A religious comedy shows just wouldn't make it to network TV in the
US. Too easy to offend people, and that's what the networks try to
avoid above all else. Luckily, there isn't such a problem in England,
and there been some very humorous shows poking light fun at religion made
in the UK. With both Father Ted and The Vicar of Dibney being
favorites of mine, I was very interested in seeing Bless Me, Father,
another sitcom with a religious basis that was first broadcast in 1978.
Acorn has now released all three seasons (21 episodes) of this low-key
comedy show in a three disc boxed set. Unfortunately the show is
a bit dated, and not nearly as funny as I was hoping.
In a small suburb of London in 1950, Father Neil Boyd (Daniel Abineri),
fresh from the seminary, is assigned to be the new curate at St. Jude's
(patron Saint of lost causes.) The Pastor there is Father Duddleswell
(Arthur Lowe of Dad's Army fame) a crusty old veteran priest who has seen
it all. Though he seems gruff and sour, inside he has a heart of
gold. It is Duddleswell's job to show the young wide-eyed Father
Boyd the ropes at their small parish.
The household is run by Mrs. Pring (Gabrielle Daye) who has been having
a battle of wits with Father Duddleswell for the past 20 years. They
constantly throw insults and jabs back and forth, though you can tell that
they both feel affection for the other.
Other supporting characters include Billy Buzzle (David Ryall), the
bookie who lives next to St. Jude's and Father Duddleswell main nemesis,
and Dr. Daley (Patrick McAlinney) Duddleswell's best friend who is always
Bless Me, Father isn't absurd like Father Ted or slightly
outrageous like The Vicar of Dibney. The humor in this show
is gentle and calm. To gentle for my tastes. Things like a
dog climbing onto the Bishop's lap are greeted with uproarious laughter
on the soundtrack but they don't cause me to crack a smile.
The show is based on writer Peter de Rosa's experiences as a novice
curate, and I think that accounts for the show's weakness. A lot
of the humor has a "you had to have been there' feel to it.
Maybe it is because I wasn't raised as a Catholic, but a lot of the humor
just doesn't work for me. In the first episode for example, Father
Duddleswell informs Father Boyd that he is going to put him through a baptism
of fire, implying that his introduction to St. Jude's is going to be very
harsh. After a tour of the district, seeing the hospital and the
cemetery, he hears the confession of a young boy. After that
Father Duddleswell informs Boyd that he passed with flying colors, much
to the relief of the young man. I totally missed the point.
Was hearing a single confession supposed to be difficult? Was Father
Duddleswell lying about the introduction being difficult? If so,
Father Boyd certainly acted like it was rough going.
Another thing that I have against the show is the run of the mill sitcom
plots; Father Duddleswell stealing a pig that subsequently dies, Duddleswell
realizes that a couple he wed isn't really married, a masterpiece painting
is discovered hanging in a convent. These are the type of thing that
we've all seen before. Seeing them again, with fewer actual jokes,
just doesn't make for an entertaining show.
The two channel mono soundtrack is showing its age a bit. There
isn't much in the way of bass, even in the opening and closing music, but
that is to be expected. The dialog was clear but unfortunately there
was a light hum in the background. It wasn't obtrusive, but it was
easy to hear in the quiet sections.
The full frame image was a little less than average. The picture
was soft, without the definition I was expecting. The show was recorded
on tape (the interior scenes at least) and there are some video dropouts
because of that. The show is still watchable, I'm sure Acorn did
the best they could given the source material, but don't expect a stellar
The only extras included with this set are a series of text biographies
of the writer and actors.
While I love Going My Way and Bells of St. Mary,
Bless Me, Father doesn't work for me. The plots are trite and
the humor is too low key. While I have enjoyed other Britcoms based
on the lives of people of the cloth, this one isn't worth tracking down.