Irish comedy star Chris O’Dowd drew liberally from his own childhood when he created Moone Boy, the delightful and very funny sitcom he also co-wrote and stars in, which premieres exclusively today on the streaming service Hulu.
Set in the Western Ireland town of Boyle, circa 1989, the series revolves around 11-year-old Martin Paul Kenny Dalglish Moone (David Rawle), a free spirit who lives with his parents, Debra and Liam (Deirdre O’Kane, Peter McDonald), and his three older sisters, Trisha, Fidelma and Sinead (Aoife Duffin, Clare Monnelly, Sarah White), who casually torment him in the way older siblings are obligated to do. Despite this, and the torture he routinely endures at school at the hands of the Bonner twins (Brendan and Cillian Frayne), Martin is generally a sunny free spirit, thanks in no small part to his imaginary friend: a tall, bearded adult named Sean Murphy (O’Dowd). Sean reliably has Martin’s back at every turn, offering him plenty of moral support and occasionally warning the lad against some of his more foolhardy fancies.
The series opens on the eve of Martin’s 12th birthday, when, after years of receiving uninspired gifts from his family, Martin is stunned to see his father bring out a wrapped present that clearly contains a bicycle (“I don’t believe it!” Sean gasps. “It must be a bicycle-shaped sock!”).
Each half-hour episode follows Martin and Sean as they navigate, not unlike Calvin and Hobbes, the often daunting wilderness of childhood. Fans of British comedy can look for some of their favorite performers popping up in guest roles, such as Steve Coogan’s episode 2 appearance as a local fishmonger named Francie “Touchy” Feeley, who earned his nickname from his “handsy” ways.
Moone Boy made its UK debut in 2012, where its initial six-episode run was so enthusiastically received by both viewers and critics that a second and third season were ordered (a new episode will be added each Wednesday on Hulu).
Moone Boy may tell its rib-tickling jokes with a strong Irish brogue (don’t worry, the series is closed-captioned if the accents get a bit thick for you), but its lovely truths about growing up are completely universal. Check it out, especially if you’re a fan of O’Dowd, who is building a substantial fan base on this side of the pond via his work in such projects as the movie hit Bridesmaids and the current HBO Sunday night sitcom Family Tree.
Braquo, the gritty French police drama that recently began streaming on Hulu and Hulu Plus, has been called France’s answer to The Wire, but fans of The Shield also will recognize some common themes in the show’s exploration of a group of Paris detectives whose notions of wrong and right become blurred from black and white to a soul-deadening gray, and not just because they’re usually wreathed in Gallic cigarette smoke.
The program, which was named best drama series during last November’s International Emmy Awards ceremonies in New York, opens as the group’s leader, Max (Olivier Rabourdin) – only two years away from retirement, but exhausted by stress and depression – finally snaps while interrogating a remorseless rape-murder suspect and violently attacks and disfigures the man. Internal Affairs, led by platinum-haired Roland Vogel (Geoffroy Thiebaut), comes down on Max like the wrath of God, putting him under relentless pressure with tragic results.
The appalling injustice of Max’s treatment compels his four colleagues to embark on a harrowing quest to clear his name. Their de facto leader, Eddy (Jean-Hugues Anglade), is pragmatic about crossing legal, moral and ethical lines to get results, as is Walter (Joseph Malerba), whose gruff, chrome-domed exterior conceals the heart of a teddy bear. Unfortunately, team member Theo (Nicolas Duvauchelle) is a coke-addicted loose cannon whose chronically bad choices soon have the group committing blackmail, larceny, murder and other big-ticket crimes, to the horror of the lone woman, Roxane (Karole Rocher), who is confronted with a terrible choice: go along and risk a prison sentence or rat out her male colleagues and be branded a stool pigeon, either of which would kill her promising career.
The French-language drama is primarily character-driven yet moves at the pace of a conventional action flick. Fans of the genre will soon find themselves completely sucked into this world, since all four of the principals inhabit their roles so completely that you start to feel as if you’ve been watching them for years. This is decidedly adult fare – in addition to the violence, there’s occasional sexual kink that makes the shenanigans on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit look like a Blossom rerun – and not for the faint-hearted. Unless you’re intensely averse to subtitles, check it out. Despite thematic links to the aforementioned two U.S. cable police dramas, Braquo (the title is French slang for a violent crime) is very much its own beast, and a fascinating one at that.
At present, the first two episodes of Braquo are available for viewing, with a new episode added every Tuesday. If you’re interested in exploring more TV shows and films from abroad, Hulu’s a great place to start your search. The streaming service is home to hundreds of titles in the critically acclaimed Criterion Collection of world cinema, and new TV shows from around the world join the rotation on a regular basis.