TV Reviews: 'Hardy Bucks Ride Again', and 'You, Me & The Apocalypse'
* Hardy Bucks Ride Again, RTE 2
* You, Me & The Apocalypse, Sky One
The Irish love to deal in reductive national stereotypes and cliches (see, I've just done it there). We like to think that we're a nation of romantic, inherently funny rebels when none of the above really applies.
Similarly, we tend to look on Americans as stupid and incapable of understanding irony, Israelis as evil, the English as boring and the Aussies as people who are chronic alcoholics - if only because they drink more than we do, and every drinker's idea of an alco is simply someone who can down more than they can.
When it comes to Canadians, perhaps the biggest stereotype is that they are profoundly, chronically dull and boring.
It's a rather bizarre cliche, to be fair, simply because they have produced some of the best comedy of the last 30 years.
From the scabrous surrealism of The Kids In The Hall to the demented and criminally underrated cynicism of The Newsroom (and that is probably the best and most cynical comedy you have never seen) there is a rich seam of humour so dark it's obsidian.
Nowhere is that better illustrated than Trailer Park Boys, a brilliantly rendered mockumentary following a group of permanently stoned losers living in a trailer park, natch, in rural Nova Scotia.
So, in other words, despite the Canucks having a reputation for being dull as last night's dishwater, they have managed to produce comedy that is infinitely funnier than anything that has come out of Ireland, despite us being the ones with the supposed funny bone.
I say all this because Trailer Park Boys is an obvious inspiration for the Hardy Bucks, and that is no bad thing. Swapping Nova Scotia for rural Mayo (which, fittingly, is the last stop before you actually hit Nova Scotia as you travel West), Hardy Bucks Rides Again was a welcome return to our screens of Eddie, Viper and Buzz and it was refreshing to see that they are all still as dumb, obnoxious and stoned as ever.
That Hardy Bucks started off as a web-based jape is evident in the show. That's not because of any obvious budget deficits; instead, there's just no way anyone who is a graduate of the RTE school of safe comedy would ever dream of coming up with some of the disgraceful, moronic, scandalous and extremely funny ideas that burst forth with joyous, profligate abandon.
And ideas there are aplenty - each one dumber and naughtier than the last. Even the opening scene, which saw Eddie visit the doctor to help him cope with the breakup of his last relationship - with the comely Noreen - was couched in wilful boorishness with a delightfully sly dig at rural life.
Commiserating with Eddie on his recent break up, the GP admits that Noreen 'had a great body and a fine rack,' before commenting that half the town is on some sort of anti-depressant 'what with the austerity and all that.'
In fact, having done my bit for greater understanding between rural and urban communities by marrying someone from Mayo (now that's commitment to cross-community cohesion) I have to admit that there are times when Hardy Bucks could be a genuine documentary.
Like many rural towns and villages in the West of Ireland, the young men have largely been left behind as the women have emigrated or simply moved to Dublin and they face the prospect of ending up a lonely bachelor by the time they hit 30.
In those jobless, loveless circumstances it's no surprise that so many of them turn to drink and drugs to numb their pain. Like all great comedy - and there are moments when Hardy Bucks does touch on greatness - the humour comes from desperation, as does innovation.
That's why Viper comes up with the idea of expanding his drug-dealing operation, delivering joints by drone. As he explains: "The Americans use these things to kill shepherds in Afghanistan, just think, if they used them to deliver weed the world would be a better place."
In fairness, it's hard to argue with that kind of logic, and it would also be rather pointless because the lads would be too baked to understand a word you were saying.
If Bachelors Walk was the first RTE show to embrace the then emerging Celtic Tiger (in other words, it looked brilliant and suspiciously sunny all the time), Hardy Bucks is recession comedy which takes the existential bleakness of living in a rural ghost town and presents it in a way that the viewer will actually find themselves laughing their asses off.
The Bucks are back in town.
Be afraid, be very afraid.
Having managed to resurrect his career on The West Wing, Rob Lowe has gone on to enjoy a successful second career that once looked beyond him. Lowe's latest foray into the small screen comes with the rather excellent You, Me & The Apocalypse, which also sees him billed alongside Pauline Quirke from Birds Of A Feather - and that's a sentence I honestly thought I'd never write.
But if the casting seems eccentric it all makes a weird sort of sense.
The world is about to end as a planet-killing comet hurtles towards earth and people react as you would expect - rather badly. Showing a scope that must be as big as its budget, You, Me... flits between Arizona, Middle England and the Vatican.
Which is where Lowe comes in. Playing cynical priest, Fr Jude Hutton, he is the Vatican's Devil's Advocate (which is a real job, trivia fans. The Vatican actually hired the late Christopher Hitchens to be Devil's Advocate against the canonisation of Mother Theresa).
Prone to outrageous statements - after a meeting with the Pope goes badly, he quips that: "You'd swear I just performed an abortion on the table in front of him" - he's the stand-out character in a show which features plenty of strong characters and undoubtedly deserves a larger audience than it's currently enjoying.
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