On the whole subject of parents worrying about their kids showing them up in public, I heard a cute anecdote about the making of Father Ted.
Graham Linehan's mother heard that her boy was making a sitcom poking fun at the Irish clergy. It worried her. She read the script, then turned up on set to watch some of the filming. Then she spoke with every one of the actors individually.
'Is it funny?' Mrs Linehan mithered, becoming more and more reassured as the likes of Dermot Morgan and Ardal O'Hanlon assured her that it was most definitely funny. After all, they were stand up comedians, on the television, they'd know.
Only then did she get off Graham's back and switch to proudly supporting his show. I could so imagine that being my mother, or indeed any Irish or British mother in the history of the Isles. Careful Now is practically etched into all that we say and do! (And if Mrs Linehan should be reading, let me add my voice to the rest - 'Your Graham's doing great! Father Ted and The IT Crowd were both very funny. It's all good.')
However, not everyone was as easily appeased. During the run of the first season of Father Ted, Graham Linehan found himself on the current events talk show Right to Reply having to defend his sitcom.
A second generation Irish lady from Manchester, England, wasn't impressed. She thought that Father Ted didn't so much tap into cultural norms as propagate negative stereotypes as if they were truths. The racist image of a drunken, stupid Irishman found cheap expression in Father Jack and Father Dougal. The thieving Gael was right there in Father Ted himself.
How could she raise her child to be proud of her Irish heritage, when the Irish were being portrayed in this manner?
Born and bred in Dublin, Graham Linehan was contemptuous. He asked her whether the Irish had to be denied the opportunity to laugh at themselves? And whether their culture, history and traditions were so fragile, that they couldn't stand the comedic self-analysis? In short, the very notion of trying to sanctify a white-washed national identity was itself the quickest way to erode all that it was to be Irish.
On the whole, it seemed that the public agreed with him.
However, Linehan has recently admitted that Father Ted couldn't have been made today, or at least not in the same fashion. The specter of abuse in the Catholic church couldn't be ignored in such a sitcom, but its inclusion would have darkened things way past the point of humor.