Mathews and Linehan originally pitched the series to the Irish networks but according to some reports they were wary of its stereotyped portrayal of the Irish, and so Mathews and Linehan decided to take it to the UK. An alternative explanation is that RTÉ had a poor record in producing sitcoms and comedy so lacked confidence in its ability to launch any sitcom. As a result, it opted not to pick up the options on any potentially controversial series, whether in religion, politics, sport or whatever.
In the event it was finally produced by Hat Trick Productions for Channel 4. Interior scenes were shot in London, although all of the location footage was shot in Ireland. Of course, once the series became a success it was happily screened on Irish TV.
In it, three disgraced priests preside over the parish: Father Ted Crilly (played by Dermot Morgan), the moronic Father Dougal McGuire (played by Ardal O'Hanlon) and the disgustingly drunken, lecherous and foul-mouthed, elderly priest, Father Jack Hackett (played by Frank Kelly). They have a housekeeper Mrs Doyle (played by Pauline McLynn), who is hell-bent on serving tea to all and sundry.
Their boss is the fearsome Bishop Len Brennan, (played by Jim Norton), who is responsible for Ted, Dougal and Jack's exiles, which were imposed on them for various reasons:
Although superficially about Catholic priests, the show actually deals with many different situations, often using the church as a microcosm of the whole of society, so including dishonest, corrupt and insane priests and nuns. This last detail has lead to the show being criticised as anti-Catholic, though most Catholics don't take such accusations seriously and many count themselves as fans of the programme.
The theme music for the series was written and performed by The Divine Comedy.
Three series and one Christmas special were completed. In addition Morgan and O'Hanlon in character hosted an hour of Comic Relief, during which Kelly made a brief appearance as Father Jack. Just after the completion of Series 3, Dermot Morgan died of a heart attack, aged 45.
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List of episodes