Catholics Media and Culture

Yesterday’s discussion of M*A*S*H in this space got me thinking about the character of Father Mulcahy
which led me wonder about how many shows actually featured priests in
lead or prominent supporting roles. Are you following my stream
consciousness here?

So, I did me some research. Here’s the list:

Going My Way
(ABC, 1962-1963) – Gene Kelly portrayed the idealistic Father O’Malley
made famous by Bing Crosby in this one-hour dramedy for one
unsuccessful (at least ratings wise) season.

(NBC, 1971) – Father Samuel Patrick Cavanaugh was an ex-police
sergeant-turned-crime-solving priest portrayed by George Kennedy

(CBS, 1972-1983) – Father Mulcahy (Williams Christopher) is perhaps the
most beloved and enduring of all the TV priests. As positive a priest
character as TV has ever presented.

In the Beginning (CBS, 1978) – After leaving M*A*S*H, McLean
Stevenson starred in this short-lived almost-completely-forgotten
Norman Lear sitcom as Father Dan Cleary, an uptight, conservative
priest who teamed up with the free-spirited and streetwise Sister Agnes
to minister at a street mission.

AfterMASH (CBS, (1983-1985) – The M*A*S*H spinoff
followed Mulcahy (as well as Potter and Klinger) stateside where they
served at veterans hospital but was far less successful.

Hell Town
(NBC, 1985) – Robert Blake as Father Noah “Hardstep” Rivers, an
ex-criminal-turned-priest whose streetwise ways were just what the
doctor ordered to deal with the street gangs and drug dealers that
terrorized his East LA parishioners.

The Father Dowling Mysteries (NBC/ABC, 1987-1991) – Another one of those crime-solving priests. This one, portrayed by the recently-deceased Tom Bosley of Happy Days and Murder, She Wrote fame. Fr. Dowling did manage to eke out a longer run than Sarge though.

Nothing Sacred
(ABC, 1997-1998) – Created by Bill Cain, a Jesuit priest himself, this
controversial drama series focused on Father “Ray,” a liberal priest
who would sometimes question Church orthodoxy. During it’s brief
one-season run, the show garnered a Humanitas Prize, a Peabody Award and the ire of the Catholic League.
Personally, I thought it was an excellent show that portrayed both
liberals and conservatives within the Church with respect and dignity.
Perhaps it would have less alienated its natural audience (Catholics)
if it had been called Everything Sacred. Seriously, it would have been a better title.

Vows, (AMC, 2007) – This one, created by former M*AS*H Karen Hall never actually made it to air but the premise was described as being “about a priest who is faithful and is in love with the Church.”  I
can actually see how that would be tough sell but it might have made
for an interesting series. Maybe AMC or another network can revisit
this one? 

(ABC, 2009-Currently) – Among the alien fighters in this sci-fi remake
of an 1980’s series of the same name is Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch),
“a Catholic priest and former U.S. Army chaplain whose unease with the Visitors
is soon validated by his alliance with Erica over their discovery of the
Visitors’ secret.”

Have I missed any? 

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