Fr. Ted 20 years on- the Derry man who made TV history

The cast of 'Fr Ted': it's himself Fr Ted (Dermot Morgan), Fr Jack (Frank Kelly), Mrs Doyle (Pauline McLynn) and Fr Dougal (Ardal O'Hanlon).
The cast of 'Fr Ted': it's himself Fr Ted (Dermot Morgan), Fr Jack (Frank Kelly), Mrs Doyle (Pauline McLynn) and Fr Dougal (Ardal O'Hanlon).
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The Derry man who made television history by commissioning Father Ted for Channel Four has spoken of his own favourite moments on the 20th anniversary of the show.

Seamus Cassidy said he didn’t even realise until quite recently it had been two decades since he made the momentous decision to give the go-ahead for the show to be made.

Seamus was Senior Commissioning Editor for Comedy and Light Entertainment at Channel Four at the time- a role he spent 13 years in before returning to Ireland several years ago.

Speaking to the Journal about what it was that made the father Ted scripts stand out, he said simply: “It was funny”.

“People theorise about comedy but if the jokes are good you should be able to do something with it and the scripts were brilliant, very funny. I remember laughing out loud on the train- you would get different drafts of scripts and they just kept packing the jokes in.

“The thing that distinguishes it and makes it the success it was is that they had every sort of joke imaginable, word play, good characters, great plots, great visual jokes, ridiculous situations- even down to Tom’s T-shirt ‘I shot J.R.’ The detail was amazing. It was the quality of the jokes and it just came thick and fast.”

My lovely horse...

My lovely horse...

Former St Columb’s College pupil Seamus said his own favourite moments include Fr Ted explaining to Fr Dougal ‘these ones are small and these ones are far away’.

“There are so many good bits, like the episode ‘Speed’ where Dougal gets caught on the runaway milk float.

“There was just so many, like the moment when Brennan goes into the room full of rabbits, there’s so much that makes you laugh out loud.”

And while Seamus likes all the characters and describes the late Dermot Morgan’s Fr Ted as ‘brilliant’, he retains a soft spot for Dougal.

The thing that distinguishes it and makes it the success it was is that they had every sort of joke imaginable, word play, good characters, great plots, great visual jokes, ridiculous situations- even down to Tom’s T-shirt ‘I shot J.R.’ The detail was amazing.

Seamus Cassidy

“Dougal was a brilliant character,” he said.

Seamus Cassidy has been instrumental in bringing a string of cutting edge and massively successful shows to the small screen in Britain and Ireland, having commissioned Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Drop The Dead Donkey, Brass Eye and Clive Anderson Talks Back.

Since setting up Dublin-based production company Happy Endings, he has overseen, and produced a wide range of programming, including nine series of The Panel, two series of Dirty Old Towns with Diarmuid Gavin, as well as work with Phill Jupitus, Andrew Maxwell, Marty Whelan, Miriam O’Callaghan, Podge and Rodge and Dara O’Briain.

A scene from Fr Ted with Tom sporting his famous 'I Shot JR' t-shirt.

A scene from Fr Ted with Tom sporting his famous 'I Shot JR' t-shirt.