Chris O'Dowd's nostalgic sitcom is a fine mixture of the gently innocent and comedically knowing
The imaginary friend is a recurring staple of much comedy and drama from the loveable Harvey to the satirical Fight Club. In Moone Boy, the unreal buddy is played by Chris O’Dowd, as the psychological crutch to 12-year-old Martin Moone (David Rawle), the youngest sibling and only boy of a large family in the west of Ireland. Set in 1989, this gives the creators plenty chance to wallow in the social and cultural rumblings of the time, both local (Mary Robinson campaigning to become the first female president of Ireland) and global (David Hasselhoff ‘singing’ on the crumbling Berlin Wall).
The show started as a one-off Little Crackers episode on Sky One, the series in which British personalities (Harry Hill, Jane Horrocks, Jo Brand, Alan Davies) got the chance to write about their own childhoods while also appearing as a different grown-up character; hence this is essentially the semi-fictional memoirs of a young Chris O’Dowd, with all its attendant fears about puberty, sex and bullies.
Such a show’s success inevitably lies heavily on the central character and Rawle’s performance is a fine mixture of the gently innocent and comedically knowing. O’Dowd’s ‘Sean’ is actually a fairy incidental role with episodes in which he only briefly appears, and centre stage is taken more by the Moone parents (the excellent pairing of Peter McDonald and Deirdre O’Kane). Plus, there are fun cameos by Steve Coogan as a pervy entrepreneur and Johnny Vegas as the imaginary friend of Martin’s school chum Padraig. The end result is a series as cosily warm as the missing jumper being shouted about in the Sultans of Ping FC’s punky theme tune.