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Father Ted co-creator reveals inspiration for Dougal

Father Ted co-creator Graham Linehan has revealed how the iconic Father Dougal was inspired by two of the most stupid characters on television.

The writer said the simple-minded priest was a cross between wide-eyed bartender Woody from 'Cheers' and the hilariously dim roadsweeper Trigger, from 'Only Fools and Horses'.

In Channel 4's documentary 'Unintelligent Design', Mr Linehan and his co-writer Arthur Mathews unveil the eclectic cast of characters from popular culture that gave rise to the main stars of 'Father Ted'.

The violence in the character of Father Jack was based on a very "violent Christian Brother-type priest", while his drinking was a reflection on the Irish alcohol-loving stereotype.

"One of the cliches about Ireland is that a lot of people are drinkers and this fellow drinks everything. . . Baileys, toilet cleaner, everything," said Mr Linehan.

But he said a highly decorated US soldier, Admiral James Stockdale, who ran alongside Ross Perot in the 1992 American presidential campaign, was the unlikely muse for Fr Jack's startling Tourettes-style personality.

"He had a hearing aid and he was just really odd. We just loved the idea of a character who kept barking out things at various different times."

He said the much loved Dougal was born out of some of the most gormless characters on the small screen.

He said: "We loved characters that were so stupid that they seem to have different rules.

"Dougal is probably a mixture of Woody's wide-eyed quality and Trigger's complete stupidity.

"Trigger, Coach (also from 'Cheers') and Woody were all our favourites and that's what we were going for with Dougal.

The documentary is being screened on Channel 4 as part of a celebration of its greatest comedy sitcom on the 15th anniversary of the much loved series.

It is followed by the public's all-time favourite episode of 'Father Ted' and a documentary where the writers go back to the set of Craggy Island with most of the cast.

Mr Mathews said Fr Ted Crilly was influenced by the string of cheery priests who used to visit his house during his childhood.

"It's that type of cheery, having-a-laugh type of thing, not being a Holy Joe although being very respectful of religion but having a light-hearted aspect as well."

'Unintelligent Design' will be shown tomorrow on Channel 4 at 9.05pm.

Belfast Telegraph