“Ah yeah Ted, you’re here to stay, with me, Mrs Doyle and Father Jack, forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever…” is how it finished. The seemingly accidental sentimental final scene of Ireland’s favourite sitcom. Even its creators at the time must have underestimated those very words, as Father Ted still feels as fresh in the national vernacular as it did when people had to, seemingly absurdly, tune in at a designated time to watch their favourite shows. It’s been the motivation for an infinite number of Halloween costumes, it’s spawned its own fan festival, and ultimately, worked its way onto the unofficial citizen test, as no true Irish person is without the ability to recite even the smallest lexicon of Ted quotes, popular or obscure.
But it’s pulling up on 20 years since that fateful final scene, and with any milestone, it gives pause for reflection. Father Ted has been good to us, but a lot has happened in the 20 years since it’s been off air. We became rich, we became poor, and became sort of rich again. We have learned that there is more than one type of coffee, and we have learned that there is more than one type of tea. Burritos are no longer considered fancy and exotic, and you would think we would know what a housing bubble should look like.
Father Ted has seen us score, and seen us sore, being with us through the good times and bad. It has been one of the few consistent cultural staples that have bared with us through a tumultuous generation, just like a scar from the MMR jab or the Chicken Fillet Roll. It even feels as if it has been a throw back to simpler times, where in moments of unease and joy, the nation would turn to men of the cloth for respite and comfort, albeit this time from the couch instead of cathedrals, and the Isle of Craggy over confession.
But thankfulness should not out do pensiveness, and just as a proud owner of a beloved pet clutched under arm as they triumphantly exit a taxidermist should, we must come to wonder if these are not looks of affirmation that passer-by’s are showering us with, and that maybe, we should humbly accept our fate, and move on to create room for anew. But we don’t. It’s been nearly 20 years, and we still seem as keen as ever to bring out and parade around the dinner party, our now withered and decaying prized companion. We’ve seen the routine all before, but we don’t mind, “a classic never dies” we say, fearing any critique.
But with every joke, meme, and clickbait article we indulge, we hinder ourselves. A conservativeness emerges, where it’s the unoriginal tried and tested joke that we go with for the laugh that satisfies us. As long as people laugh, we convince ourselves, then we are funny. But it eats us. We don’t create, grow, or strive as individuals, we leech off the humour of a strangers past accomplishments, and rehash every joke in every way that is possible for the human brain to conceive.
With Father Ted, Ireland is the Native American; hunting, devouring, and utilising every part of the buffalo carcass until it can be exploited for our various needs no more. But Ireland is also paradoxically the Frontiersman, mercilessly and ignorantly abusing its prey, to the point of extinction.
How much further can we, and should we go? How many more precious likes on Instagram can you afford to give, on yet another picture of someone you haven’t talked to in months, standing outside the house on a weekend away? Can you really stomach another inevitable pseudo witty encounter with someone in work or the pub, who obviously relies on their vast repertoire of quotes to get by? Is it really that funny when you get the results from the quiz of which player from the over 75’s football match you are?
It’s run has been magnanimous, it’s legacy inexpugnable, and its jokes still poignantly relatable, but realistically, we’ve all had our fill.
Ireland, I think it’s time. As great as it has been, if we are really going to consider ourselves in the upper echelons of craic and wit, then we need to move on, remove the Craggy Crutch, and embrace what’s to come. Like an old flame, we can enjoy the fond memories, without making it our everything. Because if we don’t, then well, the joke will be on us.