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Father Ted: The Very Best of Father Ted (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
Father Ted: The Very Best of Father Ted (DVD)
Advantages: Funny, great characters
Disadvantages: Are they the very best of?
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
Summary: Not sure it's the best of, but still great fun to watch