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Father Ted was a TV dark comedy series from the land of Ireland that was first aired in the 1990s, and the only Irish TV comedy to have been made until Mrs Brown's Boys was created a decade later (though the latter's status as a "comedy" is easily disputable). The show was first brought around when two Irish TV writers, Arthur Mathews and Graham Lineman, found English comedy to be too "boring" and "nice", and so they created their own comedy to challenge the English idea of humour.
The show centres around Father Ted, an Irish priest from the land of Ireland, who is also an Irish Catholic. He lives with Father Dougall, a large but somewhat mentally retarded man who quite possibly kills mice, Mrs Doyle, a mentally unstable Irish maid who for some reason defies the rule of stereotype by being not fat, and Father Jack Hackett, a senile dipsomaniacal old git who, despite many similarities to real senile gits, is not actually based on anyone, at least according to the show's creators (although his real life counterpart was still alive at the time, so perhaps it may have been out of fear). The four of them have been condemned for life to Craggy Island by the then-opressive Irish government, and each episode would revolve around Father Ted's failed attempts to escape the island prison until the final episode, where he tragically realises he is stuck in the prison for life (or at least, for the rest of his short life).
edit Plot Summary
Father Ted is an Irish priest who has been accused by the Irish government of plotting to overthrow the nation. He is condemned to Craggy Island (a local nickname; officially named "Kwan-li-so No. 25"), an island prison so secretive even Wikipedia considers it "fictional". After appealing to the Pope as a Catholic priest, his life is saved from execution there, but he is still imprisoned along with other Catholics imprisoned on the island. In the show's 32 episode run, Father Ted would try to escape Craggy Island but would never succeed. In the final episode, Father Ted was supposed to perform one final escape to America, and horrifically realise he will never escape as he is marched towards the firing squad. This ending, however, was considered too close to the fourth series of Blackadder, so they replaced his death with a montage of every episode, before showing us the anti-climatic clip of Father Ted being shot with no dramatic music to accompany him collapsing.
The original Irish run had Craggy Island as a clear prison, and was in fact a dark comedy - episode plots would revolve around Father Ted's friends being beaten by guards or the crew witnessing a public execution to set them straight. However, when the English TV industry found it, they edited it to make it look like the priests have been "banished" to a "remote island parish" thanks to "funny incidents". The English TV industry would then destroy the original footage and replace it with the censored version, and thus every rerun to this day is actually the censored, light-hearted sitcom edition, even in Ireland.
Father Ted is nowadays considered one of, if not the, greatest shows from Ireland - just like Wales and Scotland, it is quite easy to label a show "the best" because each country has about five shows to their one channel. According to writer Arthur Matthews, the man Father Ted himself, Dermot Morgan, was so devoted to his character that he was killed in real life when his character dies in the final episode, dismissing rumours that he was killed because they couldn't afford the special effects to "kill" the actual character.
Because the original footage has been destroyed, unfortunately Morgan died for nothing. Co-star Ardal O'Hanlon made his acting debut with the show, and would go on to have a long career of doing shows everyone would forget about shortly after, and O'Hanlon is proud of forever holding a great legacy as "that guy from Father Ted". Actor Frank Kelly (Jack Hackett) went to England to star as a zombie extra in Shaun of the Dead; he was chosen because they didn't have to apply any prosthetics to make him look like a convincing zombie.