A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that that Father Ted is an award-winning Irish comedy series that has takes jabs at Catholicism and the clergy through a cast of excessively flawed priests, bishops, and nuns. The priests' personal vices include alcohol, smoking, sex, and general disregard for other people, all of which go unchecked, despite the fact that they've landed the characters in parish exile. Red-letter language is common in the rectory, including "bulls--t," "hell," and the Irish colloquialism "feck," plus all of its iterations ("fecking," "fecker," etc.). Some characters allude to sexual encounters despite their celibacy vows, and occasionally women are shown with the men, undressed from the waist up and visible from the back. The series does nothing to cast religious life in a positive light, making this show a better choice for mature teens and adults.
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What's the story?
FATHER TED is an Irish comedy series centered on three Catholic priests banished to a parish on a fictional Irish island because of past transgressions that include womanizing, alcoholism, and charity fraud. At center is Father Ted Crilly (Dermot Morgan), a well-meaning but misguided man of God whose patience is tried by his responsibility for the dense Father Dougal McGuire (Ardal O'Hanlon) and the cranky, drunken Father Jack Hackett (Frank Kelly). The men are cared for by their loopy housekeeper, Mrs. Doyle (Pauline McLynn), who sees to their daily tea consumption, among other needs. The show follows the goings-on inside the chaotic household as well as the troubles that ensue when they're visited by their haughty overseeing bishop or when they fuel the feud with their trans-island archnemesis, Father Dick Byrne (Maurice O'Donoghue).
Is it any good?
Sarcastic, satirical, and unapologetically irreverent, Father Ted continues to entertain audiences long after its brief three-season run in the '90s. Even with fair warning of the show's embrace of sexuality and personal vices among its ministerial characters, the edgy comedy is still a surprise in a series about religious (albeit flawed) men, leaving viewers never quite sure what will happen next.
Father Ted tramples on Catholic rituals and revered traditions on its quest for comic fame, and it pulls it off in a way that only surrealism can. At no point are the characters held to any realistic standards, creating a world in which drunken, conniving, lecherous priests become the protagonists, and audiences develop an affinity toward their quirky ways. Granted, you might have to set aside your own standards and be OK with this kind of behavior in its surreal context to fully appreciate the show, but the sharp comedy makes it all worthwhile.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages we get from TV and movies. How might this kind of surreal comedy be misinterpreted by a young audience? What false impressions does it give about Catholic clergy?
Why do you think the creators chose to make the characters so absurdly unrealistic? Is there any value to glean from this show, or is it just meant to entertain? What small changes to the cast might have given it a more positive message?
Teens and parents can use series like this one to glimpse other cultures. What about this show gives it an Irish feel? Did you learn anything about Irish customs or people from watching? How does Irish comedy seem to differ from U.S. comedy?