Moone Boy, S02E02

by Joshua Gaskell

By Chris O’Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy
Sprout Pictures, Hot Cod Productions, Grand Pictures, and Baby Cow Productions for Sky 1
Monday, 24th February 2014

This second episode of the new series of Moone Boy begins with the boy in question, Martin (David Rawle), having his photo taken by his mother, Debra (Deirdre O’Kane). In Martin’s mind’s eye he is joined by his imaginary friend, Sean (co-writer Chris O’Dowd), but in the ‘real world’ of the resulting photos Sean is unpersoned, like a sillier Trotsky. In other words, Sean is for us and for Martin. As he often does, here he expresses his creator’s charmingly upbeat, unadolescent point of view: ‘the boring old summer holidays were finally over and the dull, damp autumn had arrived at last’.

With September’s slanty rain comes Martin’s first day at big school, St Brendan’s. As Sean tells him, ‘you’re one of the big green people now’, which as well as denoting Martin’s jolliness and Irishness, acknowledges the paradox of starting secondary school: all grown up, yet comparatively greener than ever; ‘immature, raw, untrained, inexperienced’ (OED). He’s certainly a green hand when it comes to swearing: having accidentally walked to his old school on the first day of term his innocent exclamation is, ‘flip it!’

So Martin ends up late for his first day and his mam has to take him in. Talking to the headmaster (Gary Murphy) Debra finds out that he’s cancelled the Back to School dance because ‘no one wanted to organise it’. (This head, Eamonn – who says the ‘three best things about teaching […] [are] June, July, and August’ and that ‘kids basically school themselves these days’ – seems to be a near relative of those other crumpled bags of apathy, Big School’s Ms Baron and The Inbetweeners’ Mr Gilbert.) Debra sees the bonding value of the disco, particularly for Martin, so takes it upon herself to make sure it goes ahead.

Meanwhile, Martin has found someone he’d like to ask to the dance. In spite of advice from his friend Padraic (Ian O’Reilly) on how to get the girls – ‘you have to exude confidence’ – Martin sets his sights higher, quite literally, upon his new art teacher. Miss Tivnan (Amy Huberman) is crackers – ‘art should startle! […] open your little arty minds!’ she shouts – and part of the joke is to have her art-school waffle punctured by the supposedly innocent, uncorrupted minds of her pupils: at one point she says of their model, ‘you must look for the essence of her character, and capture it’, leaving Padraic to confirm, ‘But… in a drawing?’

In any case, the reaction Miss Tivnan elicits from Martin is, ‘my puberty just started’, and Sean feels the same way, though he has a head-start in that department. So they begin rival campaigns to woo her, each fatally constrained by reality. She would no doubt appreciate the meta sensibility of an imaginary friend attempting to address other characters, but this is no help to Sean: as Martin says, ‘she can’t even see you’.* For him though, invisibility would be a blessing at the moment when, just as he’s asking Miss Tivnan to the dance, his mam rocks up and says, ‘you left your spare underpants at home, love. […] [to Miss T.] He just can’t deal with the milk’.

As everyone arrives at the disco Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ is playing, courtesy of the ‘music hound’ that Debra has got to DJ, Dessie (Ronan Raftery): in the words of her husband Liam (Peter McDonald), a ‘clappy, sappy little wimp’. Dessie has got Martin’s older sister, Fidelma (Clare Monnelly) pregnant, which is why Liam doesn’t like him. (And he doesn’t especially want to be there anyway: ‘the house is empty […] do you know how long it is since we’ve had non-silent sex?’ he whispers to Debra.) But Dessie brings Liam round in melodramatic style when he proposes to Fidelma in front of everyone, and she says yes.

Meanwhile, ‘Moondance’ turns out to be an order directed at Martin for the purposes of bringing this episode, entitled ‘Moone Dance’, to a close. Despite the successful marriage proposal, things are getting off to a slow start, so Debra – with the help of Miss Tivnan – convinces Martin to start the dancing off himself. He dances like a little eejit to ‘(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life’, and Sean, taking pity on him, joins in. He’s forgotten their rivalry in the light of Miss Tivnan’s choice of date: a boorish PE teacher (Niall Breslin) who told the pregnant Fidelma, ‘seriously, you’ve kinda gotten fat’. While Martin holds Sean aloft, Miss T and her ‘big stupid sexy bastard’ nip off to an empty classroom to prove, contra Woody Allen, that it’s possible both to teach gym, and also ‘do’.

* But we can, and O’Dowd and Murphy have some fun with the meta stuff. For example, Sean gets excited when Miss Tivnan admires one of Martin’s drawings of him. In response Martin adds unflattering glasses and a moustache, and when we pan back to Sean they have accordingly appeared on his face.
† Cf. Harry Enfield in Bad Education, S02E04: ‘Smoocher! You forgot your lunchbox! I popped an extra Yakult in there to help settle your tummy. He’s got the squits.’
‡ At this moment the decks are taken over by Martin’s decidedly adolescent alt-sis Trisha (Aoife Duffin), the real music hound. She slaps on the finest song in the world, ‘I Know It’s Over’ by The Smiths, which contains such pro-marriage bons mots as, ‘Sad veiled bride please be happy, | Handsome groom give her room’. As Debra says, ‘people can’t dance to that’. Incidentally, the record Trisha puts on is a 7″ which, given that ‘I Know It’s Over’ is an album track, must be extremely rare…