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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.
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on December 27, 2011
Father Dowling Mysteries was a brilliant, original, intelligently written, and super enjoyable mystery series starring Tom Bosley (most notably for some as Mr. Cunningham on Happy Days), Tracy Nelson (daughter of famed 60's rock singer Ricky Nelson, also the sister of Gunnar and Matthew Nelson of late 80's early 90's hair band Nelson), and Mary Wickes (notably from the feature films "Sister Act" and "Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit" as Sister Mary Lazarus).

Bosley plays Father Frank Dowling, the priest of a Chicago parish who runs around the windy city with his right-hand streetwise nun, Sister Stephanie "Steve" Oskowski (played by Nelson), solving murders, much in the tradition of "Murder, She Wrote" and "Diagnosis Murder". Father Dowling and Sister Steve are supported by housekeeper Marie (portrayed by Mary Wickes). Father Dowling and Sister Steve investigate murders, and in the tradition of the aforemention "Murder, She Wrote", outsmarting the police and criminals themselves while uncovering deeper hidden clues that the police overlook.

This series started in January 1989 with a total of 8 episodes in its first season. The series was launched by a tv-movie called "Fatal Confession: A Father Dowling Mystery" which aired in 1987. The show was not given its proper due as it ended in 1991 at the end of its third season. I hope that the tv-movie that started it all will be included in this release. The phrase "they don't make shows like this anymore" is absolutely true about high caliber shows like this one.

If you miss the days when shows weren't hyper-sexualized, when mysteries were solved without grotesque gore, vulgar language, and toilet humor, if you miss the days when tv used to have substance, then you will LOVE "Father Dowling Mysteries". If you are a fan of "Murder, She Wrote" and "Diagnosis Murder", then you will LOVE "Father Dowling Mysteries". Father Dowling and Sister Steve solve crimes with some pluck, determination, intelligence, and heavenly guidance. This show will give you something to believe in.
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on February 25, 2017
Father Dowling was a great/fun watch when it first aired in the late 80s, and while the picture may have a bit of age to it, the stories and characters are as good now as they were originally, the episodes are as much fun to watch as ever.

I was intrigued to read in an Obituary of Ralph McInerny on Telegraph.Co.Uk:

McInerny fashioned Dowling as a spiritual heir to GK Chesterton's Father Brown, compassionate but not entirely worldly. "His secular interest in crime," noted one critic, "is merely a mask for his deeper concern for the spiritual welfare of the victims and criminals involved."

I began to understand, through that line, why I had enjoyed Father Dowling so much, and how I had felt so "at home" and "at ease" when I discovered Father Brown.
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on November 13, 2013
This 1989-1991 (with a 1987 pilot episode) murder mystery show is just dynamite, mixing far-fetched fantasy (really, how many priests uncover gun smuggling and mafia plots among their parishioners??) with gritty realism (cops and other extras/props appear pulled from the Chicago streets) in a very satisfying blend of entertainment, remaining faithful in this formula to the style of Notre Dame professor Ralph McInerny's original paperback detective stories. The show has a dark tone (often presenting mature themes and physical peril for its leads) while remaining family friendly, a rarity for television. It charms the viewer by allowing one to root for its protagonists as decent people, rather than presenting us with the nihilistic or neurotic anti-heroes we find on most police procedural shows now airing on TV. Full disclosure: When I saw parts of this series on TV as a kid, I didn't find it terribly exciting, but I'm loving every minute of it on DVD now that I'm able to appreciate the clever dialogue, even though I'm probably younger (33) than its target audience. This first season aired on NBC before moving to ABC for its last two seasons, also available now on DVD, but the show is the same thing from both networks. Some things that make it a wonderful show:

1.) Authentic Chicago locations from the days before filmmakers started using Toronto to double for the Windy City, avoiding Mayor Daley's high costs for filming rights. Locations here include everything from Lake Shore Drive to the Stockyards. If you've ever visited or lived in Chicago, you'll be surprised at how many times you'll say "I've been there" while watching this show, even though it's 25 years old.

