A Late Night Talk Show with a Singing Priest Who’s Sinatra-Cool

The phrase “Catholic talk show” is likely to conjure up images of a snooze-fest production featuring an elderly priest discussing matters of the soul with parish guests wherein they pray and recite biblical passages to save your soul.  So when I stumbled upon Going My Way (a web talk show on CatholicTV.com – @catholictv), I didn’t’ have much hope of being entertained (granted, I’m not their target audience – I’m a big fat sinner who has about as much of a chance of getting into heaven as Dick Cheney (okay, I’ve got a bit more of a chance than he does but that’s nothing to brag about)).

But surprisingly, Going My Way is the exact opposite of what I expected.  As a matter of fact, this show is so good it had me at “hello”, literally (the opening titles are old school cool – paying homage to the days of Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack).   Not only is it not a pious snooze-fest, but the show’s host, Father Chris Hickey of St. Mary’s of Hanover in Boston, is a giddy, somewhat naughty priest full of slightly off-color jokes who has no problem calling out other priests on their BS.  He’s also nearly as narcissistic as Paris Hilton (but more on that later).

A quick skim of the talk show’s synopsis on the website lets viewers know that they’re in for a different kind of talk show:

“This hit series is like CatholicTV’s modern-day version of The Merv Griffin Show.  It features Father Chris Hickey sharing his singing talent, as he is accompanied by his mentor, turned sidekick Father Paul Rouse on piano.  Each show highlights a different priest and his talents.”

“Mentor-turned sidekick” — ha!  You don’t need to be a holy roller to appreciate (or be intrigued by) that synopsis.  Luckily for viewers, the Father and his crew live up to their self-hype and deliver the goods.

The website design is impressive and pleasing to the eye — sleek, clean, and modern – conservative without being boring.  The site strategically incorporates the latest social media tools including links to their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts as well as their blog, iPhone app and iTunes (where you can download the show on-the-go).  All of this makes this much clear – the producers of this show mean business and God is a geek (amen!).

Father Hickey works the room at a fundraising gala.

As the host, Father Chris Hickey is hysterical – literally.  It’s clear from the moment steps onto the set (mic in hand) that all they want to do is entertain (if you need any further evidence, check out the glitzy set with big piano, Vegas-like glitter curtains in the background and Father Hickey’s equally jovial sidekick, Father Paul Rouse, who laughs dutifully at all of his jokes).

This particular episode opens with two 11-year old girls singing You Made Me Love You in dedication to Father Hickey.  I’m not sure if You Made Me Love You that was a good song for pubescent girls to sing to a priest but whatever.

Father Hickey then interviews James McLaughlin (chancellor of the Archdiocese of Boston and the show’s first “non-priest” guest, as Father Hickey informs us).  The interview is lively, funny and engaging (I was surprised at the level of energy – McLaughlin seems both nervous and game).  It also turns out that Father Hickey has some bite.  He puts McLaughlin on the spot by jokingly telling him that his job as Chancellor “sounds boring”, then expresses dismay and annoyance with another priest in their parish for being a phony.  There’s not a hint of hesitation in Father Hickey’s laugh-out-loud criticism of his colleague:

“Father Brian Manning was on the show a couple of weeks ago and I asked him who his priest friends were and the first person he said was me.  Bold-faced lie!!  Never hang out with him.  He never calls me for anything!”

I heart Father Hickey.  He’s badass.

McLaughlin then joins Father Hickey at the piano where Father Hickey’s sidekick (and mentor) Father Rouse eagerly awaits to tickle the ivories.  Together (and on-key), Father Hickey and a visibly nervous McLaughlin belt out a few old songs (one of which McLaughlin dedicates to his 90-year old mother Bertha – a feisty old broad, we’re told, who has a twinkle in her eye for Father Hickey – awww).  No singing about the Lord and salvation here (you’ll have to find your own way to heaven after the show).  Instead, they sing catchy popular tunes of yesteryear (jazz standards, love songs, etc.).

Going My Way is a little bit of Merv Griffin, a little bit of Vegas and a dash of Catholicism all rolled into one.  Father Hickey as a host is fierce.  His interviewing skills are impressive as he both puts his guests at ease and, when necessary, puts them on blast.  His narcissism is actually endearing (even McLaughlin comments on Father Hickey’s huge ego).  But it works precisely because you don’t expect a priest to be all… me, me, me.  He doesn’t mention God once!  How’s that for outshining the boss!   Father Hickey is likable, funny and wicked (exactly what you want in a talk show host).

Maybe NBC would’ve done better putting Father Hickey on at 10PM than Jay Leno.  He manages to be intriguing, funny and late night cool without celebrities.  It’s time we make way for other talk show talent waiting to burst on to the scene (even if it is a priest from Boston).

Sorry NBC.  Father Hickey is Going My Way.

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