Tuesday 23 December 2014

O'Dowd goes to the Moone and beyond kicking off second series

Published 21/02/2014 | 14:30

Hat trick: Chris O'Dowd and David Rawle.
Hat trick: Chris O'Dowd and David Rawle.

"The trick with Moone Boy is to think of it as a live action take on Calvin and Hobbes"

Moone Boy Sky One.

I'm not entirely sure, but Chris O'Dowd may well have trademarked the words 'amiable' and 'agreeable' in his seemingly effortless quest to become everybody's ideal everything.

The ideal mate in The IT Crowd, the ideal boyfriend in Bridesmaids, the ideal mentor in The Sapphires and, of course, the ideal chat show guest, he only has to turn up to have the host, fellow guests and audience alike swooning like teenagers. Even his latest role, as the bad guy in Cuban Fury, arrived with a flurry of compliments from his co-star, Nick Frost.

I'm not sure how O'Dowd has managed to parlay some basic good looks and a bucket load of personal charm into the position he currently enjoys, which is to be massively popular on both sides of the Atlantic with the only question remaining over his career is just how big he wants to be.

But then part of his success looks like it lies in the fact he doesn't seem entirely sure how this happened, either.

As the long-awaited second season of Moone Boy arrived with a nostalgia-fuelled homage to the national insanity that was Italia '90, we were once again reminded of just what a deft and deceptively skilled writer he is as well.

The trick with Moone Boy, which sees O'Dowd play an imaginary friend to the quite brilliant David Rawle as a young Martin Moone, is to think of it as a live action take on Calvin and Hobbes. In this case, O'Dowd's imaginary Sean replaces Hobbes, the stuffed tiger of the comic strip, as the voice of reason in a joyously surreal and – that bloody word again – charming recollection of family life circa 1990.

That World Cup has been done to death on screen and in print in the past, but O'Dowd manages to keep it fresh with the family leaving the comforting soil of Roscommon and travelling all the way to the wilds of Donegal, where their high point is taking pictures of themselves outside Packie Bonner's front garden.

It wasn't the footballer of the same name, of course, just a bemused neighbour and as Ireland began to progress in the tournament, the avowedly Oirish and nationalistic father, played with stuffed shirt aplomb by Peter McDonald, soon jettisons his contempt for "rich English men kicking a pig's bladder about the place" as he jostles for space on the bandwagon that footballing odyssey created.

What's notable about Moone Boy is that it was prepared to take a definitively parochial memory – those mad few weeks in June of 1990 – and make it immediately resonate with an English audience.

But then, the sight of the teenage indie kid breaking down in floods of tears when she hears that Talking Heads have broken up will be familiar to anybody who has ever seen a family member completely freak out when their favourite band breaks up.

Moone Boy shouldn't work – it should be overly cute, cloying and irksome. Instead, it's immensely chilled and charming and produces more than its fair share of genuinely funny lines. A bit like O'Dowd himself, I suppose.

And if that wasn't enough to convince you, the great Johnny Vegas turns up as another imaginary friend, this time in the guise of Doc Brown from Back To The Future.

Seriously, what's not to love?

Modern Family Sky One

When Modern Family first arrived on our screens, all of five seasons ago, it was a breath of fresh air. It managed to combine the usual tricks of a family-based sitcom – in particular, casting Married With Children's Ed O'Neill as the crusty, grumpy father with the beautiful Colombian wife, the neurotic daughter and a flamboyant, yet strangely conservative, gay son – with a refreshingly waspish take on those dynamics. But sometime halfway through season three things began to change, the family began to – ugh – learn lessons, and the hugs that were once played for laughs soon developed the air of a multicultural, liberal version of Seventh Heaven. Given the fact that Monday's opening double bill was set to deal with the recent changes to the marriage laws in California, even once staunchly avid fans feared the worst.

As it transpired, such fears were – largely – misplaced. Even the schmaltz, which saw Cam and Mitch struggle to be the first to propose to the other, took second place to the jokes – most of which, as usual, revolved around Mitch and Cam's bickering, the precocious Manny and the fact that Sofia Vergara's levels of pneumatic perfection mean that I'm actually not sure if she qualifies as a mere human anymore. The show's success always lay in its simple likability. It sometimes threatened full-blown preachiness but seems to have pulled back, and returned to the classic Modern Family – light, amiable, agreeable and not particularly memorable.

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