The Young Offenders won over the hearts of many in 2016, earning more than a million at the Irish box-office. There are many reasons why; the energetic direction by Peter Foott, a handful of funny performances and an interesting take on a story rooted in real world events. However, I’d argue the most important element to the film’s success was its charm. For all the gags centring around the petty crime exploits of two dumb young criminals, there was a heart to the comedy. The relationships between Conor (Alex Murphy) and Jock (Chris Walley), as well as Conor and his single mother Mairead (Hilary Rose) were surprisingly touching and had pathos.
This charm gets a little lost in translation as Conor and Jock return to screens, this time in a series airing on RTE. The broad story is pretty much the same. Petty teen criminals and best friends – brought together by the deaths of their fathers – cause minor havoc around Cork City, irritating in the process Mairead, Sergeant Healy (Dominic MacHale) and local nutcase Billy (Shane Casey).
The main difference between the film and TV versions of The Young Offenders can be found in their first scenes. The movie opens with Conor and Jock discussing what they would do if they had a million euro – leading to a sweet and funny conversation about their hopes in life. The TV show opens with a joke about buying an inflatable sex woman. The latter is sort of funny but lacks the heart the movie had, a trend which continues throughout the pilot.
What’s also frustrating is that the pilot’s most emotional moment – a kitchen sink discussion between Conor and Mairead – is just one of many scenes recycled from the original movie. The TV show ignores the events of the film, which means Conor and Jock’s feuds with the various people in their lives have not been resolved. This makes sense from a storytelling point. Yet, one wishes writer-director Peter Foott had given Conor and Jock new things to do. Instead, we see the Fake Billy mask montage, the bike chase in fish-market set-piece and the ‘are you gay?’ scene yet again.
That said, the pilot did pass the six-laugh test. A scene where Jock convinces Conor to jump off a building is funny, especially later when Mairead badgers Conor exclaiming he would jump off a building if Jock told him to – not knowing that he actually did. Also, Foott sets up some nice narrative threads in the opening half-hour that could raise some laughs later on (a potential romance between Sergeant Healy and Mairead). Plus, Murphy and Walley are undeniably energetic and likeable as Conor and Jock, meaning the series never feels like a chore to sit through. That said, a greater emotional core and less rehashing would benefit the show. Stephen Porzio
The Young Offenders airs Thursdays on RTE2