Father Ted "Going to America" (lost alternate ending of TV sitcom finale; 1998)
Father Ted is a Channel 4 sitcom that ran from April 21st, 1995 until May 1st, 1998. Lasting three series, it starred Dermot Morgan as Father Ted Crilly, a priest exiled to live in a parochial house situated in a fictional island near Ireland's west coast called Craggy Island. The episode, Going to America, was the final episode for the show that originally had a darker ending. However, this was changed following Morgan's death a day after the episode was filmed, and for being deemed unsuitable to conclude the show.
Going to America involved Ted saving Father Kevin (Tommy Tiernan) from committing suicide from jumping off a window ledge during the "It's Great Being a Priest" conference. Following this, Father Buzz Cagney invites Ted to live in a Los Angeles Parish, albeit without fellow Craggy Island parochial house occupants Father Dougal, Father Jack and Mrs Doyle. Ted does board the plane that will take him to Los Angeles, but ultimately abandons the plan following him learning from Buzz that the parish is run-down and violent, as well as feeling guilty of leaving the others behind. After doing so, Ted reluctantly accepts that he never escape Craggy Island. The episode ends with a montage of a moment from every episode of the series in reverse order, with Ted and Dougal saying goodnight to one another.
The ending, as detailed in the original script, was much different. Set at "It's Still Great Being a Priest" conference, Father Kevin is again contemplating suicide by jumping off a window ledge. Ted sees him, but to join him in committing suicide, depressed at being stuck on Craggy Island forever following the America trip falling through.
Death of Dermot Morgan
Filming of the episode wrapped up on 27th February 1998. The shoot turned out to be a long and difficult process. One scene involved Father Kevin expressing concerns about his depression to Ted, only for the latter to start dancing in excitement about his American parish relocation, inadvertently cheering up Kevin. Many takes of the scene had to be done because Kevin's actor, Tiernan, kept getting his lines wrong. Because of this, Morgan had to continually re-do his dancing, at one point stating "I can't do this anymore, I don't feel well. This isn't good, I really don't feel well". Nevertheless, Morgan persevered and the scene was filmed and kept in the episode.
Morgan had suffered health problems prior to filming the scene. Before location filming for the final series of Father Ted, Morgan was found during a medical examination to be suffering from high blood pressure, being prescribed strong blood pressure tablets. The day after recording Going to America, Morgan hosted a dinner party in London. At the end of the meal, he was feeling unwell, with his sister Denise checking him over in his bedroom. Neither realised that Morgan had suffered a heart attack. When he returned, it was not long before he collapsed. Resuscitation efforts failed, and he ultimately passed away aged 45. Some, including Tiernan, suspect that the dance scene may have inadvertently contributed towards Morgan's death due to how unwell he was feeling near the end of filming.
Even before Morgan's passing, Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, the writers for Father Ted, felt that the original ending was unsuitable and were intending to change it. Morgan's death confirmed their decision to change the ending to a montage of clips, deeming the original ending to be especially inappropriate considering the circumstances.
The script for the original ending can be found in the book Father Ted: The Complete Scripts. However, the footage of the ending has never been made publicly available. The writers' unhappiness towards the alternative ending, as well as perhaps out of respect to Morgan and his relatives, are possible reasons for why it has never been released in any form.
- The Father Ted Guide providing a synopsis for the episode. Retrieved 12 May '21
- Father Ted: The Complete Scripts, which provided the script for the original ending. Retrieved 12 May '21
- Chortle article discussing Dermot Morgan having to re-do the dance scene for Going to America, which may have contributed to his death. Retrieved 12 May '21
- Irish Mirror article discussing Dermot Morgan being found to have high blood pressure and being prescribed strong medication. Retrieved 12 May '21
- The Free Library discussing the chain of events leading to Dermot Morgan's death. Retrieved 12 May '21
- Father Ted - The Definitive Collection, where Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews discuss the alternative ending and their reasons for changing it. Retrieved 12 May '21