“Moone Boy” is a six-episode series airing on Hulu that fires on all cylinders, knocks it out of the park, grabs the brass ring and… insert over-the-top hyperbolic praise here. Off the bat, let’s be fair: “Moone Boy” is a glossy, professionally produced, and scripted program originally aired in 2012 on Sky TV (in the UK) featuring a brilliant cast with flawless acting and directing. This memorable piece of video gold is helmed by Chris O’Dowd, a veteran Irish actor/writer/comedian (even though he’s only 33) who has appeared in celebrated comedies on both sides of The Pond. O’Dowd, a star in HBO’s quirky “Family Tree,” is responsible for this year’s single funniest TV moment when he engages in a Skype conversation with his sister’s alter ego, a puppet called Monk.
The plot centers on a 12-year-old lad, Martin Moone, whose mix of innocence, charm, and boyish mayhem thrives under the wing of his imaginary friend, Sean Murphy (O’Dowd). Young David Rawle (as Martin) is pure, unaffected genius. Our hero can be seen bopping around Boyle, a town in rural Western Ireland, in his orange and white cap, alongside his imaginary friend at the ready to boost his spirits and put that extra bounce in his step. Rawle and O’Dowd have a rare chemistry that cannot be taught or rehearsed — only developed through natural chemistry and a selfless acting style. It doesn’t hurt that O’Dowd is blessed with pitch-perfect timing and has mastered a look that can dart from introspection to utter glee in two beats or less.
While Young Martin is the show’s True North, his dysfunctional family provides great background comedic fodder with fabulous ensemble acting led by Moone’s hapless, hilarious parents — comedian Deirdre O’Kane as Debra Moone and Irish theater actor Peter McDonald as Liam Moone. Also of note is Steve Coogan, one of the show’s producers, who gives a wonderfully strange performance as a wealthy (and somewhat perverted) fishmonger in episode two. The acting uniformly stays within the bounds of feeling true to its setting of late ’80s social and political turmoil. The references to the tumbling of the Berlin Wall, drug use, and teenage pregnancy are seamlessly woven into the storyline, which lends a poignant authenticity to Martin Moone’s coming of age.
Even in its early stages, made-for-the-web programming falls into distinct queues. As we witness a revolution in what used to be called television, we will find programs sourced from young, indie creators, using Google’s largess and YouTube’s massive reach as one channel. Simultaneously, we will benefit as some next-gen networks, such as Hulu, Netflix, and (perhaps) Amazon, dip into existing vaults of brilliant video fare ripe for new audiences and viewing outlets. It appears that Hulu has a growing roster of shows from the UK, including O’Dowd’s first starring vehicle, “The IT Crowd.” Fun times ahead.