Father Dowling Mysteries

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Father Dowling Mysteries
Father Dowling Mysteries Title Screen.png
Title screen
Based on Characters from the Father Dowling Mystery Books by Ralph McInerny
Developed by Dean Hargrove
Joel Steiger
Starring Tom Bosley
Tracy Nelson
James Stephens
Mary Wickes
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 43 + 1 TV movie (list of episodes)
Running time 60 minutes (per episode)
Production company(s) The Fred Silverman Company
Dean Hargrove Productions
Distributor Viacom
Original channel NBC (season 1)
ABC (seasons 2-3)
Original release November 30, 1987 (1987-11-30) – May 2, 1991 (1991-05-02)

Father Dowling Mysteries (also known as Father Dowling Investigates in the UK)[1] is an American television mystery series that aired from January 20, 1989 to May 2, 1991. Prior to the series, a TV movie aired on November 30, 1987. For its first season, the show was on NBC; it moved to ABC for its last two seasons. It is based on the adventures of the title character created by Ralph McInerny,[2] in a series of mystery novels.

The series was produced by The Fred Siverman Company and Dean Hargrove Productions in association with Viacom Productions.


Father Francis "Frank" Dowling is a Catholic priest who continually stumbles over murders, abductions, and other high crimes in his hometown, Chicago, Illinois. He is assisted by Sister Stephanie "Steve" Oskowski, who does much of the legwork for Frank. Sister Steve is a streetwise nun who grew up in a rough housing project nearby, so she can hotwire a car and handle firearms with ease. She knows the language of the streets and converses in it fluently. The name Francis was revealed in the Episode "The Movie Mystery" when he is talking to the Detective in charge of the case and the Detective calls him Francis.

Father Philip Prestwick is the ladder-climbing assistant to the Archbishop, who just happens to drop in before meals, prepared by housekeeper Marie Murkin, who provides comic relief.

Father Dowling has a brother, Blaine, who is his twin brother and looks exactly like him (also played by Tom Bosley). Blaine appeared in only three episodes: "The Face in the Mirror Mystery," "The Woman Scorned Mystery," and "The Fugitive Priest Mystery." Blaine Dowling is a thief and con artist who isn't above framing his brother for his crimes.

A famous catchphrase of Father Dowling is when he is recorded asking Father Phil: "Father Phil, could you take 10 o'clock Mass? I've got a murder to solve."


Father Dowling (Tom Bosley) and Sister Steve (Tracy Nelson)

The program featured many notable guest stars, some before they had achieved fame, including: Leslie Nielsen, Laurie Holden, William R. Moses, John Slattery, Andreas Katsulas, Diane Ladd, Anthony LaPaglia, Yaphet Kotto, Steven Culp, Brenda Strong, Stacy Edwards, Stanley Kamel, Robin Thomas, Roscoe Lee Browne, David McCallum, Colm Meaney, Fionnula Flanagan, David Warner, Tony Todd, Michelle Forbes, Kate Vernon, John Astin, Grant Heslov, Jack Bannon, Ethan Phillips, Kurt Fuller, Scott Marlowe, Robert Walden, Craig Richard Nelson, Annie Golden and Ivan Dixon.


After its first season NBC cancelled the show. It was picked up by ABC and aired for two more seasons. In total Father Dowling Mysteries had one TV movie and 43 episodes in three seasons.


The pilot was a TV movie entitled Fatal Confession, which originally aired on NBC on November 30, 1987. Father Prestwick did not appear in this pilot. The first episode of the series, The Missing Body Mystery, had Father Prestwick as he was brought in to evaluate Father Dowling's parish, and was initially appointed to replace him. At the end of the episode, he was supposedly sent to a parish in Alaska, but the character was brought back later.

Regular series[edit]

The show was due to begin in 1988, though because of a writer's strike in 1988, it did not begin to air weekly until 1989.

DVD releases[edit]

CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has released all three seasons on DVD in Region 1.[3][4][5]

In Region 2, Acorn Media released the first season on DVD in the UK on June 18, 2012. However, it was released under the title Father Dowling Investigates.

In Region 4, Madman Entertainment released the first season on DVD in Australia on November 2, 2011.

There was also a VHS released in region 1 on the 24 of January 2000 of the "Fatal Confession" TV movie.

DVD Name Ep # Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season 9 February 7, 2012 June 18, 2012 November 2, 2011
The Complete Second Season 13 July 10, 2012 N/A N/A
The Complete Third and Final Season 22 March 12, 2013 N/A N/A


External links[edit]