Martin Moone is a simple child. Actually, he’s a bit of an idiot. Lucky for him, he’s got his imaginary friend Sean Murphy to look out for him. Now, Sean is not a cowboy, or a wrestler, a fairy godmother, or a talking dog. Played by IT Crowd’s Chris O’Dowd, he’s a grown man with hit-or-miss advice, an occasionally biting wit, and a sharpish suit. In Moone Boy, this odd duo make a go at growing up in the small town of Boyle, Ireland in 1989. And every episode is loony and positively delightful.
Created by Chris O’Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy, Moone Boy was an Irish TV show that ran for three seasons from 2012 to 2015. But you can catch up on the shenanigans and “craik” of all 18 episodes on Hulu now.
There’s a mix of snarky and sweet in the series that gives it an addictive crackle. For instance, when Martin (David Rawle) comes across his sneering sister Sinead, she declares flatly, “Mum says you were a mistake.” And Sean stands up for Martin, correcting—to the sister who can’t hear him—“Not a mistake! An accident.” Or later, when the Moone parents confer on how to explain erections and nocturnal emissions to their confounded son who’s been burying his wet sheets in the backyard, there’s a flashback to their failed attempt to explain menstruation to Sinead. She screams, “What do you mean the moon’s gonna’ make me bleed?! I’ll make the moon bleed!.” This may be the greatest joke to ever air on television.
Whenever Martin comes across a trouble—be it bullies, flirting, or corruption in the mafia-like altar boys—he’s got Sean to depend on. And Sean is of course imaginary, so his advice is basically what Martin imagines a “cool” adult would tell him. Which means it’s often crap as far as advice goes, leading the boy to tear down the wall in his backyard, kiss a dead bird, and try to get chocolate milk off a wedding dress by adding flour, then gasoline. Making matters worse (and more hilarious) the show often cuts to what the world sees when Martin and Sean have their spirited exchanges, which is a lisping 12-year-old boy animatedly talking to air. It’s never not funny.
While Moone Boy encourages you to cackle over the misadventures of a dumb child, it also boasts a deep humanity. Part of the humor comes from an almost painful awareness that we were once dumb kids too. But beyond that, Moone Boy broadens to give depth to the whole of the Moone clan. Over the course of three seasons, the show has a lot of fun with and love for Martin’s sisters: brutish tomboy Sinead (Sarah White), sarcastic “vampire school reject” Trisha (Aoife Duffin), and perky near-perfect Fidelma (Clare Monnelly). But aside from Martin and Sean, it’s his parents who get the greatest and most rewarding attention.
Liam and Deborah Moone have been together 20 years, and through it all kept their love and laughs alive. In the very first episode, Moone Boy reveals Liam is not like other TV dads. He is neither laughably inept nor of the Father Knows Best variety. Rather, he is a caring, oft-flustered fellow who realizes that playing the macho thug or the all-knowing patriarch really isn’t for him. And over the course of the series, Deborah strives to understand who she is outside of Liam’s wife and mother of four very high-spirited children. She tries on new careers, each with a fresh relish, be they Weight Wishers counselor, life coach, or political activist. But she’s at her best when telling someone off for her kids’ sakes, even when it results in a flawed “protest mass.”
There’s also a calvary of other colorful characters in Moone Boy’s Boyle, like a daffy priest, a clueless choir leader, and Martin’s best human friend Padriac (Ian O’Reilly), who is a gleeful and eccentric child who supports his bestie whether he’s plotting anarchy, making a ghost raft, or accidentally wearing make-up.
But the heart and soul of Moone Boy is O’Dowd. While David Rawle is pitch perfect as the guileless and goofy Martin, it’s O’Dowd’s eyerolls and earnestness that sell the concept. Even as Martin’s crayon-scribbled doodles wiggle about to illustrate his imaginative and wild view of the world (like seeing a family member’s fetus as a ravenous, fat tapeworm), it’s O’Dowd’s one-liners that punctuate wins and losses. Ultimately, when Martin wins by Sean’s count, we share in the glow, the joy, and the unapologetic silliness of Moone Boy.
Up there with Bob’s Burgers and Raising Hope, Moone Boy is a whimsical and humane family-comedy that offers a wonderful escape from what ails ya. And bonus: Paul Rudd shows up in an absolutely bizarre and fun cameo in the series’ finale.