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Passing The Bucks

Stuart Bailie | 14:43 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

I'm at the London Weekend Television building on London's South Bank and the main studio is overrun with rabbits. They are in the living room, upstairs on the bed and there's even a black and white specimen on Father Jack Hackett's head. Meantime, Father Dougal is mildly flummoxed. "It's like a big rabbit rock festival," he burbles.

The year is 1995 and it's a live filming of a Series Two episode of Father Ted, called 'The Plague'. The premise is that Dougal's pet rabbit has sired a multitude of offspring and that Bishop Brennan's visit to Craggy Island will be problematic - given that he has an intense fear of the creatures. There's an interconnected subplot about Father Jack's penchant for naked sleepwalking and of course it all ends badly and hilariously.

It will repeat forever on cable television. I revisited the episode on the weekend and noted that it has weathered so well, a classic. On occasions I thought I could hear the delighted laughter of my younger self in the background. The filming night was the sweetest occasion and even when the scenes had been halted or the lines were occasionally fluffed, the actors and the audience were at their best.

When everything had been finished to the director's satisfaction, we all headed upstairs for a little aftershow party. I was reasonably friendly with the writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews and they were wearing their new fame with a degree of modesty. Graham had been a fairly talented music journalist, but he was now supremely in the zone and we were happy for him.

In time, the actors emerged from make-up. Mrs Doyle was ten years younger, and was drinking something more exotic than tea. Father Ted was revealed as Dermot Morgan, a little twitchy with the attention, while Father Jack had been jettisoned by Frank Kelly, beaming and resplendent in Ralph Lauren.

Like many other people, I would dearly love a return visit to the headspace of Craggy Island and more of that sort of thing.


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