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23 Feb 2017

Ecumenical Matters podcast review: Part 1

James McAnespy hosts Ecumenical Matters - The Father Ted podcast
The podcast cover art I designed in Canva -
probably doesn't have Ted in it enough to be
eye-catching in a podcast library
At the start of the month I released the wrap up episode for Ecumenical Matters, The Father Ted podcast. It was the end of about six months work to definitively review every episode of Father Ted. In case you don't know,
Father Ted was a sitcom that ran from 1995-1998 on Channel 4 Television in the UK, about three priest and their housekeeper who get up to all sorts of adventures on a decrepit island off Ireland's west coast. It was filmed in front of a live studio audience. Oh, and it was probably the best sitcom of all time.

The podcast started around May last year, and a new one was released each week with a new guest, until we had reviewed every episode. It was a bit of a home-cooked effort, with everything going through a single mic plugged into my creaking MacBook Air*, recording onto open-source (which means, vitally, free) software, Audacity - so not exactly Radio 4.
Before I even had a mic stand - we just sat the mic on the cushion!
The idea was suggested when I was at a loose end as to what to focus on at the beginning of 2016. The scant resources I had readily available was only really conducive to a podcast, so I had to come up with a format/framing device. Just getting people round a mic and winging it is not interesting listening (although some popular podcasts seem to be little more than that) - and becomes undisciplined in the studio, where tangents about whose wearing the smelliest socks or something equally mundane lasts about 15 minutes.


Ash, who went on to produce the early episodes and appear in the Christmas special, suggested Father Ted. I had been performing as Dougal in a tribute act to Father Ted, run by Laughlines Ltd, so I had a definite unique perspective, but I assumed that someone would have though of it. I crawled through every podcast directory I could find to make sure, and lo and behold they hadn't.



A few podcasts had covered ...Ted as an exercise as part of a larger project, which wasn't what I was aiming for. For example this episode from the Remote Patrol podcast just reviewed the first episode and treated it as a pilot - a particular device within the US television industry to pitch a show - not really the best way to review a sitcom. The first episode of ...Ted was just another episode of the first series - not even broadcast in the order that they had written it. They also had a US reviewer, who wouldn't have had the same cultural intonations as the two British reviewers, so it wasn't surprising that he didn't get on board with it as quickly as the others. I have just finished recording a cross-over podcast with MediaMD, an Australian podcast to introduce them (two Aussies in their early 20s) to ...Ted, and I gave them the caveat that it can be difficult to get on board with cold, and they responded that it did take the majority of the first season before they fully got it.

Going back over the show I love was brilliant fun, and the guest contributors were always great value - whether that be because of the wealth of knowledge they brought, or their ease on the mic, or mostly, because they loved Father Ted as much (if not more than) myself.

I'll have more posts coming up about different guests and travails I encountered! Keep up with the blog by signing up with your email address on the right hand side there.

* The Macbook Air creaked it's last creak before I finished this post...