Sunday 21 January 2018

Moone Boy continues to shine but Arthur ends up in a blind alley

David Rawle as Martin and Chris O'Dowd as Sean Murphy
David Rawle as Martin and Chris O'Dowd as Sean Murphy

YOU can lay the credit – or the blame – for introducing the word “feck” to the wider world at the door of Father Ted, although the first person to utter it on British television was actually the inimitable Ulick O’Connor, during an edition of Terry Wogan’s live chatshow in the 1980s.

As I recall, Wogan seemed more than a little uneasy during the interview and O’Connor’s repeated use of the word caused a mild storm in a thimble back here. Well, the show did go out at 7pm, after all.

I love Father Ted but I’ve always hated “feck” with a passion. Like its American equivalents, “frig” and “frick”, it’s coy, wimpy and apologetic: an Irish solution to an

Anglo-Saxon swearword.

If you’re going to use the F-word, use the effing F-word and don’t be effing around with “feck”. But since Mrs Brown’s Boys has compounded the damage with its feckless use of “feck”, we’re probably stuck with it forever.

Sir Terry of Wogan, as he is these days, had a rather more comfortable encounter with “feck” in last night’s Moone Boy. Britain’s favourite Irishman – its second favourite probably being Moone Boy’s co-writer and star Chris O’Dowd – popped up as the guest star in an episode called Fecks, Lies & Videotape.

Moone Boy, being set in 1991, His Royal Terryness donned a canary yellow jacket to lark about as the host of a clip show called You’ve Been Framed to Look Like a Big Feckin’ Eejit, desperately pleading with viewers to send in their funny home videos for the tidy sum of £250 for every one chosen.

“There’s only 300 video cameras in Ireland. We don’t want to be showing the same films again and again and again,” he said, during the umpteenth screening of a kid tumbling off a bike and a priest tripping down the altar steps.

When our young hero Martin Moone discovers his best friend Padraic has just been given a new video camera by his guilt-ridden parents, it’s lights, camera and action as the two set out to make (or fake, if necessary) their own hilarious mini-masterpiece.

Meanwhile, there’s chaos in the Moone household now that daughter Fidelma, her God-bothering husband Dessie, who has a habit of taking a poo in the nude with the bathroom door unlocked, and their baby daughter have moved in.

Parents Debra and Liam hatch an

elaborate ruse to persuade dotty Granddad, who’s in a nursing home, to hand over the keys to his vacant house.

I admit to being a little sceptical about Moone Boy when it started, due to it being a pet project of O’Dowd, who seemed to be everywhere at the time and in danger of wearing out his welcome through overexposure.

To his and co-writer Nick Vincent Murphy’s credit, O’Dowd’s character, Martin’s imaginary friend Sean, stays on the sidelines, allowing its young star and the excellent supporting cast to shine. Three seasons in, it’s still the most joyous thing on TV.

Frederick Forsyth once outlined his policy regarding movie adaptations of his books: take the cheque and let the filmmakers make whatever changes they want.

I hope Julian Barnes took a similar view of ITV’s loose (to put it mildly) adaptation of his wonderful, fact-based novel Arthur & George, which limped to a melodramatic conclusion last night.

Enjoyable as it was to watch Martin Clunes out of cosy Doc Martin territory, the intention to make a proto-Sherlock Holmes story with the character’s creator as the protagonist fell flat. Television already has two Sherlocks on the case; it doesn’t need another one.

Moone Boy *****

Arthur & George **

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