Making TV audiences laugh is a funny business, there’s no doubt about that. Sometimes comedies hit the right note but fail to achieve longevity while others don’t light up the ratings but secure cult status.
Take Father Ted for example. It seems there’s not a man, woman or child in the land who hasn’t been exposed to the Channel 4 series at some stage. And with good reason too; it’s one of the finest comedies to come out of Ireland (via the UK), managing to produce story lines that were simple but rib-tickling, often well before their time.
It’s been rather difficult for Irish comedy writers to follow in Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews’ steps though. Great Irish comedic talents have appeared in some fantastic UK comedies – take Dylan Moran in Black Books for example – but shows like ‘Ted’ seem to only come along once in a blue moon.
Speaking of all things lunar, enter Moone Boy. The brainchild of Chris O’Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy, this Sky 1 comedy series follows the adventures of Martin Moone, a young chap growing up in 1980s and 1990s Ireland. The series has been something of a sleeper hit – winning awards including an International Emmy – falling under the radar thanks to the hype surrounding its Irish sister (Or should we say brother?) Mrs Brown’s Boys.
Brendan O’Carroll’s BBC Scotland backed family affair has evolved from a stage success to a televisual and cinematic phenomenon but I’d argue that Moone Boy is actually the superior show. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s the best comedy to come out of Ireland since Father Ted.
Mrs Brown may tickle many a funny bone with her outrageous slapstick scenarios but it’s the simplicity and authenticity of Moone Boy’s plot that really allows it to excel. A boy with an imaginary friend must simultaneously deal with the perils of puberty and his frustrating family. It’s a simple premise with comedy grounded in the realities of run-of-the-mill family life.
From an Irish mammy (Deirdre O’Kane) obsessed with having her hair cut like the great Mary Robinson – who was Ireland’s first female President at the time – to a bumbling father (Peter McDonald) who is the epitome of the Irish dad (trust me, I’ve got one of my own), Martin’s family provide some of the show’s most amusing moments without really having to try.
We’ve all been on a family holiday that’s gone disastrously wrong, or watched our fathers make their best efforts to prove their masculinity to the local menfolk. And as for Martin’s moping sister Trisha (Aoife Duffin)? Well, who hasn’t known a moody teenager of her ilk at some point in their lives?
It’s in Ian O’Reilly’s pre-teen Padraic that a real comedic star is born though. Martin’s miniature life-coach reels out fantastic one-liners that cement his status as Moone Boy’s answer to Father Dougal Maguire.
Of course the boy and the priest are two entirely different beasts but their function remains largely similar.
O’Dowd’s name may have often be rolled out to sell the series in the early days but he need only dip in and out of episodes, such is the strength of the cast now. The show has also accumulated a list of aspiring guest stars: Sir Terry Wogan and Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan both jumped at the chance to appear in the upcoming series.
It’s no Father Ted, don’t get me wrong, but season 3 promises even more laughter as Martin continues growing and the proverbial Moone river keeps flowing.
Wherever this ‘Boy’ is going, your TV remote should be going its way.
Moone Boy Series 3 debuts on Sky 1 tonight (March 2nd) at 9pm