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Featured TV on DVD Review: Father Dowling Mysteries: Season One

February 6th, 2012

Father Dowling Mysteries: Season One - Buy from Amazon

Father Dowling Mysteries ran during the late 1980s and 1990s at a time when there were an plethora of murder mystery shows on network TV. And I mean that literally. There were simply too many of them at the time and this show was never a big hit and lasted only two half-seasons and one full season. Now that it is coming out on DVD for the first time, will old fans want to check it out again? Will new fans be impressed by what they see?

The Show

The show stars Tom Bosley as the titular Father Frank Dowling, a Catholic priest and fan of detective novels. He's read so many he has begun to think and act like a detective. He's helped by one of the nuns, Sister Stephanie "Steve" Oskowski (played by Tracy Nelson) who grew up on the streets and was saved by Father Frank Dowling. The other main recurring characters are Marie Murkin (Mary Wickes) the housekeeper who is mainly there for comedic touches, and Father Philip Prestwick (James Stephens) a fellow priest who is concerned with getting a promotion more than the day-to-day dealings in the parish.

So that's the basic setup. How is the execution? Mostly good. It is a product of its time and it is a lot more lighthearted and low-key than you would get from the genre if the show were made today. (Although the body count in some of the episodes is surprisingly high, even if the deaths are not graphic in the least.) Father Dowling has mannerisms that remind me of Murder, She Wrote, although this show is not in the same league. The chemistry between Tom Bosley and Tracy Nelson help immensely. There are some parts that don't quite work. Father Dowling uses the, 'Are you Catholic?' line to guilt people into giving him information a little too often. Although I did like his run in with the atheist. (You know you are scrapping the bottom when you have to resort to Pascal's Wager.) On the other hand, evil twin? Really? That's something you resort to in season five, not season one.

The Extras

The only extras on the 2-disc set are the episode promos. Like I've said in the past, I hate these as they give away important details of the plot, but they are nice to have as historical records. There are subtitles and proper chapter placements, but no play all buttons.

The Verdict

Father Dowling Mysteries is about on par with Diagnosis Murder, but isn't among the best of the genre the era had to offer. Season One is only ten episodes long (or seven if you count the three two-parters as single episodes) so the price-per-minute is a little high for this type of release. If you really liked the show and it has been a while since you've seen it, it might be worth picking up for the nostalgia factor. But for most, a rental will be enough.

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