Father Ted is a British sitcom about a trio of Catholic priests and their tea-obsessed housekeeper living on a remote Irish island and is genuinely one of the funniest shows ever made. Even more than two decades after it was made, the show is still repeated, quoted, and referenced by new generations of fans, and the entire series is now on Youtube.
It is clear that the reason why the priests have been forced to the most remote parish in Ireland is as a punishment; Jack for being a perv, Dougal for possibly killing an entire busload of nuns, and Ted for embezzling money meant for a sick child. But my theory is that Craggy Island isn’t simply a punishment given to Ted by Bishop Brennon, but by God himself.
Embezzlement may be a terrible crime, but it’s not exactly on the same level of evil as Hitler, Trump, or people who play loud music all night after a hockey game (yes, I’m bitter…). In fact, in many episodes, Ted is the only reasonable or brave person, such as when he climbs onto the wheel of a plane to fix the fuel line, saves Dougal from the bomb on the milk float, or rescues eight priests from the lingerie section (trust me, all of those make sense if you’ve watched the show). It’s not exactly the type of punishment which justifies demons sticking red hot pokers up your arse for all eternity. But perhaps God made Craggy Island as a punishment fitting for the crime – a hell made especially for Ted.
Ted is clearly miserable on Craggy Island and would much rather be partying it up in Las Vegas than putting up with the island resident’s daily weirdness. Yet despite his crimes, he is still a devout Catholic and probably does still believe that he will go to heaven when he dies. That thought is probably the only thing which keeps him going on Craggy Island.
Yet God has set up the punishment in a way in which Ted doesn’t even realise that he is dead and in his own personal Hell. When you think about it, believing you will eventually have the relief of heaven then never getting it is in many ways a much worse punishment than the demons and the red-hot pokers.
True there are many people in reality who are just as weird as the characters on the show, and remote places which are that backwards. Yet the general wackiness of Craggy Island and the people around Ted could prove that the entire place has been set up to punish Ted. There’s the Chinatown which appears as if from nowhere, the rabbit plague, and Jack’s hairy hands. Even characters such as Father Stone could really be demons sent to punish Ted further. Why else would anyone want to live on, or even visit, Craggy Island?
Every single time Ted gets a shot at something good or a way off the island, it is ruined in one way or another. When he falls in love with a beautiful novelist, she decides to become a nun. When he’s set to inherit a fortune from Father Jack, he mysteriously comes back to life. Even when he wins the Golden Cleric award, the victory is short lived.
The final episode of the series even sees Ted finally getting a chance to move to a new parish in Beverly Hills and live his dream, only to quit when he finds out it’s a parish rife with gun violence and gangs. The final scene of the series shows him glumly realising he will be stuck on Craggy Island with Jack, Dougal, and Mrs Doyle ‘forever and ever and ever and ever.’
What greater punishment could there be?