1 9 8 9 – 1 9 9 1 (USA)
43 x 45 minute episodes
Amiable, unassuming Catholic priest Father Frank Dowling (Tom Bosley from Happy Days) had a talent for stumbling upon murders, in addition to carrying out his sacred duties as the pastor of Saint Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Chicago.
He was assisted in his crime-solving activities by young Sister Steve (real name Stephanie Oskowski) – played by Tracy Nelson, daughter of pop star Ricky Nelson – a nun at Saint Michael’s Convent who had a rather streetwise background and could pick locks, hotwire a car, and cut a deck of cards like a professional dealer.
Father Dowling and Sister Steve managed to gain entry to many places that ordinary folk might not infiltrate so easily, which made their mystery-solving much more successful. They usually assisted Sergeant Clancy (Regina Krueger) of the Homicide Bureau of the Chicago Police Department.
Working at St Michael’s rectory, where Father Dowling lived, was Marie, a busybody cook and housekeeper played by veteran character actress Mary Wickes. Marie often became involved in Father Dowling and Sister Steve’s various sleuthing capers.
Also living at the rectory was young Father Philip Prestwick (James Stephens) who was in a world of his own and never understood what was going on around him.
Frank had been a priest since 1958 and pastor of Saint Michael’s for nine years. Prior to entering the seminary, Frank worked as a counsellor for a parish youth group. It was here that Frank fell in love with a girl named Mary Ellen Connell. Thoughts about marriage forced Frank to change his plans about becoming a priest when he asked Mary Ellen to marry him. She accepted but after a brief romance, Mary Ellen felt that Frank was destined to become a priest and convinced him to return to the seminary.
Frank first met Steve when he caught her shoplifting, took the troubled girl under his wing and they became friends. His guidance helped her to make the decision about becoming a nun, and she was assigned to the Holy Mother Convent before moving to Saint Michael’s.
Tom Bosley also played Frank’s brother Blaine, a con artist who sometimes complicated Frank’s life.
The Father Dowling Mysteries – released in the UK as Father Dowling Investigates – was based on the mystery novels of Ralph McInerny.
Even though it was cancelled by NBC after only three months, the series was picked up by ABC the following year and ran for two years. When the series left the air in 1992 many viewers expressed their disappointment at the cancellation and wrote letters of protest to ABC.
Father Frank Dowling
Sister Stephanie ‘Steve’ Oskowski
Father Philip Prestwick