Catholic priest Father Frank Dowling (Tom Bosley) continually stumbles over murders, abductions and other high crimes in his hometown of Chicago. Assisted by street-smart Sister Stephanie "Steve" Oskowski (Tracy Nelson), wherever the holy duo go, someone usually turns up dead. While the local police are quick to find a likely suspect, the snooping priest just as quickly finds a good reason to take a closer look. Now, for the first time on DVD, you can enjoy this 2-Disc collection of the first season of Father Dowling Mysteries which includes the original TV pilot movie!
Father Phil (James Stephens) is going to have to take 10 o'clock mass, because Father Dowling has got a murder to solve!
I remember enjoying Father Dowling when I watched it as a kid, and I remember Sister Steve, Father Prestwick, Marie, and, of course, Father Dowling, but that's all I remember. I don't remember the episode plots at all, so it's almost as though I'm watching this again for the first time. Though the show stars a priest and a nun, the writers toned down the religious aspects of the show, probably to appeal to more people.
A pilot TV movie kicked off the series in November, 1987, and it was followed by a short first season due to a writers strike in 1988. This 2-disc set includes the double-length pilot movie, a double-length episode, and 6 regular 1-hour episodes. It's also a show that jumped networks; the first season aired on NBC, while seasons 2 and 3 aired on ABC.
Disc 1 (3:57:44)
Fatal Confession (1:36:05)
The Missing Body Mystery (1:33:50)
What Do You Call a Call Girl Mystery (47:49)
Disc 2 (3:57:39)
The Man Who Came to Dinner Mystery (47:35)
The Mafia Priest Mystery - Part 1 (47:50)
The Mafia Priest Mystery - Part 2 (47:54)
The Face in the Mirror Mystery (47:53)
The Pretty Baby Mystery (46:27)
The show looks quite good for being 20+ years old. The 1.33:1 picture suffers from a few defects, such as tape artifacts, slightly dark night scenes, and a slight overall softness, but these are defects you'd find on most shows from the same period, at least ones that haven't gone through extensive restoration from the original film. There's a chapter placed after the opening credits, but the discs lack a "play all" option.
The English stereo track for the set is fairly decent, except I noticed some background hiss in a number of episodes, the worst being "The Mafia Priest Mystery - Part 1." It's not horrible enough that you can't make out the dialog, but it's noticeable if you try listening to it. There are English subtitles provided.
There are episodic previews on even episode except "The Mafia Priest Mystery - Part 2."
I had a blast re-watching the show. Yes, some of the episodes seem a bit dated (I think a number of the situations could have been remedied by someone carrying a cell phone), but it's a product of the times. I had also completely forgotten that the show was based on a series of books by Ralph McInerny. He wrote 29 of them between 1977 and 2009, so fans of the series may want to pick those up if they're looking for more mysteries featuring Father Dowling.
I hope enough people have fond memories of this show that sales justify the release of season 2, followed by season 3. Amazon is selling the set for $21, which is decent for 10 TV-hours worth of material.