Dan Luisi skillfully navigates the largest lingerie department in Ireland on his way to Craggy Island for another festive funny...

Christmas comedy specials can often be, to quote an apt analogy, a curate's egg of a show. Often because they are super-sized the comedy, whilst initially hilarious, begins to wear rather thin as the plot is stretched to fit the time slot. But here we have a perfect example of a more than double length episode which still manages to maintain the shows usual stratospherically high standards throughout - the 1996 Father Ted Christmas special, A Christmassy Ted.

There are full on belly laughs to be had throughout this festive special; from Dougal's equal measure of sheer joy and deep despair at the Christmas lights flashing on and off, to Ted's Ballykissangel dream. From Dougal (again) and his advent calendar ("Ruud Gullit sitting on a shed"), to Father Jack in a children's creche spelling out 'Arse, Feck, Girls' with the ABC wooden blocks. From Dougal (yet again) and his attempts to perform a funeral, to Mrs Doyle's repeated attempts to hang up the Christmas decorations.

But by far the funniest segment of A Christmassy Ted takes place during the annual Christmas shopping trip to "The Mainland". Ted and Dougal somehow find themselves lost in Ireland's largest lingerie department, and when they run into 6 other priests lost amongst the panties Ted realises that there's a potential scandal if they are all discovered there. So it's an uncharacteristically heroic Ted that leads a Vietnamesque escape from said lingerie department, leading to him being awarded the coveted Golden Cleric award as recognition for his actions.

Although disappointed that there is no cash prize, Ted is excited at the potential fame and prestige that comes with winning the award, he relishes in the glory and delivers an overlong acceptance speech. But by the end of the episode Ted has realised that he has become overly obsessed with the award and pledges to be a better man (how very Christmassy). There's no sign of that carrying over to Boxing Day, although he does offer to share the award with Dougal - big mistake, as the young Father McGuire goes slightly mad with power!

For me, A Christmassy Ted is essential viewing every year. I must've seen it 20 times and it still makes me laugh on every viewing. Just the thought now of Mrs Doyle's upset on receiving a Teamaster, and the crises she goes through, brings a smile to my face.

Father Ted never shied away from absurdity, and would sometimes go slightly surreal-y over the top, but they had the perfect balance here. No wonder then that when it was first shown A Christmassy Ted attracted Channel 4's largest ever non-film viewing audience, and, of course, it continues to receive annual outings on at least one of the Channel 4 channels, attracting new viewers and those who enjoy their annual fix of Ted.

For me, A Christmassy Ted is absolute essential Christmas viewing. A television special I'll watch each and every year, and one I will never ever tire of.
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