Father Ted: Series 1-3

Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls! - That's right, Father Ted is back on DVD...

We sometimes wonder how Father Ted managed to get commissioned. First up, the series was the brainchild of Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, whose only previous sitcom experience was creating the appalling (and now largely forgotten) Alexi Sayle vehicle Paris. Then there's the subject matter itself – the somewhat unappealing prospect of spending time with a trio of Catholic priests on a tiny island off the west coast of Ireland. Even the cast was mainly unknown, with some having next to no acting experience.

Thankfully, for whatever reason (we like to this it was a case of Divine intervention), common sense didn’t prevail and Channel 4 agreed to take a punt on it. What viewers got in return was three series (and a Christmas special) of the funniest sitcom this side of Fawlty Towers. Like that classic, Father Ted has pretty much gone into continual rotation over the past decade – and just like Fawlty Towers it never, ever gets old.

No wonder viewers voted it into the top spot in Channel 4’s 30 Greatest Comedy Shows last August.

Picture: Having taken the time to compare these new releases to the original quartet of DVDs put out by VCI between 2001 and 2002, I feel confident in saying that you’re going to have to look bloody hard to spot any differences outside of a very slight brightness boost for Series 3.

So what is there to say about how these discs look? Well, the good news is that the various MPEG-2-encoded 1.33:1 DVD transfers harbour no egregious artefacting or other technical imperfections and are easily on a par visually with other TV DVDs of the period. Colours look fairly robust, detailing is reasonable (and a notch or two above the More4 repeats found on Freeview) and contrast levels are nice and stable.
Picture rating: 3.5/5

Audio: All three discs feature Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtracks – and to be honest, there’s not really a lot to say about them beyond the fact that they deliver pretty much everything you’d expect from a mid-‘90s British sitcom.

Technically, I haven’t been able to discern any difference between these mixes and those on the old VCI DVDs. This means that you’ll have to be content with a rather limited stereo spread that doesn’t offer too much in the way of directionality, but which does prioritise the dialogue to ensure that every single gag can be heard. Were you expecting anything else?
Audio rating: 3/5

Extras: There has at least been a bit of a change when it comes to the extra features included on these three new releases.

The big draw here for hardcore Ted-hedz is the fact that show writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews have been persuaded to sit down and record brand-new commentary tracks for all three series. These join the old episode commentaries recorded for the original VCI DVD releases of the first two series – and while there is some repetition, it’s still a treat to hear the duo reminiscing about the show’s creation. Best of all, though, is that this means that fans finally get episode commentaries for the show’s final season.

The remaining extras spread across the three new releases have been mainly culled from 2entertain’s 2007 'Definitive Collection' boxset. Series 1 boasts a 22-minute interview with Linehan and Mathews (yet more repetition with the various commentaries, but still well worth a look). The two-disc Series 2 fairs best of all with a 12-minute video covering the inaugural Tedfest that took place on Inis Mor in 2007, the half-hour Father Ted episode of the BBC series Comedy Connections and an 11-minute clip from Comic Relief in 1997, hosted by Father Ted and Father Dougal.

At this point I’d usually moan that the old Series 3 extras have been ditched for this new release. However, considering that they were all space-filling tosh (series highlights, sound effects and a gallery of screen grabs) I can’t bring ourselves to care.

All three DVDs also feature some lovely new sleeve and menu art created by Sock Monkey and Drinky Crow creator Tony Millionaire.
Extras rating: 3.5/5

We say: Fancy buying Father Ted once again on DVD at a rock-bottom price and with new episode commentaries? Ahh, go on…

4DVD, R2 DVD, £10 each, On sale now