‘Father Ted’, surely the world’s only parochial based comedy series achieved cult status very early into its three season run and, as such, is being honoured by Channel 4 on New Year’s Day. As part of this celebration, Adrian McCarthy’s ‘Small, Far Away – The World of Father Ted’ will broadcast. IFTN spoke with the documentary maker about revisiting the world of Ireland’s first famous trio of priests.
Running for just three seasons between April 1995 and May 1998, ‘Father Ted’ is truly Ireland’s most iconic comedy series. Channel 4 has decided to mark the enormous success and continued devotion of audiences to the series with a mammoth airing of selected episodes and a special feature doc from Hat Trick, directed and produced by Adrian McCarthy.
Adrian was approached to produce and direct ‘Small, Far Away – The World of Father Ted’ as a result of ‘Graham Linehan: Funny Business’, a documentary he produced in 2008. The project follows up on the Father Ted story in a bid to keeping audience’s insatiable appetite for the clerical sitcom at bay. An offer at once exciting, but also scary for the filmmaker: “It was amazing to be asked but also a hell of a lot of pressure.”he tells us. ”Father Ted’ was Hat trick’s baby and it was essentially Channel 4’s Golden Goose of comedy”
As to the arduous task of gathering scattered former cast and crew members? “Yes, that was a big task,”Adrian puts it somewhat mildly. ”They’ve all moved on from ‘Ted’ but it just keeps coming at them. It was huge organisation because we brought them all over on the same day. We then brought Graham, Arthur, Frank and Ardal to the house itself. And, of course, then we had Graham and Arthur travelling around Ireland in a car identical to Fr. Ted’s one in the show!”
As is well known, the star of the series, Dermot Morgan (who played the title role of the series) died aged 45 in February 1998 as a result of a heart attack, just 24 hours after finishing the recording of the last episode of ‘Father Ted’. And, as Pauline McGlynn was unable to take part in the shooting of the documentary the special sees just the return of two of the series’ four main characters. These were joined throughout the documentary by special guests of the series including director of the first and second series, Declan Lowney and former cast members such as Jim Norton who played Bishop Brennan; Maurice O’Donoghue who played Father Dick Byrne; Graham Norton who played Father Noel Furlong; Michael Redmond who played Father Stone; Joe Rooney who played Father Damo and the actors Patrick Drury and Rynagh O'Grady who played John and Mary O'Leary.
’Ted’s writers, Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews have not worked together for a number of years, and Adrian tells us the pair thoroughly enjoyed being in each other’s company: ”It was the first time they’d spent real time together since ‘Ted’,”he starts. ”I was a bit anxious because you never know how things are between people and, in the case of the doc, how things will go in each location. They are a very funny and amusing duo when together, but they are also two very complex men – that’s how they were able to create the world of Craggy Island!”
Speaking with IFTN in the middle of filming the documentary, Graham told us why he got involved with the feature: “It’s not so much to let it go, because I am in no way sick of the fandom,” he explained. “I love things like Ted fest, I am hugely proud that people gather to be silly once a year in the West of Ireland, which is amazing. So it’s definitely a case of ‘Let’s give everybody everything they ever wanted to know about Father Ted but didn’t know to ask’.”
‘Small, Far Away – The World of Father Ted’ was edited by Brenda Morrissey (Gilbert O’Sullivan – Out on His Own) and was filmed by Richard Kendrick (An Crisis) The 48 minute long documentary also featured Niamh Maher (This is Me) as production manager.
Adrian is currently hard at word on a series about sculpture for RTÉ Arts Lives. ”It’s not a very well know fact but Joe Duffy dabbles quite a bit in sculpture,” he tells us.”We’ followed the floozy in the Jacuzzi on her recent journey to be fixed up last week. And we’ve had a look at other iconic Irish sculptures such as the spire and the ‘Perpetual Motion’ ball in Naas.”
‘Small, Far Away – The World of Father Ted’ will broadcast on January 1st at 10:05pm on Channel 4 as part of the broadcaster’s celebration of ‘Father Ted’.