Monday, 25 October 2010

RIP Father Dowling: Tom Bosley dies at 83

As you may have garnered from my last post, I have been in Münster for the last few days on a European Voluntary Service seminar. During this time, I was greatly saddened to hear from a friend of mine of the death of Tom Bosley at the age of 83. For most people he will be remembered as Mr C, Richie's dad in the classic TV series Happy Days, but I think in Britain it is perhaps his later work in the 1980s and early 1990s for which he is best remembered.

He was a regular to BBC1 at 2:40pm, when he appeared (and still appears) alongside Angela Lansbury as Sheriff Tupper in Murder She Wrote. However, for me he will always be Father Frank Dowling, the Chicago priest who solves crimes in his spare time with Sister Stephanie 'Steve' Oskowski.

The show was never trying to be ground breaking, and its charm came from its good natured humour, not its water-tight plots. I have lost count of the number of times Sister Steve managed to solve the crime either using the skills she learned 'growing up in the neighbourhood' or wearing a disguise! Many of the plot lines in the later episodes even tended to be rather fantastical; how could we ever forget the time Father Dowling met Sherlock Holmes, or had to fight Satan to save Sister Steve's Soul, let alone the two or three times his evil (identical) twin Blaine came to visit.

But none of that mattered. Father Frank was a good and honest man who always put other people ahead of himself, even when it endangered his life. It made for great television, and a fantastic model of TV Catholic priesthood. I doubt I would be Catholic today if it were not for the down to earth, human way Bosley portrayed Father Dowling. For better or worse, he was the first Catholic priest I ever knew.

Sadly, unlike other Murder Mystery shows of its time such as Murder She Wrote and Diagnosis Murder fans are still waiting for the series to come out on DVD. For now, I will have to content myself with the legendary opening credits sequence

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