If you are looking for something funny, refreshing and low stakes, the Irish production Derry Girls is a phenomenal choice. Released in 2018, the double BAFTA nominated stormed the television media. The hit comedy series enjoys a huge 99% review score on Rotten Tomatoes and is the most-watched show on Channel 4, according to a British publication. When it became available to the American public via netflixthe hilarious coming-of-age series and its clever humor were also a smash hit.
Northern Irish designer Lisa McGee draws on her own youthful experiences to create a believable and authentic medium of storytelling. The show is set in Derry, Northern Ireland in the 1990s, towards the end of a decades-long socio-political conflict known as The Troubles. The Protestant North wanted independence from the United Kingdom and the Nationalist Roman Catholics wanted Northern Ireland to be absorbed into the Republic of Ireland. Context plays an important role in the series as a comic backdrop, as the teenagers attend a private Catholic school in a predominantly Protestant region. The series plays on 90s nostalgia and quintessentially Irish idiosyncrasies as it follows four teenage schoolgirls and a hapless English boy on their hilarious, low-stakes adventures. Here’s why you should watch Derry Girls.
A cast of wacky characters
The five main characters each exhibit unique traits. There’s the protagonist, Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), whose high morals are frequently tested by the presence of cute boys and limited patience for her helpless pals. There’s the neurotic Clare (Nicola Coughlan), whose anxiety frequently prompts frantic but amusing ramblings. There’s the resident bad girl, Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), who is always looking for an excuse to party and swear. Orla (Louisa Harland) is Erin’s cousin and the designated lovable eccentric of the group, often missing social cues and quietly slipping out non-sequenced glosses.
Finally, there’s Michelle’s English cousin, James (Dylan Llewellyn), the “little English guy” forced to attend an all-girls Catholic high school. He is relentlessly bullied by his Irish peers (particularly Michelle) who bear understandable animosity towards an individual from the nation that colonized theirs. Needless to say, with this combination, the band’s antics are always hilarious.
Even the minor characters bring something funny to the table, filling out an already brilliant and exciting world established by the students of Thornhill College. Sister Michael is the headmistress of the school, who is a surprisingly lax nun, not out of forgiveness for childish apprehensions, but out of sheer cynicism and apathy. The juxtaposition of his title and temperament is hilarious in itself. Colm McCool, Erin’s uncle, has a wealth of fascinating personal anecdotes but is tragically monotonous. Regardless of the content of the story, his voice is so terribly annoying that no one can bear to listen to him while he buzzes unconsciously. His own family tends to avoid him due to this apparent lack of social awareness. The characters, whether they are the main five or the secondary characters, really give Derry Girls that’s life.
Harmless growing pains
This show is the perfect coming-of-age TV sitcom with a great cast. The episodic, low-stakes nature of Derry Girls allows for a relatively stress-free viewing experience, even during moments of relative drama. You are bound to enjoy whatever misadventure Michelle managed to convince everyone to undertake. Teenagers learn to deal with the painfully awkward scenarios they find themselves in. For example, in one episode, Michelle pours drinks at local fish and chip co-owner Fionnula’s. They inadvertently set fire to the curtains of a very angry Fionnula and are tasked with cleaning her shop as punishment. Throughout the series, the four friends (and James) struggle to navigate their identities (and hilarious experiences) — a teen-specific journey of self-exploration.
In another episode, Thornhill College students are to go on a teambuilding retreat with a Protestant boys’ school in order to be a leader in promoting peace and tolerance between Catholics and Protestants. Erin and her cohort are nervous and hesitant, and in anticipation of the field trip, they speculate on their counterparts with outlandish theories based on negative stereotypes about Protestants.
They would soon discover that they share more in common than they originally thought. Much to Michelle’s delight, they discover that Protestant boys are quite cute. To compensate for their prejudices, the girls overflow with offensive compliments, making the Protestants seem very normal and pretending to be crazy. In this clever and fun commentary, Catholics end up perpetuating their own stereotypes and learn a valuable lesson about assumptions and character.
by Lisa McGee Derry Girls offers soothing 90s nostalgia and a fun insight into Irish culture, as evidenced by cool Irish slang and small town effects. Witty, quick jokes are fun, engaging, and incredibly smart. Derry GirlsThe central themes are friendship and identity, focusing on the tumultuous interactions between friends as they work out their trivial issues and bond to harass James for being English.
On April 12, the third season finally aired on Channel 4 after being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately for American and Australian viewers, the series has no Netflix release date yet. In the meantime, you definitely have time to catch up on seasons one and two on Netflix.
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