not the brightest spark in the toolbox - in fact, he has a mental age of not much more than 10, and his misunderstandings and mess-ups are a frequent source of comedy for the show. O'Hanlon's brand of comedy is much more slapstick, whereas Dermot Morgan's is a little more subtle (only a little mind), and I must admit to finding it less funny as I get older. He does just about pull the role off though - his wide-eyed innocence is sweet and appealing and his comic dialogues with Ted are undoubtedly hilarious.
Frank Kelly plays the alcoholic (and thankfully retired) Father Jack. As he is generally in an alcoholic stupor, he doesn't have a great deal to say, apart from 'feck', 'arse' and 'drink!'; so much so that it is a shock when he does occasionally have more than a syllable to say at a time. He is perhaps the least obvious of the three priests, but nevertheless has some very funny storylines, most of which involve alcohol and his bad temper. The fourth main character is Mrs Doyle, who is played by Pauline McLynn. She is the housekeeper and has about as much common sense as Father Dougal. McLynn often steals the show, especially when she is trying to force food and drink onto the priests and their visitors.
I would not normally list individual episodes, but in the case of this DVD, I think it is important to, so that consumers can decide whether to purchase this DVD, or to go the whole hog and buy the individual series. There have been six episodes chosen for the compilation. The first is 'Competition Time' (from series 1), and is about the 'All Priests Look-a-Like Competition'. All three Craggy Island priests enter as Elvis and there is a fabulous scene where they each play Elvis in a particular period of his life. Funniest of all is Father Jack, who plays Elvis just before his death, looking bloated and, well, drunk. This is a good episode, but there is a bit too much slapstick and not enough brilliant dialogue for me. The same goes for the next episode: 'Cigarettes & Alcohol & Rollerblading' (series 2), which is about giving up things for Lent. Watching a nun chase virtually naked priests around with various instruments of torture is funny the first time, but palls when watched for a second time.
'A Song for Europe' (series 3) involves Ted and Dougal writing a song for The Eurosong Contest, copying the tune from a former Contest entry. Miraculously, they get through to the Contest proper, but for reasons that aren't quite as straightforward as they should be. This is a good episode with lots of slapstick and silliness, but against the backdrop of the 'Contest', it doesn't seem too over the top. The next episode, 'Speed 3' (series 3) involves Father Dougal, a milk float and a bomb. This is definitely one of the best episodes, mainly because Mrs Doyle falls in love with a milkman and starts behaving very oddly. There is some nudity (bare breasts) in this episode, so it may not be appropriate for children. The rating is, in any case, 15, probably because of the irreverent behaviour and constant swear words and alcoholism on the part of Father Jack!
The last two episodes are my favourites on the DVD. 'Mainland' (series 3) involves a trip away from the island, which involves Mrs Doyle and Father Jack being carted off to the police station and Father Ted and Dougal getting lost in some underground caves. Best of all, there are a couple of cameos from Graham Norton, who plays a voluble priest, and Richard Wilson, who plays himself - and nearly flattens Ted when he shouts 'I don't believe it!' at him. Finally, there is a Christmas episode (the 1996 Christmas special) where a selection of priests get lost in the lingerie department of a department store. Still, the funniest part involves Mrs Doyle and a tea maker - she hates it with a vengeance because she loves making tea by hand so much. It has to be seen to be truly appreciated!
The whole premise of the show does rather make a mockery of the Church and faith, and although it is supposed to be light-hearted, I'm sure that some people could find it offensive. Obviously, if you are one of these people, you will want to steer clear of the entire show. That said, the writers, Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, haven't entirely lost sight of religious matters - at least, I think that underneath all the silliness, there is still the basic concept that religion is a good thing and that good will triumph over evil. Certainly Ted has the best of intentions, even if they don't quite work out as he would like!
I think my only criticism of the DVD is that I'm not sure that this is 'the very best of' Father Ted. I don't know how the episodes were chosen, whether it was the shows that were the most watched audience-wise, or whether they were randomly chosen by someone or a team of people. I borrowed the DVD from my local library, but I know that I would have been happier buying a series rather than someone else's choice of the best episodes. And it does seem a bit mean to have just six episodes out of a total of twenty-five - a couple more would make it much better value, especially as the episodes are only 25 minutes long (except for the special, which is an hour long). There are a couple of extras with the disc, which make things a little better, but they are only commentaries by Graham Linehan and Ardal O'Hanlon and a gallery of stills.
On the whole, I'm glad that I borrowed this DVD rather than buy it. It has reminded me how funny Father Ted is, but I would rather buy the first series than this particular disc. It is probably more appropriate for someone who doesn't know much about the series and wants an insight, or perhaps someone who does have favourites that are included on the disc. Personally, I think it's a bit of a rip-off, brought out to cash in on the Father Ted name, and it is for this reason that I'm dropping a star. Recommended, with reservations - be sure you want it before you buy.
The DVD is available from play.com for £4.99.
Running time: 175 minutes