In this third instalment of Storying Pastors, Priests and Ministers we go a little new school and a little old school looking back at TV shows with priests and pastors as central characters. There are more than a few with recurring ‘sleuthing priest’.
(For those of you catching up here are the first two parts: Storying Pastors, Priests and Ministers and Storying Pastors, Priests and Ministers (Part 2))
Father Dowling Mysteries (1987, 1989-1991)
This series is based on characters created by Ralph McInerny while riffing off G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown. In the show, Father Dowling and his assistant, Sister Stephanie, solve all sorts of mysteries from the minor to murder, all the while serving his Chicago parish.
I have vague recollections of watching the last season of this but can’t remember any of the plots. It definitely had the late 80s American TV vibe going for it.
This South Korean entry features doctors and exorcists protecting people together at a Catholic hospital in Seoul. The central characters are part of the group 643 Regia, which is sort of a guild of unauthorised but sort-of-recognised Roman Catholic exorcists. Basically, all the stuff they didn’t teach you at seminary in a Supernatural format? One wonders why this hasn’t made it into an English version at some point. (From the trailer I see that the candle, book and bell are there).
More English language information at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priest_(TV_series)
The Danedyke Mystery (1979)
Based on the book, Septimus and the Danedyke Mystery by Stephen Chance, this TV series targeted at younger viewers involves the Rev Septimus Treloar, for Chief Inspector in the CID, investigating mysterious goings-on linked to his church of St Mary’s Danedyke.
I definitely remember watching this as a child. It had sense of drama, even terror, in places that British children’s series seemed to excel at and demanded the viewer tune in to the next episode.
Stephen Chance was a nom-de-plume for author and priest, Philip Turner. He wrote a number of books featuring Septimus Treloar. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Turner_(writer)
Going My Way (1962-1963)
Gene Kelly! Gene Kelly as a Roman Catholic priest in a TV series! Based the film of the same name, Going My Way (1944) starring Bing Crosby! How did I not know about this?!? Is there dancing?!?!? (The movie is here on Amazon).
Anyway, the plot is fairly simple. From IMDB:
Father O’Malley is sent to a parish in lower class New York City to assist old, crusty pastor Father Fitzgibbon. Mrs. Featherstone is the housekeeper in the rectory. When he arrives, Father O’Malley meets his boyhood friend Tom Colwell, who is running the local community center.
Bless Me, Father (1978-1981)
British sitcom set in the early 1950s about an Irish Catholic priest, Father Charles Duddlesworth, and featuring an assembly of regular characters. Set in the parish of St Jude’s the series was based upon books written by Peter De Rosa, who was himself a former curate.
Set in San Diege, Sarge featured a San Diego police detective sergeant, Samuel Patrick Cavanaugh, who decides to retire and enter the priesthood after his wife is murdered. Sarge had initially studied for the priesthood prior to his police career, but his seminary studies were interrupted by military service during World War II.