Wednesday 24 July 2019

Finding Joy preview: 'There are rocky patches but Huberman's script is pleasingly daft and irreverent'

Finding Joy starts on RTE One at 9.30pm on Wednesday, October 10

Amy Huberman in Finding Joy
Amy Huberman in Finding Joy

Pat Stacey

Ireland is the country that invented begrudgery. We didn’t just come up with the concept, we came up with the actual word. Honestly, look it up; it’s in the Oxford English Dictionary.

We’ve honed it to a fine art. The British may think they’re experts at building people up purely in order to knock them down again, but compared to the Irish, they’re mere bungling amateurs.

The Germans gave the world Schadenfreude, which at first glance might appear to be the same thing as begrudgery, but isn’t. Schadenfreude is taking pleasure in the misfortune of others; begrudgery is taking pleasure in the good fortune of others. And it’s always enjoyed with a squint-eyed, spiteful, sneering, uniquely Irish relish.

It’s not enough to begrudge someone their success, you have to let the world know how good it tastes.

Finding Joy
Finding Joy

In theory, Amy Huberman should be a prime target for begrudgery. There should be ballistic missiles carrying massive payloads of the stuff trained on her back.

I mean, look at all the things she’s done to deserve it. She’s attractive and married to Brian O’Driscoll. She’s written a couple of popular novels and is constantly in demand for promotional work. She has her own range of products.

Finding Joy - Trish (Hannah Scott) and Joy (Amy Huberman)
Finding Joy - Trish (Hannah Scott) and Joy (Amy Huberman)

Oh, and she’s an actress, and a good one, who’s been in loads of TV shows, including The Clinic, Inspector George Gently, Threesome, Moone Boy, Silent Witness, Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope, Cold Feet and Striking Out (about which she was the only thing that didn’t stink, even though the character she was given to play might as well as have been made from cardboard).

And yet, she’s somehow escaped the worst of the begrudgers’ bile. She’s very well-liked. Maybe this is because she’s so hard to dislike. She always comes across (and I’m saying this without ever having met the woman) as an extremely nice person: warm, funny, witty, grounded and self-deprecating.

Finding Joy - Aidan (Lochlann O Mearáin), Joy (Amy Huberman) and Canine Aidan (Fern)
Finding Joy - Aidan (Lochlann O Mearáin), Joy (Amy Huberman) and Canine Aidan (Fern)

Huberman is both the star and sole writer of six-part comedy Finding Joy, starting tonight. We’ve learned the hard way to approach RTE comedies with low expectations. A lot of the time, Finding Joy transcends them. It’s far from perfect; there are rocky patches and a few times when you feel it could make a lot more of its comic situations. But at least it has the feel of something that’s been thought through, while Huberman’s script is pleasingly daft and irreverent.

She plays the title character, who’s recently broken up with her partner Aidan (Lochlann Ó Mearáin) and now lives with just her beloved terrier, who also happens to be called Aidan and whose narration (voiced by Peter McDonald) tops and, er, tails the episode.

Unlike his human counterpart, canine Aidan has a habit of shitting in the bed, which makes for a few furiously funny opening minutes.

Joy works as a copy editor at an online outfit called News Today, run by the manic Jeffrey and the snarky Audrey (David O’Doherty and Catherine Walker, going cartoonishly over the top).

When star “vlogger-slash-reporter-slash-hyphenated person” Fiona Hunter (Laura Whitmore, seen fleetingly), a thrill-seeking lifestyle guru, goes into hiding after a botched nose surgery, Joy is pressed into taking over her adventurous assignments, the first of which is abseiling from the roof of (I think) Croke Park, where she walks — or rather drops on a rope — into an awkward encounter with human Aidan.

Read more: Finding Joy: Amy Huberman searches for happiness in her on-the-pulse screenwriting debut

Finding Joy is a bit choppy. It lurches between zaniness and something more

rooted in realism. Given the dismal history of RTE comedy, though, at least it’s a lurch in the right direction that raises a decent quota of laughs.

A  lively cast includes Mark O’Doherty as a delivery man, Hannah James Scott as Joy’s pregnant best friend Trish and Jennifer Rainsford as nonsense spouting News Today employee Charlene. Aisling Bea will also be joining the line-up.

The first episode of Finding Joy airs tonight on RTE One at 9.30pm.

Read more: 'Blink and you'll miss it': BOD makes cameo in Amy's new show

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