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Saturday 21 October 2017

Hardy boys have a hit on their hands

Hardy Bucks (RTE1)Euro Championship Qualifier (RTE2)

"I'm sick of sittin' around here watchin' sh*** like The Panel," says Eddie Durkan (Martin Moloney), the lead character in bright new small-town comedy series Hardy Bucks.

I couldn't agree more, Eddie. Still, it's a dangerous business for one RTE comedy to slag off another RTE comedy, particularly since RTE's record on comedy in general is mediocre and the joke is likely to blow up in the teaser's face.

Hardy Bucks, however, gets away with it for one simple reason: this mock-documentary about the aimless everyday existences of a group of twentysomething slackers vegetating in a Co Mayo hamlet is a breath of foul-mouthed fresh air.

The winner last year of RTE's online competition Storyland, which was aimed at unearthing new comedy and drama talent, Hardy Bucks started out as a series of 10-minute "webisodes" that attracted more than three million hits on YouTube.

A frequent problem with expanding an internet success is that what's hilarious in short bursts can sometimes feel thin and overstretched when transferred to the larger, less forgiving canvas of television. But the team behind Hardy Bucks (Moloney co-writes the scripts with two others) has obviously put a lot of time and thought into polishing this version.

Eddie, a street philosopher who dreams of bigger things and misquotes Forrest Gump ("Life is like a chocolate bar: you never know what the oul' wan' is gonna get ya"), is an archetypal loser -- in every sense. In the space of a few days he loses his girlfriend, his house and his pimped-up car, which he uses as a makeshift taxi.

"Have you got a taxi licence?" asks the filmmaker tailing his every move.

"A policeman wouldn't ask me that," snaps Eddie.

"I think he might."

Eddie is also in danger of losing a couple of body parts to an unseen Russian moneylender called Boris, to whom he owes a grand. When he enters a celebrity lookalike contest as Chuck Norris (Moloney is a ringer for the young Norris) and fails to win the €500 prize, he's plunged even deeper into the mire.

"It's at times like this I wish I'd listened to what the oul' man told me on me 21st birthday," he laments to his best friend Buzz (Owen Colgan).

"What was that?" asks Buzz.

"I dunno -- I wasn't even listenin'."

Eddie is a great comic creation and his coterie of friends and detractors is made up of equally colourful clowns. They might be eejits, but they're extremely likeable eejits. There's actually a great sense of warmth running through Hardy Bucks.

I especially liked the local would-be gangster, The Viper (played by Chris Tordoff, another co-writer and the series' director), who swans around town in dark glasses waving wads of cash and spouting "wisdom" even more idiotic than Eddie's.

The mock-doc format might have become a modern comedy cliche, yet it fits perfectly with the fast-pace of Hardy Bucks. If the remaining episodes keep up the momentum, Moloney and company will have more than an internet hit on their hands.

I had intended to cover The Return of the Eagles (the feathered variety, not the arthritic country-rock band) but a power outage grounded that plan. At least normal service was resumed just in time for Ireland's Euro Qualifier against Slovakia. A one-all draw wasn't exactly a disaster, yet we should have known what to expect when Robbie Keane stepped up to take a penalty and George Hamilton said: "He's done this once already."

George has a knack for foreshadowing disaster. My favourite of his down the years is "And Ireland have that vital one-goal cushion!" It usually leads to the other lot equalising and the cushion turning into a pillow case. In a word, George: shush!

STACEY'S STARS

Hardy Bucks ***

Euro Championship Qualifier ***

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