2.) A great cast featuring Tom Bosley ("Happy Days") as Father Dowling, a Catholic parish priest who solves murder mysteries, in an effortless performance made all the more remarkable by the fact that Bosley is both a native Chicagoan and Jewish rather than Catholic. He underplays the role with a deceptive geniality, getting serious when necessary, but never losing a sense of fun in solving the mysteries. Then there is Tracy Nelson as the cheerfully implausible "Sister Steve," his sidekick in unraveling the mysteries. Looking back at this show in 2013, Nelson feels particularly odd as the reformed petty criminal-turned-nun who is so close to the pastor that she calls him by his first name and sometimes sleeps on his couch, spending more time with him than in her own convent. But the innocence and pluck of Nelson's character are charming in just the right way: Sister Stephanie is a "naughty nun" insofar as she picks locks and mixes drinks like a pro, but her character's quality of naive worldliness works perfectly as a Watson-like foil to the Holmes that is Father Dowling, and the mystery plots themselves are so imaginative that one rarely feels inclined during a show to deconstruct her character's credibility. Mary Wickes ("Sister Act") is surprisingly touching as Father Dowling's scowling housekeeper Marie, who cares for him more than her external actions let on, and the actors playing recurring characters (like the gently paternal bishop, hapless young assistant pastor, and various police allies) are all delightful in their characterizations.

3.) Great dialogue. This is a more cerebral TV series than many action-driven police procedural shows, making it more like the "Star Trek" than "Star Wars" of detective fiction, but the dialogue is effortless in a way that advances the plot and endears you to the characters without ever drawing attention to itself. Characterizations of good-hearted Father Dowling, clever Sister Steve, hapless Father Prestwick, tart Marie, and the scandalized bishop are memorable and never dull. It's some of the funniest and most touching writing that you will find on any TV show from these years.

4.) Solid guest stars, including Leslie Nielson in the TV pilot movie that opens disc one of this two-disc set. Great acting and character interaction all around on this one. Overall, this show comes across as so far-fetched that one can only take it as pure fantasy, but it's a fantasy presented realistically enough that you care about the main characters while enjoying their adventures. A few of the guest stars are generic TV players, but everyone seems to be having fun on the show, which makes it fun to watch.

There's no way to possibly take the basic "priest detective" premise of these stories seriously, but that's part of their charm, as they are meant to be enjoyed as pure escapism. Every episode is original and creative, refreshingly lacking in the formulaic boredom of "CSI" and other generic procedurals on TV today. This show is the rare murder mystery that is actually fun to watch.
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on September 23, 2012
As one of the writers of the first season of Father Dowling, it was truly gratifying to read the Customer Review Section and discover how much the series was, and continues to be, appreciated by its fans.
I wrote The Man Who Came To Dinner Mystery episode. The guest star who played Sister Steve's lost love in that episode was William R. Moses and he and Tracy Nelson were married at the time. As it happened, I'd written for him before since he also starred in Falcon Crest and I wrote many episodes of that series as well.
With Father Dowling, in addition to having the privilege of writing for the wonderful Tom Bosley and the incomparable Mary Wickes, mine was the episode which also featured Harriet Nelson, of the iconic The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet series. It turned out to be her last theatrical appearance and she was able to share it with her granddaughter, Tracy.
I'm very happy that fans of Father Dowling are able to enjoy it again. I only wish the quality of the transfer and the DVD packaging reflected the fact that those of us who worked on the show always tried to give the audience the best experience possible.
Diana Kopald Marcus
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on January 13, 2012
I have been waiting for this video for ever!!! The series is well written, produced, and portrayed! I am so glad they have finally gotten around to putting it out there on DVD.
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on March 22, 2012
I remember when this show was on TV, I loved it and could hardly wait for the next episode to air. I was very disappointed when it was so short-lived. I bought the 1st season and (20+ years later)find my perspective has changed. This show focuses on the seamier side of human nature. Oh, there's no blood and gore--thank goodness!--but watching the depraved side of man thru one and two hour movies doesn't excite me. I enjoy Murder She Wrote, Charlie's Angels (the old shows), Simon and Simon and especially Scarecrow and Mrs. King! They are very similar but have a "lighter" tone to them. There are also fewer episodes, I believe only 8 compared to other TV shows where a season has 24 or more episodes. This series is absolutely well done, well acted and the quality of DVD's is great, it's just no longer one of my favorites.
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on March 7, 2017
This whole series is really great. I watched them when they were on TV and this series holds up through time. The quality of the discs is great, they are made for small screen so you have to make them fit the size you want, but the stories, film and sound are great.
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on January 19, 2012
If you liked the other family-friendly mystery shows from the 80s/90s (i.e. Murder she Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Columbo etc.) then you will probably enjoy this one as well. I grew up with this one and have waited a veery long time for it to come out on DVD. They have a great cast that plays well off of one another and it is a fun, family friendly show. I am definitely ordering this! Hopefully the rest of the series will be soon to follow.
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on June 15, 2017
I finally got to see the original pilot. It is on this disc. The quality is great. It is as good as I remember. If you are not sure it was original just compare cars from pilot to the others. That plus other things will tell you.
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