BELIEVE IT OR not – it’s 20 years since the first episode of Father Ted hit our screens.
The Dermot Morgan-starring comedy was first broadcast by Channel 4 on 21 April, in 1995.
‘Spider-babies’ were soon the talk of school-yards, all over the country.
In case you’re having trouble remembering where you were when it happened – Take That’s ‘Back for Good’ was number 1 in the British charts, and Dumb and Dumber was packing them in, in the cinemas.
It hardly needs to be said: the programme has had a massive impact on Irish pop culture – up there with the likes of Roddy Doyle, U2, the Eurovision, the Late Late and Italia ’90.
Actors who made only brief appearances in the comedy became near household names as it grew in popularity over its three series.
Two decades on, it’s still a staple of the TV schedules. Tonight – if the mood happens to take you – you can sit down and watch more than six hours’ worth of ‘Ted’ on More4.
As you do, here’s a run-down of some facts, debunkings and other bits of trivia about the show’s production, some of which will (hopefully) be a surprise even to died-in-the-wool Ted-heads.
The show was never offered to RTÉ
RTÉ came in for a bit of flak in the wake of the show’s broadcast.
Why? Well, a rumour gathered pace that the State broadcaster had rejected Arthur Mathews’ and Graham Linehan’s script for Ted – forcing the pair off across the channel for funding, when it should have been an RTÉ production.
In fact (as Linehan has often said) the pair were already working in London and developing relationships with production companies when they came up with the idea for the show, so pitching it in the UK seemed like the best option.
“We didn’t do it with RTÉ because we were in England and we had a career there, so it would have been strange to go back to Ireland and start from the bottom in RTÉ, a company that never really made a successful studio sitcom,” the writer told Film Ireland back in 2010.
“Because there was no infrastructure in Ireland for those kind of studio sitcoms, it would have been crazy to give it to them. RTÉ did many great things but studio sitcoms was not one of them.”
Steve Coogan turned down a part
The Alan Partridge star was offered the role that was eventually played by Jon Kenny in the ‘Eurosong’ episode.
“One of my bitterest regrets is that I didn’t play a part in Father Ted because they offered me the part of an RTÉ presenter during the Eurovision,” Coogan told Ryan Tubridy in 2013.
We reckon Jon did a stellar job, all the same…Source: Fenners80/YouTube
“What a pro.”
Brian Eno didn’t
Blink and you’ll miss him, but that’s Roxy Music star and U2 producer Brian Eno shaking hands with Ted in the episode ‘Going to America’…Source: gog magog/YouTube
Even the guy who wrote the theme tune had a clerical connection
Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy, who wrote the Father Ted theme (it also appeared, with lyrics on his Casanova album) is the son of Rev Brian Hannon – who was Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher from 1986 to 2001.Source: RTÉ Republic of Comedy/YouTube
Father Ted could have looked very different
Maurice O’Donoghue – who ended up playing Ted’s Rugged Island-dwelling nemesis Fr Dick Byrne – read for the title role.
He didn’t mind losing out though, O’Donoghue told TheJournal.ie over the phone. Even heading into the auditions, the “word going round,” was that the role was already Dermot Morgan’s.
He heard much later from Linehan that it had, in fact, been down to an either-or between himself and Morgan.
“These things tend to happen when you’re an actor,” O’Donoghue said (he didn’t seem to mind at all).
But Ted co-creator Arthur Matthews never seriously considered playing him
Online lists of Father Ted trivia often suggest that co-writer Arthur Matthews was initially slated to be the star of the sitcom.
From IMDB: “The role of Father Ted was originally to go to co-writer Arthur Mathews, but it went to Dermot Morgan after the writers saw an earlier performance of his as the character Father Trendy”.
In an email to TheJournal.ie, Matthews said:
I did do Ted as a stand-up, but not for long. I always thought Dermot would be perfect once it was going to TV.
(Fr Trendy was a pretty popular fellow back in the 80s. It’s unlikely Matthews and Linehan would have managed to reach adulthood in Ireland without having heard of him.)
While we’re at it – this woman almost played Mrs Doyle…
As pre-production took place, it was strongly rumoured that Anna Manahan – the respected stage and film actress – was being lined up to star alongside Morgan as Mrs Doyle.
Could the Tony Award winner have nailed the ‘go ons’ quite as well as Pauline McLynn?
In fact, the entire show could have been very different indeed
Graham Linehan revealed as part of the documentary ‘Small, Far Away’ that he and Matthews had been working on a mock-documentary series based on six different characters.
The project eventually morphed into the sitcom as we know it.
Ted, when he appears in the original script, is described as a “perpetually jolly and rather sad man – who, through some terrible accident of fate – has found himself in the priesthood”.
The largest lingerie section in Ireland is in…
It’s in Ennis. Last year, a councillor in the Co Clare town called for it to be officially recognised as a tourist landmark.
The famous segment of the Christmas special sees Ted, Dougal and a number of fellow priests become trapped in the lingerie section of an unnamed department store.
The store was, in fact, the Dunnes in the centre of Ennis.
“It is now the fruit and veg section, because they’ve extended significantly,” Green Party councillor Brian Meaney told DailyEdge.ie.Source: Channel 4/YouTube
The movie ‘Firestorm’ only exists in Father Ted and Seinfeld
Ted is shown, in the ‘Going to America’ episode discussing a film he has just seen with Dougal: ”And Harrison Ford jumps off the plane – and as he’s falling fires up the plane.”
From Dougal: “Wow that sounds great.”
What movie is that, you ask? Well, it appears to be ‘Firestorm’ – which doesn’t actually exist, but was referred to by characters in Seinfeld in the episode ‘The Pool Guy’.
Jerry tells a friend about a scene when Ford “jumped out of the plane and was shooting back up at them while he was falling”.
(George’s girlfriend’s father thought it was “a hell of a picture”).
Once and for all, Dermot Morgan didn’t write ‘Ted’
Because of his reputation as a satirist and script-writer (The Live Mike, Scrap Saturday, etc. etc.) – it was widely thought in Ireland at the time of the show’s broadcast that the comedian had written it.
“A lot of people thought that Dermot wrote it, but it wasn’t really his type of humour,” Graham Linehan told DailyEdge.ie during the week.
Source: TByrno/YouTubeDermot was much more political and satirical. He was perfect for the role though. Nobody else could have played it.
There’s a touching memorial to Dermot Morgan in a Dublin park….
The ‘Joker’s Chair’ was erected in Merrion Square in memory of the much-loved star in 2002, four years after his death.
Galway-born artist Catherine Greene was approached by Morgan’s partner to create the memorial. She proceeded, under the condition that it should be an allegorical piece, rather than an image of the comedian himself.
And if you feel like a cup of tea…
The iconic ‘Parochial House’ from Craggy Island is now home to a Ted-themed tea-house (it’s actually in The Burren).
If you feel like dropping by for a natter – you’re advised to book ahead.
Tea at Fr Ted’s includes all home baking using only organic ingredients; scones, brown bread, desserts, home made jams made from our own fruit, organic tea and coffee are served in a welcoming home atmosphere.
It’s a long way from ‘organic’ we were rared.
(An earlier version of this article said that Pat Shortt, not Jon Kenny, played the ‘Eurosong’ presenter. My apologies. Particularly to Jon Kenny. – DB)