DVD Review: Father Dowling Mysteries (The Second Season)

Father Dowling Mysteries changed networks? That’s a mystery to a lot of people. The show had a bumpy time at NBC. The original TV movie aired in the fall of ’87. Thanks to a writer’s strike, the series didn’t launch until the winter of ’89. The first season was only a mere 8 episodes long before NBC’s ax fell. Luckily Father Dowling (Happy Days‘ Tom Bosley) was a Catholic Priest who believed in a second chance. After the prayers of the faithful, ABC relaunched the series without making it more youthful. This was the same show your great aunt loved. Father Dowling Mysteries had to wait until the winter of ’90 to get back on the airwaves. Father Dowling Mysteries: The Second Season brings back an amateur sleuth who wants to dish out more than a “Hail Mary” after a confession.

“The Visiting Priest Mystery” proves how low a hitman will go to get a good angle on his victim. Anthony LaPaglia (TV’s Without a Trace) arrives at the parish house as a priest passing through Chicago. He seems nice enough, but there’s something off about the guy. Father Dowling and Sister Steve (Tracy Nelson) want to know more about their house guest. Turns out the new priest likes to give last rites through a sniper’s scope. Any TV show that dares to mix strippers and nuns will always get my seal of approval. “The Exotic Dancer Mystery” does live up to its title. He gets wrapped up in the death of an unclothed dancer. Sister Steve drops the habit to pose as a card dealer at a big money Poker game. He’s got to solve the mystery before Sister Sam’s cover gets blown. Michael Des Barres (Heroes) won’t be happy. It’s almost too much action for grandma’s delicate condition. “The Sanctuary” introduces Sam’s younger brother, Stephen Dorff (Blade). He’s gets blamed for a gang murder. Could he have really done it? “The Stone Killer Mystery” puts a target on Father Dowling’s crucifix. Turns out someone he busted isn’t happy about being known as priest nabbed. This episode is star heavy with Yaphet Kotto (Alien), Paul Gleason (The Breakfast Club) and Tim O’Connor (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century).

“The Woman Scorned Mystery” unveils the most shocking of twists. Turns out Father Dowling has an evil twin brother. He’s running an investment scam on rich old women. Trouble is a few of them have died. Father Dowling has to prove his brother might be a con man, but he’s not a serial killer. “The Ghost of a Chance” brings him to a haunted house in order to expel spirits. Or are the bumps in the night cause by humans? “Blind Man’s Bluff” fools Sister Sam when she helps a sight impaired churchgoer. She’s the only one being kept blind to a major scam. “The Confidence Mystery” focuses on a grift being pulled at the church. “The Passionate Painter Mystery” paints a target on an artist. Turns out someone wants him dead to increase the value of his work. The guest stars are top notch with Candy Clark (The Man Who Fell to Earth) and Roscoe Lee Browne (Smiley Face).

Strange to think that Father Dowling Mysteries shifted networks since it was part of the Matlock era when networks didn’t freak out if a person over 50 tuned in to a show. Bosley understood how to look fatherly and also curious about busting criminal enterprises. Tracy Nelson getting to shuffle the deck showed she could play the naughty nun role. Sadly there would only be one more season for the series.

The Episodes
“The Visiting Priest Mystery,” “The Exotic Dancer Mystery,” “The Sanctuary Mystery,” “The Stone Killer Mystery,” “The Woman Scorned Mystery,” “The Ghost Of A Chance Mystery,” “The Blind Man’s Bluff,” “The Falling Angel Mystery,” “The Perfect Couple Mystery,” “The Confidence Mystery,” “The Solid Gold Headache Mystery,” “The Legacy Mystery” and “The Passionate Painter Mystery.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The series appears to have been shot on film, but the post production was done on standard definition video so it’s a bit fuzzy. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. The levels are good for hearing all of Father Dowling’s prayers before the bullets. The episodes are subtitled.

Original Episodic Promos (0:30) are the teasers.

The Father Dowling Mysteries: The Second Season returns the religious crime fighter to the gritty streets of Chicago with his nun sidekick. His obsession with mystery novels and understanding of confessions makes him a perfect sleuth. This show is next to Matlock-ness.

CBS DVD presents Father Dowling Mysteries: The Second Season Starring: Tom Bosley, Tracy Nelson and Mary Wickes. Boxset Contents: 13 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: July 10, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.


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