Father Ted: Series 2 Part 1 Review
As I wrote in my review of the first series of Father Ted, the sheer quality of Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews' scripts continue to dazzle. As just about anyone reading this will admit, this is almost certainly the strongest character-based sitcom since Blackadder, and, although it lacks that series' cutting wit and dark humour, it makes up for it with the incessant level of invention and surrealism. Fans of Bunel can be just about guaranteed to enjoy the series, as it has a similarly skewed mindset, albeit with a more benevolent overall intent.
The second series was slightly more sophisticated than the first, but it's academic to say that one was better or worse, given that the quality remained roughly the same throughout all three series, apart from one very noticeable dip, which I'll discuss later. Anyway, these are the episodes here:
Or, the one when Ted and Dougal 'go on holiday by mistake', and find themselves sharing a caravan with Graham Norton and his band of followers, as well as frequently being arrested for acts of indecency. If that sounds funny, then you'll love this episode, which is a typically superb 25 minutes of polished jokes, superb comic timing and wonderfully surreal touches. If it doesn't, then, frankly, you may as well stop reading now, and go and watch something else.
Think Fast, Father Ted
With a title that was supposed to be a nod to the Charlie Chan films of yore, this was an episode held over from the first series, for dubious reasons. While it's not as good as a couple of others present here, it's a superb collection of hilarious touches, as Ted and Dougal are obliged to rig a raffle in aid of fixing the parochial house's roof. It's hard to convey with words the sheer humour value of Frank Kelly's facial expressions when, as Father Jack, he is confronted with one of the many, many boring priests that Linehan and Matthews introduced into the series in its run.
Tentacles of Doom
Or 'that would be an ecumenical matter', as Jack is taught to say to a trio of visiting bishops to Craggy Island. Arguably the best episode on the disc, it finds Linehan and Matthews moving into slightly darker territory than normal as various misfortunes befall all of the bishops, including an unfortunate altercation with the Holy Stone of Clonrichert, and Jack is allowed to speak more than usual. As ever, the performances and writing are top-notch.
Old Grey Whistle Theft
Sandwiched between the two best episodes of the disc comes this rather odd one. It's not that it's at all bad, as it tells the story of Dougal coming under the malign influence of Father Damien Lennon and being involved in the theft of Mr Benson's whistle, but it does showcase Linehan and Matthews' occasional tendency to be surreal for the sake of a cheap laugh (as when a character at a non-swearing picnic site is reduced to shouting 'You fupping fup!'), and the plot isn't up to much. Still, it's hilariously funny all the same, and there's a wonderful joke about Dougal and crack cocaine.
Song for Europe
As all Divine Comedy fans will know, this is the one with 'My Lovely Horse' in it, and the Eurovision song contest. The other best episode on the disc, this is about as perfect a comedy episode as can be imagined, with countless great gags tied to a strong narrative; it's not impossible to imagine that a film could have been made of the same premise at four times the length, and not had anything like the same number of laughs. As a bonus to all DC fans, it features one of their few unreleased songs, albeit 'sung' by Dick Byrne, 'The Miracle is Mine', as cheesy a slice of 'epic pop' as can be imagined this side of Celine Dion.
A Christmassy Ted
This is where the commentary track comes in useful. Linehan is incredibly candid about what he feels doesn't work in the episode, and is also completely right. He compares it to 'Oasis third album syndrome', and argues that the overlong time span that it needed to fill ultimately didn't do it any good, and he is absolutely right. Although it's hilarious on a moment-by-moment basis, it lacks any sort of coherent plot, the key jokes are drawn out for so long that they become amusing only through repetition, and there's also a curiously frustrating plot hole at the end that Linehan and Matthews, to their credit, at least make a joke out of. It's unfair to criticise this too much- it's head and shoulders above most Christmas specials- but, when the writer is yelling 'End! End!' on the commentary track, it's hard to completely disagree. Nice Ballykissangel gag at the start, though, although there's an excellent chance that it'll be incomprehensible soon.
A bog standard 4:3 video transfer, that looks slightly better than VHS copies, but nothing really stunning; however, to expect anything else would smack of folly and redundancy.
A stereo mix is provided that does a nice job of showcasing the music, especially in the Song for Europe episode; in fact, the soundtrack sounds notably better than VHS, as well as slightly better than that of the first series.
Only one, but it's excellent. Linehan's commentary for the first series was a joy, and so is this one, combining fascinating anecdotes about the production with some hilariously off-the-wall jokes about commentary tracks in general, awards ceremonies, the rock music scene, Irish television and lingerie stores. The best one-liner comes when he says, utterly deadpan, in the Christmas special 'I personally love lingerie sections, and often pretend to be lost in them'. It helps if you've listened to his track for the first series- he often refers back to it- but this confirms that he is one of the best DVD commentators out there, as well as coming across as far more human than many of the dry, distanced directors on Generic Hollywood Blockbuster #3224.
The excellent series is, however, not given the treatment it completely deserves by VCI, who really ought to have done a 2-disc set with all of the second series on and the Xmas special as an extra. However, the content is as strong as ever, and the superb commentary track makes this a highly recommended purchase. All together now: 'Go...' (this has been edited for reasons of tedium, repetition and pointlessness. Ed)