Chris O’Dowd is quickly becoming one of the most endearing and well-liked comedic actors to surface on American soil, with an ever-increasing repertoire of works under his belt—from starring in HBO’s Family Tree to the 2011 hit Bridesmaids. The Irish actor takes viewers on a journey through his childhood in his semi-autobiographical Moone Boy, a sitcom that originally premiered on Britain’s Sky network in September 2012, and has just planted its roots this week in the U.S. as an exclusive series on Hulu. Although the first season of Moone Boy is only six-episodes long, the Sky network has already inked a deal with O’Dowd and co-writer Nick Vincent Murphy for second and third seasons.
It’s a warm and charming TV show that’s reminiscent of Wilfred, Malcolm in the Middle, and A Christmas Story. Sean Murphy (O’Dowd) plays a bearded, suit-wearing and banjo-playing imaginary friend to 12-year-old Martin Moone (David Rawle), and O’Dowd also takes the reins as the narrator in each episode— à la The Wonder Years. In the opening moments of the first episode, we get a glimpse into Martin’s life: he is the only boy in a family of three older sisters—who take great joy in torturing him as older sibling are wont to do—and spends his time dodging his school bullies, Jonner Bonner (Brendan Frayne) and Conner Bonner (Cillian Frayne). Sean, however, fills the shoes of being supportive to Martin, defending him, and dispensing advice—albeit not always the best guidance. When one of Martin’s “evil” sisters tells him that he was a mistake, Sean spits back with, “Not a mistake! An accident!” While Martin isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, he stays optimistic throughout with childlike innocence and his quirky antics bring a good deal of heart to the show.
Moone Boy, though, isn’t reinventing the wheel and is derivative of the coming-of-age sitcom genre. Yet, the show is still enjoyable to watch, has clever and witty dialogue, and captures the innocent moments where we all started going through that awkward stage that is on the cusp of becoming a teenager. In Episode 2, Martin experiences his first wet dream and his parents have an excruciatingly difficult time giving him a talk about the birds and the bees, resulting in some utterances of the words “penis” and “vagina” without any proper sentence structure. The show does not only focus on childhood, but also those trying and wacky years for parents who have to deal with their children, regardless of how thankless a job it is at times. Martin’s father Liam Moone (Peter McDonald) joins a father support group in Episode 1, where they use the guise of poker nights and fishing trips to have cathartic sessions to complain about how horrible their children are. “They’re so feckin’ dirty,” says one father, discussing how his son washes his feet in the toilet.
Also, the narrative is set against a unique backdrop—one that will most likely be both familiar and foreign to American viewers. Moone Boy takes place in 1989 in the rural town of Boyle, County Roscommon in Ireland (which is also where O’Dowd grew up). Sprinkled within the show are references to actual historical events that took place during that era, using recorded footage to add a realistic flavor—from Mary Robinson winning the election to become the first female President of Ireland to U.S President Ronald Reagan demanding Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. As for pop culture, Martin gives nods to his favorite TV soap Dynasty by calling his sister a “scabby old spinster,” and thinks Edward Scissorhands is a sequel to Nightmare on Elm Street.
Although Moone Boy takes some time to find its rhythm in Episode 1, it warms up to become a cheerful jaunt when comedic actor Steve Coogan makes a guest appearance as an overly sexual character named “Touchy Feely” in Episode 2. The sitcom continues to find its momentum and develop its hilarity in its later episodes. It’s worth taking a look at Moone Boy because it’s “feckin’” good.