The Weekend's Viewing: Moone Boy, Fri, Sky1
The Thick Of It, Sat, BBC2

Moone Boy is one of those comedies that you actually feel a better person for liking

Judgement of comedies sometimes gets a bit hung up on whether they're funny or not. Laughs matter hugely, of course, and their absence is fatal. But other qualities are important too and can often go missing without any comment at all. Likeability is one, and its presence means that a comedy can survive rough edges that a more calculated affair might not. Chris O'Dowd and Nick Murphy's Moone Boy is a case in point.

Based on O'Dowd's experiences growing up in Ireland in the Eighties (and filmed in the town he grew up in), Moone Boy is – theoretically at least – a slightly risky proposition in some respects. For one thing,it exploits a private nostalgia for a public audience (and nostalgia can easily get self-indulgent). For another, it employs a lot of child actors, which can be tricky when it comes to comic delivery. In practice though Moone Boy is entirely lovable, one of those comedies that you actually feel a slightly better person for liking.

The comedy is centred around Martin, a young boy growing up with three unrelentingly scornful sisters (Trisha, Fidelma and Sinead) and taking refuge in doodled cartoons and the comforting presence of an imaginary friend, played by O'Dowd himself. Martin is bottom of the pecking order at home and not much higher at school, but he has a resilient can-do perkiness that appears to carry him through (and which can, if one's absolutely honest, sometimes be a tiny bit off-putting). If the comedy was only about him it wouldn't work anything like as well (the alter ego device doesn't deliver as big a pay-off in laughs as you might expect). But it diverts in quite unexpected ways. In the first episode, for example, a run-in with the school bullies triggered a lovely running joke about Irish manhood. Confronting the father of the bullies, Martin's dad is startled to encounter a paragon of sympathy instead of a brute ("Oh no! They're awful aren't they?"). He then finds himself enlisted to a secret self-help group for the town's patriarchally challenged.

The comedy of childhood is nicely done, too. Faking a love letter to his sister as part of a complicated deal to enlist the protection of the school's tough guy, Martin searches for the highest praise he can think of and comes up with "you smell nicer than crisps". But it's the sense of the family and community around him that really makes the thing work. In the second episode of the opening double-bill, Martin's mother came to the fore, campaigning with other women in the town to get Mary Robinson elected to the Irish presidency. "I won't vote for her for President," says one of the women they canvass, "but I'll vote for her to be the President's wife." And Steve Coogan – whose company Baby Cow makes the programme, appeared in a very funny cameo as a notoriously gropey local plutocrat. It's sweet-natured, fresh and absolutely not by-the-numbers, and if you want to bully it you'll have to get past me first.

Malcolm returned in The Thick of It, his early melancholy dispelled by his decision that it's time to evict Nicola Murray from her post as Leader of the Opposition. "She's electoral asbestos," he tells a fellow plotter. "She's going to sleep with the fishes. Or at least witter on at them until they lose the fucking will to live." The Thick of It isn't sweet or lovable and hasn't a fraction of Moone Boy's essential good-heartedness. I don't think it's forgiving or tender to any of its characters. But it doesn't need to be because it offers an unceasing stream of savagely funny lines. "I can't even see the clicking of the pilot light," Malcolm said disgustedly, as he searched in Nicola's eyes for the "fire" of political passion. Difficult to like him, but almost as hard not to laugh.

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there