Sunday, 28 February 2016

Lower all the flags - Father Jack Hackett (aka actor Frank Kelly) has died

Father Jack remained on "that feckin' island" for 25 episodes of Father Ted between 1995 and 1998 -a period that represents the true Golden Age of British television comedy...

That's a bold claim, I realise, but not really extravagant, when you consider that Father Ted was running at the same time as Harry Enfield & Chums, The Fast Show, Knowing Me, Knowing You, and - from 1997 - I'm Alan Partridge (and The Vicar of Dibley - but we won't talk about that, mainly because I've never been able to watch more than a minute of it without starting to feel queasy). As far as I'm concerned, those five shows were in the same league as Fawlty Towers, Porridge, Blackadder, The IT Crowd, The Office and The Thick of It. It's also the comedy era I seem to have got stuck in when it comes to stock phrases and drawing parallels with real life.

The first time I watched Father Ted, I remember initially wondering why anyone would think a sitcom set on a boring Irish island, featuring three priests and their housekeeper (all over-acting like crazy), would ever be funny. I was about to dismiss it as ineptly-made anti-Catholic propaganda which would probably only amuse Irish Catholics - and then Father Jack appeared, and it all clicked into place.

My favourite Father Jack scene is the one where he's been cornered by the world's most boring priest:

And my favourite Father Jack episode was undoubtedly the one where he has to learn a series of stock phrases in order to convince Bishop Len Brennan that he's "normal":

Father Jack is now forever lodged in our collective unconscious. This morning, when I told my son and his girlfriend - both in the early 20s - that Father Jack was dead, they were genuinely sad. What a testament to Frank Kelly's brilliant comic performance. Here's a compilation of Father Jack's outbursts: let's face it - learning the lines can't have been a major challenge (it's worth watching just for the phrases, "Hairy Japanese bastards" and "arse-buscuit"):

I'll leave you with a fascinating glimpse of young Americans watching Father Ted for the first time ("Do priests have bosses?):


  1. Somehow I missed Father Ted. I'll have to remedy that.

    Successful comedy is so rare on TV that I frequently miss the 'classics' because I can't bothered to sit through the hours of dross in the hope that I will find something enjoyable. That's how I missed Peter Kay's Car Share. Had it not been for your recommendation I'd never have seen it.

    To return the favour, if you have never seen them, both Nathan Barley and Spaced made me laugh and still work. Both deserve wider recognition than they achieved.

    1. I watched Nathan Barley when it was first shown - bit curate's egg, but not bad. You're the third person to recommend Spaced to me in recent months, so I'll definitely give it a go.