'Father Dowling Mysteries" Is A Toothless Blast From The Past Review

If there's one constant in American television, it's the public's insatiable appetite for mysteries and the oddballs tasked with solving them. In the past decade, that role has largely been filled by the likes of CSI and Law and Order, and depended upon sophisticated technology and identification of bodily fluids, but it used to be different. Americans used to prefer their detectives to be curmudgeonly septuagenarians who simply solved murders in their spare time, your Miss Marples and what have you. Father Dowling Mysteries was born of this trend, and even if it hasn't aged especially well (or just strangely), you could probably do worse as daytime television reruns go.

Tom Bosley is Father Frank Dowling, a Chicago-area priest whose work is constantly interrupted by stumbling across murders and other crimes he is then obligated to solve. Tracy Nelson is Sister Stephanie "Steve" Oskowski, a streetwise nun who assists Frank in his duties. James Stephens and Mary Wickes are Father Philip Prestwick and housekeeper Marie Murkin, respectively, who are there to be kind of funny sometimes, so that the show doesn't feel the weight of all these murders going on.

If any one detail is most remarkable upon watching this program 20 years after the fact, it's just how  glossy the treatment of heinous crimes generally is. Each episode has a Bobbsey Twins style mystery title, ensuring that storylines are contained, and ultimately compartmentalized, without too much affecting the characters that you come to know week after week. It's all there, of course, but it's treated in such a way that seems remarkably glib given the wall-to-wall death. Of course, that might be a healthy antidote to the arterial spray that has coated CBS's lineup for more than 10 years now. It's a relic of a time with kinder, gentler ideas about homicide, but a brainier approach might be just what you're looking for.


The original episode promos are included.

"Father Dowling Mysteries: The Final Season" is on sale March 12, 2013 and is not rated. Mystery. Directed by Bob Bralver, Charles S Dubin, Christopher Hibler, David Moessinger, Harry Harris, James Frawley, Peter Ellis, Robert Scheerer, Seymour Robbie, Sharon Miller. Written by Gerry Conway, Jeri Taylor, Dean Hargrove, Joyce Burditt, James H. Brown, Barbara Esensten, William Conway, Brian Clemens, Robert Schlitt, Ralph McIrney, Lincoln Kibbee, Michael Reaves, Wayne Berwick. Starring James Stephens, Mary Wickes, Tom Bosley, Tracy Nelson.

Anders Nelson • Associate Editor


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