The Young Offenders contains more Cork accents than in past decade on RTÉ
Review: It’s almost as if metropolitan life exists beyond Dublin. What dark alchemy is this?
Jock (Chris Walley) and Conor (Alex Murphy) in The Young Offenders
The return of the Young Offenders represents a rare twinkle of sunlight in these dark days for Irish broadcasting. Gay Byrne has passed away while RTÉ is itself apparently on life support. Some cheering up would seem in order.
Peter Foott’s scatalogical comedy also brings a huge novelty factor in transporting us to a galaxy far, far away from the gilded avenues of Montrose. The setting is urban. Yet there isn’t a Liffeyside cadence to be heard. It’s almost as if metropolitan life exists in Ireland, beyond Dublin. What dark alchemy is this?
The bad news we will get out of the way first. That much touted Roy Keane cameo, in which he pops up in his red and green Cork City scarf, is still several weeks away. Rather than soccer, the unofficial theme as the series swoops in for a second season is sex.
Jock (Chris Walley), whose girlfriend is in the advanced stages of pregnancy, wishes dearly he could go back in time and “cockblock” himself.
The opposite conundrum confronts best pal/minion Conor (Alex Murphy), who sneaks off to an empty headmaster’s office for a hook-up with girlfriend Linda (Demi Isaac Oviawe). As he suffers a failure of nerve, an accidentally-tripped switch broadcasts his humiliating monologue to the entire school.
Walley and Murphy charm as reprobates with hearts of gold. And there are sweet and funny performances by Hilary Rose (Foott’s wife) as Conor’s fishmonger mother and PJ Gallagher as northside Cork’s answer to The Simpsons’ Principal Skinner (he entrusts an egg to Jock so that he can prove his abilities as a father).
Chuck in some slick set-pieces – including a bike chase through Merchant’s Quay Shopping Centre – and the result is the giddiest half hour this side of the first Frank and Walters album.
That said, Young Offenders won’t be to all tastes. It has been compared to Channel 4’s Derry Girls. Yet trace elements of Mrs Brown’s Boys swirl in its DNA as well.
Bawdy humour is fine. But later in the season the gags take a plunge towards the unappetising. In what universe is a teenager urinating on his teacher funny? Brendan O’Carroll fans might well chuckle. The rest of us will wonder when Roy Keane is going to show up and if, until then, there might not be better ways to pass the time.
Still, there’s no getting past the “not in Kansas” appeal of all those non-Dublin intonations on the national airwaves. The damning detail, of course, is that the Young Offenders isn’t an RTÉ original. It’s a co-commission with the BBC. And, as the entire series is already available via the BBC iPlayer in the UK, Montrose is clearly the junior partner.
It’s hard not to suspect, moreover, that were it not for the success of Foott’s original, independently financed, 2016 movie, it would never have dawned on RTÉ to set a comedy outside the capital.
More Cork accents are to be heard in the 29 minutes of this episode than in the entire past decade of the station’s regular output. It’s good that RTÉ is finally acknowledging sentient life beyond the M50.