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Good Show - Disappointing DVD Quality
on February 7, 2012
I've been waiting a long time for the Father Dowling Mysteries to come to DVD. It was one of my favorite series during its original run from 1989 - 1991. Along with "Murder, She Wrote" I considered it a sort of comfort-TV. (Like comfort food in a way, only without the calories!) I could count on both shows for an hour of decent entertainment with likable characters, (mostly) solid writing and pleasant casts.
The Father Dowling Mysteries didn't enjoy the long run of Murder, She Wrote and the wait for it to come to DVD has been considerably longer. Unfortunately, now that it's finally been released, the quality of the DVDs isn't what I had hoped it would be. I knew I wasn't going to get Blu-ray quality, but I expected the episodes to look a little better than they did on my VHS tapes when they were newly recorded and they just - don't. Not really. A couple of the episodes (The Missing Body Mystery, for instance) look overly dark and a bit muddy in places and even have some odd moments where the picture jerks a little. (Forgive my techy-talk.)
Aside from a promo for each episode - "Next on the Father Dowling Mysteries..." (which are of even poorer quality than the episodes) - there are no extras. There are, however, English subtitles.
The case is just as bare-bones as the DVDs. A brief synopsis of each episode is included, but it's printed on the reverse side of the case art. That means that, unless you remove the insert from the case, you're reading the synopsis text through the plastic and some of it is obscured by the doohickies that hold the discs in place.
While I was disappointed in the quality of the DVD and the packaging, I really enjoyed spending time with Father Dowling (Tom Bosley) and Sister Steve (Tracy Nelson) again and was quickly reminded of how much Mary Wickes as the housekeeper, Marie, added to the series.
Included in this 2-disc set is "Fatal Confession", the original television pilot which aired in November of 1987, in which Father Dowling and Sister Steve investigate the apparent suicide of a former parishioner.
The set also includes all episodes from the first season:
* The Missing Body Mystery (2-hour episode) - After a man dies in the confessional, his body disappears, only to turn up across town. The investigation leads to a confrontation with the FBI.
* What Do You Call a Call Girl Mystery - Three powerful men are suspects in the murder of a prostitute.
* The Man Who Came to Dinner Mystery - Star Tracy Nelson's real-life grandmother, Harriet (from Ozzie & Harriet fame) and her then-husband William R. Moses guest star in an episode where Moses has witnessed a murder and is now being hunted by the murderers.
* The Mafia Priest Mystery (parts 1 & 2) - When a fellow priest, who has family ties to the mob, is accused of murder, Father Dowling tries to prove his innocence.
* The Face in the Mirror Mystery: When Father Dowling's no-good half-brother (also played by Bosley) turns up, Frank is able to thwart his attempted crime, but their resemblance to one another causes trouble.
* The Pretty Baby Mystery: After a baby is left at the rectory, Father Dowling and Sister Steve try to help the mother, whose life is in danger.
The Father Dowling Mysteries was a good series with an appealing cast. I'm glad it has finally come to DVD. But, IMHO, the poor quality of this release doesn't do the series justice, which is a darn shame. I hope that seasons 2 & 3 are created with a closer eye to quality.