Friday 27 April 2018

The Moone boys continue on their winning funny streak

Television

Moone Boy has started its third series on Sky One
Moone Boy has started its third series on Sky One
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in House of Cards

John Boland

You may not know this, but there are Bonos all over our capital city, as young Martin found out when visiting his uncle Danny in Moone Boy (Sky 1).

Danny, whose main job was as door-to-door salesman for Encyclopaedia Irelandica, was a musician on the side and Martin heard him chatting on the phone to someone called Bono. "Was that Bono from U2?" Martin eagerly inquired. "No," said Danny, "a different Bono - Bono's a very common name in Dublin, you know".

Later a stressed-out Danny told Martin's roly-poly pal Padraic: "I'm getting pretty close to the edge," and Padraic excitedly responded: "The Edge?"

It's the way you tell 'em, of course, and in delivering the script devised by Chris O'Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy, these players tell them very well, and the viewer ends up chuckling a lot.

Set in the early 1990s, and mainly in the Boyle of O'Dowd's childhood, Moone Boy is essentially a comedy of nostalgia, though with knowing winks to a contemporary audience, and it makes for a rare kind of sitcom, charming and smart in equal measure.

Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney managed something similar, if an awful lot ruder, in the just-ended Channel 4 sitcom, Catastrophe, and Horgan also popped up in this Moone Boy third-season opener, playing a ghastly former girlfriend of dad Liam. She was very funny, delivering with nonchalant panache such lines as "I'm an entrepreneur now - it's a French word".

But then Moone Boy is so winningly offbeat that you can see why such performers as Horgan, Steve Coogan and Johnny Vegas want to be in it, even if only for the most fleeting of cameos. And the main parental duo of Peter McDonald and Deirdre O'Kane continue to delight with their idiosyncrasies and their idiocies.

Elsewhere across the channels, life wasn't so amusing, TV3 coming up with the most absorbing documentary of the week in Whistleblowers: Can We Handle the Truth? Certainly the people who featured in Conor Tiernan's film found themselves in all sorts of difficulties when they felt compelled to reveal damaging facts about the institutions in which they worked.

Olivia Greene, who was home loans supervisor at Irish Nationwide, lost her job after exposing how the lender was being run as a "personal bank" with fast-track loans given to prominent people, while partner Ben, who'd been Nationwide branch manager in Monaghan, lost an unfair dismissals case against the firm. Both are now jobless. Swimming coach Chalkie White went "to hell and back" after going public about the sexual abuse he and others had endured as a young swimmer from coach George Gibney.

Part of my fascination with the documentary was that, apart from the Gibney case, I'd either been unaware or had forgotten details of the other three stories and so the revelations took me aback.

But the film's other main virtue lay in its interviewees, all of whom spoke vividly and shockingly about their ordeals. Who'd be a whistleblower?

TV3 also premièred a new series called Life Stories, the first four instalments featuring what the channel is calling "Ireland's greatest robberies", as if they're somehow to be admired.

And there were a good few admiring words in this first episode about Martin Cahill's skill, cunning and daring in planning and executing the 1986 Russborough House art robbery.

The film's problem was that we'd been here before, whether in RTÉ documentaries or in John Boorman's The General, and so, although Michelle Lynch's film was a fluent retelling of the story, there was nothing new to be said.

But at least it was more watchable than the first instalment of Imagining Ulster, a three-part series in which journalist and broadcaster William Crawley asks of himself and his fellow provincials: who are we?

Silhouetted on clifftops like a burlier version of Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North sculpture, Crawley waffled on about how Ulster has always been an "idea" rather than just a place (a bad idea, many would say) and he promised that the series would explore "our sense of who we are", but it rapidly degenerated into a worthy but tedious history lesson, with contributions from a variety of academics.

BBC foreign correspondent Fergal Keane had done something similar -and, it must be said, not an awful lot more excitingly - in his 2011 series, The Story of Ireland, and Keane was the frontman for the first programmer in a four-part pre-election Panorama series (BBC1) on the state of Britain today.

It should have been titled 'All You Need is Love' because the presenter's earnest contention was that the basic requirements of human beings were for "someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for" and that he'd be addressing the first of these issues.

So he took himself off to London's East End, where he met a woman who stressed the importance of community activities as a provider of love, a young Muslim woman bonding with an elderly Holocaust survivor, a single mother being helped to bring up her two children, and two lesbians who had recently got married - this, Keane noted, having been "made possible by the power of politics".

Indeed, he argued that love - whether for family, community or country - was "the biggest political idea of all" and that if placed at the heart of politics would "make for a stronger democracy".

I'm sure he's right, though come election time somehow I don't expect love to be top of the agenda with Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, Farage or the Monster Loony Party.

But perhaps Enda, Joan, Micheál or Gerry will give it a whirl when they're next trying to ingratiate themselves with voters.

As an idea, it certainly beats austerity and evictions.

"Oh, I wouldn't be here if I had a choice", recently elected US president Frank Underwood confides to the viewer, "but I have to do these sorts of things now. Makes me seem more human, and you have to be a little human if you're the President."

That's immediately after we've watched him pissing on his father's gravestone, so there's no doubt the kind of man he is. Or, to put it another way, welcome back to House of Cards, all 13 episodes of the third season now available on Netflix.

Personally, I prefer to watch it in smaller chunks (an episode a week is fine by me), though those who marvel at Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright's playing of this most Machiavellian of power couples will probably want to wolf it all down in one go. Oh, and watch out for Lars Mikkelsen (Troels in The Killing) as a Putin-like Russian president.

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