The Popetown DVD Cover
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||10|
|Running time||approx. 24 minutes (per episode)|
|Original release||8 June 2005 on C4 (New Zealand)|
Popetown is a British adult animated sitcom, billed by its producers as "Father Ted meets South Park". The series was internationally controversial, and was not screened by the UK channel which commissioned it, BBC Three.
The series follows the doodles and scribblings of a student at school during a lesson. His drawings depict the life of Father Nicholas, who lives in a Vatican City parody referred to as "Popetown". He is charged with being the handler for the Pope (who is always referred to by his title, and never given any name) who is a complete nincompoop with the emotional and mental maturity of a four-year-old. Father Nicholas must keep the Pope out of trouble, and make sure the general public does not find out that the Holy Father is a drooling idiot. Other characters include a priest who is a sexual deviant, and a trio of corrupt cardinals who secretly run Popetown and attempt to get rich behind the Pope's back. These and other elements caused the show to be extremely controversial.
The original English-language version of the show features the voices of actor and Popetown writer Mackenzie Crook, Little Britain co-creator Matt Lucas, providing the voice for one of the cardinals, and actress Jerry Hall. Ruby Wax is the voice actor for The Pope.
The series was originally commissioned by BBC Three in the United Kingdom, but was dropped from scheduling without a screening in the wake of protests from Roman Catholics. The premiere screened on New Zealand's C4 television network on 8 June 2005. Despite never being shown on British television, it was eventually released on DVD in the UK by Revolver Entertainment on 5 September 2005, in Australia by Roadshow Entertainment and in Germany, where it was aired on television, by Polyband. It is also currently aired on several MTV channels, including MTV Latin America, MTV Latvia, MTV Estonia and others. The show was also banned in some countries (for example, Lithuania).
The Catholic Church in New Zealand had been considering laying a complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. Bishops called for a boycott of all CanWest television and radio stations. C4 had received many complaints about the show but refused to pull it from its lineup.
In Germany, where insulting religious groups is a crime, MTV broadcast the first episode on 3 May 2006. After an advertisement was published at the start of the Holy Week featuring Jesus in a chair watching TV (with the heading "laugh instead of hanging around"), both MTV and the series drew sharp criticism from some Christians in Germany; the office of the archbishop of Munich said it is investigating an injunction to block the series. Popetown became a topic of public debate, even though few have had the opportunity to see the show.
The Christian Churches as well as the Jewish and Muslim Community and conservative politicians demanded that MTV withdraw the series. An evangelical magazine has put up an anti-Popetown website, stoppt-popetown.de. The Archbishop of Munich and the parliamentary leader of the conservative CSU party in Bavaria demanded criminal prosecution of those responsible for the series under § 166 of the Penal Code, the "blasphemy clause". Edmund Stoiber, leader of the CSU, also demanded more severe punishments for slander of religious feelings.
Nondenominational organizations like the IBKA and others argued that satire must be allowed and censorship must not take place. Supporters of the series brought forward the argument that Popetown cannot be forbidden, just as the Muhammad cartoons are allowed for reasons of press freedom.
After a discussion on MTV, which ended up with some 87% of online voters supporting broadcast, MTV decided to broadcast all of the other episodes. The experts taking position in the show said they would not broadcast it, but also not forbid it.
The series has yet to be broadcast or released on DVD in the United States, but it has spread by word-of-mouth, YouTube, or file sharing networks. In the 20 April 2006 edition of his weekly column, Parents Television Council founder L. Brent Bozell wrote an article criticizing Viacom for airing this anti-Christian series on MTV Germany as well as allowing a scene defacing Jesus Christ in the episode of the American animated series South Park, "Cartoon Wars Part II". In America, South Park is broadcast on the Viacom network Comedy Central.
In March 2007, the MTV Baltics network was fined 3,000 litas by the Lithuanian broadcasting regulator for airing the animation. In response, MTV series director Marius Veselis accused Lithuania of unmasking itself as a "sort of half-medieval, half-communist, sick culture".
The show was written by a combination of seven different writers:
- Kevin Eldon
- James Bachman
- Mackenzie Crook
- Isabelle Dubernet
- Mark Evans
- Eric Fuhrer
- Phil Ox
- David Quantick
Phil Ox also served as director and producer for the series.
The series was also produced by:
- Heather Hampson
- Stacy Herbert
- Alan Marke
- Yohanne Seroussi
- Rebecca Ferrand
- Bob Mortimer - Father Nicholas
- Ruby Wax - The Pope
- Morwenna Banks - Sister Marie
- Jerry Hall - Sister Penelope
- Matt Lucas - Cardinal One
- Kevin Eldon - Cardinal Two
- Simon Greenall - Cardinal Three
- Ben Miller - Priest
- Episode 1: The Double
- Episode 2: State Visit
- Episode 3: The Big Fight
- Episode 4: Trapped
- Episode 5: Possessed
- Episode 6: The Beautiful Game
- Episode 7: A Family Affair
- Episode 8: Career Opportunity
- Episode 9: Day Trip
- Episode 10: Derby Day
Notes and references
- (CBC Canada) "MTV Germany to air trial episode of 'Popetown'", 1 May 2006
- (Worldwide Religious News) "German Catholics protest 'Popetown' cartoon", 12 April 2006.
- "Lithuania fines MTV over Popetown". Television New Zealand. Reuters. 22 March 2007. Retrieved 3 November 2011.