20 Years of Ted
This week Father Ted turned 20. I know what you’re thinking; bit young for a clergyman.
However you look at it; 20 years is an outstanding achievement. When most cultural icons tend to come and go, it’s important to appreciate the things which have a lasting appeal. Take Snowy, my family cat, who passed away this week. In the past we’ve been lucky to keep pets alive, what with main roads and overzealous neighbours, but Snowy was 19 and our longest-serving furry friend. It’s been a genuinely sad time without her.
But just like Snowy, or any deceased animal, it’s best not to dwell on the sad truth of the matter – she was getting old and it was her time – but focus on the special memories you’ve made.
In a way, the same can be said of Father Ted, and indeed, Dermot Morgan. While I’m not comparing the tragic loss of one of Ireland’s greatest comedians with that of a dead moggy, it is best that we look back at the series and celebrate it’s triumphs instead of focusing on the fact it’s no longer with us.
Besides, you can always 4OD it. The same can’t be said of my beloved Snowy.
Despite the fact I was only 10 when the show finished airing; I fell in love with Father Ted at an age that probably wasn’t healthy for a young boy with a passion for saying incredibly rude things in an Irish accent. I spent vast amounts of my youth stood in the front rooms of family and friends reciting whole scenes from the show.
It was one of those programmes that seemed to galvanise my family. Every one of them fell in love with its crazy and down right daft sensibility – again, not unlike Snowy. It might have had something to do with my family’s Irish roots – but equally it’s a result of brilliant writing and the terrific performances of everyone involved.
For me, Father Ted, will always be the closest Britain has ever come to creating our own version of The Simpsons. Not the pales-in-comparison-thesedays-Simpsons, but the firing-on-all-cylinders-pitch-perfect-Simpsons of the mid-nineties. Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews created a fully realised world of bizarre internal logic and dog-collar sporting characters, which was instantly hilarious.
Employing everyone from up-and-coming comedians to living legends from Theatre and Film; the show was populated by returning characters and running jokes that remain effortless. Tom and his aggressive mono-brow, Bishop Brennan and his terrifying threats (the first time I ever became aware how funny the name ‘Gdansk’ is), Father Todd Unctious and, of course, John and Mary O’Leary.
(As a side note, I once saw the actor who played John, Patrick Drury, in a production of Hamlet. He made a brilliant ghost, but even Shakespeare struggled to better the line “get them fecking Crunchie’s out of the car.”)
Even today, the show feels ahead of it’s time. Making the most of cut-aways, stock footage, animation, genre parody and music; it really set its own agenda and delivered on it every week. Creating iconic moments like the Lovely Girls competition, an all-priest Kraftwerk tribute, hunting feral clergymen with a tranquiliser dart, rescue missions set in the lingerie section of a department store and the greatest Eurovision entry in the world – My Lovely Horse.
Speaking of which, Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy deserve credit for infusing the show with a sound that was both traditionally Irish and something altogether more eccentric. If you haven’t had the pleasure, I suggest you buy up The Divine Comedy’s back catalogue – it’s magnificent.
But back to Ted. To this day it holds up, there isn’t one dud episode amongst the 25, with the main cast continuously outstanding. Creating characters that instantly lodge in your subconscious is hard; but Matthews and Linehan created four off the bat – and they still have a fond place in our hearts.
So while time continues to move on and we say goodbye to the ones we loved; we can also look back, celebrate those moments and appreciate that we were lucky to have them while we did.