Release Date: Fridays, 8:00 PM
There’s one benefit to an impoverished summer television schedule and that is the way it forces you to dig down into the program guide for shows you might not otherwise watch. If not, I might never have discovered Moone Boy.
This Irish sit-com was created for British broadcaster Sky by comedian Chris O’Dowd (The Sapphires, Friends With Kids, Pirate Radio). Chris stars as Sean, the imaginary friend of 12-year-old Martin Moone, a boy coping with a range of adolescent issues in northwestern Ireland. The village of Boyle hasn’t much to say for itself beyond the fishing cannery, a single street of shops and the local school. Yet young Martin manages to get himself into all sorts of scrapes as he attempts to assist his mother’s political aspirations, excavate the shortest possible route to school, and ensure himself a coveted place amongst the parish altar boys. All the while Sean acts as a sort of walking, talking reflection of the wisdom of tween boys – that which is cobbled together from half-truths and outrageous rumors.
Moone Boy is apparently a semi-biographical account of O’Dowd’s own experience growing up in a depressed Ireland during the 1980s. It’s full of the wry misunderstandings of youth as well as the peculiar way that families cope and care for each other. There’s a language warning on the program because of some of the Irish vernacular but it’s so heavily accented that I’d be surprised if children noticed. Martin also occasionally displays the expected interest combined with ignorance that a pre-teen might show the opposite sex. However neither concerns detract from the excellent observational humour or the knowing digs at social institutions like political parties, marriages and of course the church.
It would be hard to create any series, comic or otherwise, about growing up in Ireland and not reflect on organized religion. The Roman Catholic Church is a way of life and the emerald isle has long been an exporter of priests to the furthest corners of the globe. Martin envies the status of Boyle’s altar boys and aspires to join their hallowed ranks. However he soon discovers their holiness is a sham and they operate much like a miniature mafia. Martin takes this revelation in his stride but it reflects what the world has often observed about congregations: they are frequently made up of the most heinous sinners. This is a charge, though, that Christians should never waste their time attempting to refute.
The truth is God has chosen the weak and despised of this world to entrust His message to and even one of Jesus’ twelve disciples – Simon the zealot – might have been considered a terrorist by the Roman authorities. The fundamental difference between the sinners outside of the church and those inside should be that the latter are seeking a remedy, not like the boys Martin encounters. As far as Moone Boy is concerned, it’s a pity that dead religion obscures for one 12-year-old the new life that could be on offer in even the smallest parish.