‘You’ve got to expect this kind of thing in the priesthood’
Simplicity and complexity in Father Ted
in Complexity / simplicity
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This chapter engages with the sitcom Father Ted (1995–98), created by the Irish writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, and made for Channel 4 by Hat Trick Productions. The gently satirical series revolves around three priests (Ted, Dougal and Jack) and their housekeeper (Mrs Doyle) living together in the parochial house on Craggy Island, a small island parish off the coast of Ireland. The chapter lingers on the inciting incident of ‘A Very Christmassy Ted’ (Season 2, Episode 11, first broadcast 24 December 1996), which finds Ted, Dougal and six other priests trapped in the lingerie section of a large department store. Here, the simple act of Christmas shopping escalates into the complex and covert escape operation that becomes necessary in order to avoid ‘national scandal’. This detailed focus allows the rest of the chapter to think outwards towards the series more generally, exploring Father Ted in relation to, on the one hand, its (sometimes deceptive) simplicity of sitcom format, plot structure and comedy performances and, on the other, its (sometimes obscured) complexity, particularly in relation to the intertextual, social, political and cultural references woven through the series’ structure and content. The chapter closes with a consideration of Father Ted’s more contemporary complexity, specifically in relation to gender performativity, and examines how a series purporting to be almost entirely about men can develop a wider resonance in terms of the politics of representation.

Complexity / simplicity

Moments in television

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