Iconic horror movies are fertile ground for parody and homage. Psycho has been referenced in everything from Halloween H20 to Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol. Nods to The Shining crop up all over the place. And how about the instantly recognizable image of Jason and his hockey mask? Remember National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? In 1998, exactly 30 years after Night of the Living Dead was unleashed on an unsuspecting world, Irish sitcom Father Ted remade Romero’s first zombie outing in its own loopy image.
Father Ted ran for three series, totaling 25 episodes of classic comedy. The show takes place on Craggy Island, where the eponymous priest (Dermot Morgan) lives with Dougal (Ardal O’Hanlon), a naïve and endearingly stupid younger priest, and Father Jack (Frank Kelly), a lecherous drunkard who mainly sits around shouting variations of the phrase, “Arse! Drink! Feck! Girls!” Mrs. Doyle (Pauline McLynn) is the tea-obsessed housekeeper. In “Night of the Nearly Dead,” she wins a poetry contest and gets a visit from asinine talk show host Eoin McLove (Patrick McDonnell).
Eoin is eager to get going.
Dougal: I think he’s just pulled up, Ted. The good news is, he can only afford a crappy, blue Ford Cortina. Imagine going around in that thing!
Ted: That’s my car.
Unfortunately, Eoin proves to be a very inconsiderate houseguest—Mrs. Doyle faints at her first sight of him, to which he replies, “Brilliant! She fell on her arse!” But his odd behavior is the least of their worries. As it turns out, Mrs. Doyle has unwittingly divulged the date of Eoin’s visit to a gabby acquaintance, and his doddering fans soon besiege the parochial house. Dougal estimates their number to be 17 million, and likens them to “a big tide of jam coming towards us, but jam made out of old women!” Ted tries to reason with the adoring crowd:
Ted: I’m afraid we can’t stay around to chat. I have a very important baptism tomorrow. The baby has a very big head, and it may not fit in the font.
A waste of time, of course. Ted and the others have no other choice but to seek refuge in the house, while old ladies restlessly prowl the yard.
Even creepier than zombies?
Ted: We have to get him out of here. Do you know what we need? Something to lead them away from him, so he can escape. Some kind of misleading event, but what could it be?
Dougal: I know! A diversion! That’s what it’s called, a diversion!
While the priests contemplate futile strategies, like luring the unwanted visitors into a giant bingo game, Mrs. Doyle is busy in the kitchen. When Eoin later tries to cut the cake she’s made for him, he discovers that a sweater has been baked in it, thus combining his two favorite things in one wooly, banana-flavored abomination. Then the women trick Ted into opening a window, ostensibly to hear his latest sermon once more. Thus the house is quickly overrun by gray-haired ladies who moan, “Eoin! Eoin!”
During the showdown in the upstairs bathroom, a rooster’s crow gives Mrs. Doyle an idea for a final, desperate gambit. She reminds the invaders that they all have husbands waiting at home for their breakfasts. Ted follows her lead:
Ted: Remember last year, Mrs. Dunn? Your husband tried to wash a cup … and burned the house down. And Mrs. Collins, when Mr. Collins tried to make the bed on his own … and lost a leg.
This last bit of politically incorrect reasoning does the trick, and Eoin is finally free to leave … along with two suitcases full of stolen goods from the house. To make up for all the trouble, Eoin’s agent (Maria Doyle Kennedy) invites Ted onto Eoin’s television show for a quiz. When he hears that there’s a cash prize, the famously greedy Ted accepts. And he aces his specialist subject, William Shatner’s “Tek Wars”, but the concluding general knowledge question trips him up. As it turns out, Father Ted doesn’t know what John Paul II’s name was before he became pope. Ted’s Guess?
Eoin: Anyway, I’m going to stop talking to you now, because I don’t know what else to say to you.