Firstly, there's the accent. The lilt, the musical, magical way in which curses are charms and words tumble out as babbling brooks of blarney. And then there's Dublin, River Liffey ambling gently between Georgian architecture, a fitting backdrop for joy or the search of it.
Finding Joy, an Irish comedy series written by and starring Amy Huberman, is an antidote to the present darkness and best watched in concert with icecream and Cointreau. Huberman and her husband, former Irish international rugby player Brian O'Driscoll, are Irish royalty, the (pre-independence) equivalent of Meghan and Harry. Blond and pillow-lipped, Huberman made her name in Irish primetime medical drama The Clinic as receptionist Daisy O'Callaghan. She's also appeared in numerous films, written two novels, Hello, Heartbreak and I Wished for You. She also has a sideline gig as a shoe designer. Phew.
Most recently, it's Finding Joy that has taken up Huberman's time and creative energy. The first series was released in 2018 and series two is set to be streamed on Acorn TV from April 13. Finding Joy is no Ulysses, granted; Huberman's not channelling Joyce or Beckett. But unlike her country folk, this gentle and irreverent comedy is fine confection for a lockdown. Pure, delectable escape.
I binge watch Finding Joy on the eve of lockdown. The next day I chatted to Huberman and told her the show was a blessed moment of light relief. She sounded genuinely pleased. I told her I was in lockdown and there would likely be interruptions from a 4-year-old. As she was in semi-isolation herself, with O'Driscoll and their two children young Sadie and Billy, she understood.
"That's fine honey, we're all in this together. We'll do the best that we can." (Huberman is blessed with a multiplicity of talents. Charm is by no means the least of them.)
The daughter of Harold Huberman, a Jewish fashion designer born in Poland and raised in London, and teacher/model mother Sandra, Huberman is a rare delight. She's self-effacing, caring (she's provided health workers in Ireland with free pairs of her shoes for the pandemic) and effortlessly funny. She's frequently photographed at red carpet events, for which she's beautifully dressed and coiffured. And she's a talker, her words a breathless staccato, impossible to capture in their entirety.
The titular Joy is a different beast. Joy Morris, Finding Joy's protagonist, loves order; her life is quiet, contained. She's happy to be average, afraid of change and emotionally buttoned down. Plainly dressed, not fond of the spotlight. Possibly the polar opposite of her creator.
"I've been asked many times if there are similarities between Joy and me," says Huberman. "To be honest, my life is chaotic a lot of the time. But I do crave order, so I can relate to her need for it."
Finding Joy revolves around Joy's post-break-up ennui and the search for meaning. When we meet her, she's a somewhat gormless routine freak who's wrestling with life after hunky long-term boyfriend, Aiden, ditches her. (After a few flashbacks, you can see why.) She's living with a dog (also called Aiden), who has a proclivity for defecating on beds. And an extensive collection of skincare products.
Joy's a word person in the back offices of a television show called News Today. In the classic "screwball comedy" way, she's finds herself flung out of her comfort zone when forced to take over the role of vlogger and lifestyle guru Flora Hunter and front a show called Happy Hunter. As the series unfolds, Joy confronts her own issues as she abseils, wrestles and meditates her way through Ireland, finding a semblance of "joy".
The modern obsession with self-improvement acts as the pivot around which the show rotates. Joy is both repelled and drawn to it; her lessons are often anchored in shame, but they are lessons, nevertheless. (In one episode she's spat on by an ersatz priestess in a ceremony. It's cringe-worthy but hilarious).
Huberman admits she's a fan of alternative therapies such as reiki and Ayurveda medicine but "isn't the captain of that ship" when it comes to the discipline needed for such pursuits.
"I prefer to go somewhere to get 'fixed'. I remember telling my husband I was going to do a yoga workout by myself once. I went into another room and came back after six minutes. He said, 'That was a short workout,'" she laughs.
What she does enjoy is "disappearing and reading". This seems a little at odds with her sociability and highly visible online presence (she has nearly 500,000 followers on Twitter). But reading and writing are both joyous, a form of stillness and meditative discipline.
"I really love the routine of writing and I enjoy the structure that it gives to my life," she says. "I love the quality time that I get with my own thoughts and the sense of order."
I ask her if the process of writing about a highly ordered individual (Joy) could have been a search for order in her own life.
"Yes, you may be right. I hadn't thought of it like that."
One of the most celebrated aspects of Finding Joy is possibly the antithesis of order. The show's narrator, "canine Aiden", is a pooing, tousle-furred terrier played by an Irish "dog actor" called Ferne.
"She's a girl. They had to edit out her nipples," Huberman laughs.
Canine Aiden acts as Joy's emotional voice in the show. His narration is the verbal expression of what Joy is too buttoned down to express. Huberman says that as a dog lover, she found the idea of a canine narrator pleasing. "I also really wanted a dog on set," she says.
Ferne's scenes were completed quickly ("she couldn't really concentrate for all that long" says Huberman). The old adage "never work with kids or animals" springs to mind, but she wasn't fazed, as she'd done it before earlier in her acting career.
"I tried out for a show called Animal Practice (or something) in the United States. It was based on a vet's clinic and it was crazy. There were monkeys driving tiny ambulances through the set and I managed to work with that. I thought I could do anything after that."
Veteran actor Peter McDonald provided the voice of canine Aiden. "He's a wonderful actor and it was great because he's also completely dog-obsessed," she explains.
Acting, writing and raising children aside, Huberman has followed in her dad's footsteps and engaged in the world of fashion. She's a passionate shoe lover (you suspect a shoe addict who appears in Finding Joy has echoes of Huberman).
She explains that she was approached seven or eight years ago by designers who wanted to work on a shoe collaboration with her; she and eagerly accepted. She now has a line of shoes (the Bourbon collection), which she sells online saying that the design process is another way in which she injects order into her life.
Her father has always been a great inspiration to her and his battle with Parkinson's disease has been something she's talked openly about. It's curious, I say, that the character of Joy is so particularly anti-fashion, given her love of it. A person who is happy with a pair of jeans and a jacket.
"It was interesting creating a character that was content being middle of the road and not at all interested in clothes. Someone who felt completely at ease wearing the same thing every day. She does have an obsession with skincare products, which I guess is something we share. But she is happy being 'average' and sees nothing wrong with it."
By the end of the first series, Joy finds herself with a dedicated audience (who love her naivety) and a new life direction. She's letting go of extraneous baggage and is finding fulfilment in her work. Human Aiden has even made a reappearance.
Huberman celebrated her 41st birthday just before the lockdown was declared in Ireland (her Instagram showing her opening that most exclusive of pandemic gifts, the toilet roll). Another welcome gift is sure to be the launch of the second series of Finding Joy, which is set to follow in the charming, wacky (verging on surreal) manner of the first. Joy is trying her hand at entrepreneurship, establishing an online brand, and continuing her quest for happiness, canine Aiden in tow.
As a vestige of the "time before" Covid-19, with its bumbling heroine and gentle humour, it's likely to be binged on by a public hungry for lightness - a touch of love, a taste of joy.
Finding Joy, season one will screen on April 13, on Acorn TV.