Dara Ó Briain takes on the moon and the places ‘Irish people know but the British seem never to have heard of’

Television: The Irish comedian’s new show, Wonders of the Moon, has the gently rambling quality of a lecture conveyed by a funny, eccentric professor

We’ve all had that friend who moves to Britain but is home so frequently – and make such a song and dance about it – that you end up seeing more of them than another pal who lives down the road. Dara Ó Briain is light entertainment’s answer to that chum who can’t stay away to the point where you wonder why they don’t just move back and be done with it.

He was on our airwaves at the weekend at the heart of the BBC’s coverage of the All-Ireland football final – a weird broadcast that framed football as a manifestation of Irish quirkiness and far too bizarre for a sensible British person to understand without hardcore hand-holding. These people invented cricket and that thing where they roll down a hill in pursuit of a wheel of Wensleydale. Left to their own devices, they’ll get their heads around the blanket defence.

Now here the London-based presenter is again, tramping across rural Wicklow in the introduction to Wonders of the Moon with Dara Ó Briain (Channel 5, Tuesday, 9pm), his big soppy valentine to the chunk of cheese in the sky that governs our tides and illuminates our nights.

It’s the perfect vehicle for a comedian with a background in science. Ó Briain studied maths and physics at UCD and, alongside his stand-up, has carved out a parallel career as a sort of chuckle-inducing boffin.


He’s very good at it, and Wonders of the Moon has the gently rambling quality of a lecture conveyed by a funny, eccentric professor. The only downside is it’s on the UK’s Channel 5, so you’ll have to do a bit of self-tuning on your satellite box.

Starting his adventures in Ireland allows him to bite the hand that feeds. On his way to the neolithic chamber at Newgrange, in Co Meath, he explains the Stone Age structure is “one of those [places] that all Irish people know but British people seem never to have heard of ... Like Tayto crisps or the Good Friday Agreement.” Oooh, that’s a straight shoulder over the sideline that will hurt in the morning.

Wonders of the Moon is, from there on, pleasantly inconsequential. You get the sense that Ó Briain would love to make grand claims about the moon’s impact on human behaviour. Alas, the science doesn’t back it up.

So instead he interviews a farmer in Cornwall who reports his cows are 18 per cent more likely to fall pregnant during a full moon. Next, he lopes along a beach in Kent with an astrobiologist who explains that the lunar tides have had an enormous role in evolution.

Much like Kerry v Dublin, this two-parter saves the best until the end. In part two (broadcast on Wednesday), Ó Briain will take a virtual moonwalk, which looks like a blast.

There are no such thrills in the first episode, though he goes down on hands and knees in Newgrange to get an idea of what the chamber looks like during the solstice. Or maybe he’s hoping that, in the dark, the camera crew will forget him, and he can stay in Ireland, a place where his heart, mind and funny bone appear to already reside.