In Channel 4’s latest comedy offering we see familiar stories of teenage antics transported to a troubled corner of Northern Ireland during the ‘90s. The girls, Erin, Orla, Clare and Michele, are joined by English cousin James in haphazardly going about life and causing havoc in their wake. Equally as funny are Erin’s family who, along with the girls, are the main focus of the show. These teenage tumults are placed in the context of some far more sinister chaos as the girls are caught in the crossfire of the Troubles.
Derry Girls is the perfect 30-minute dose of laughter to get us through these winter months. This levity is surprising given the serious conflict surrounding the girls but the main focus of all the storylines centre around family and friendship. The acerbic wit and cringe-worthy mishaps of all the characters make a good chuckle inescapable. However, of course the Troubles do seep their way into the lives of the characters and showrunner Lisa McGee’s nimble story weaving makes these transitions seamless. Derry Girls is a depiction of normal people caught up in a time and place where the extraordinary conflict is unfurling around them. Their continuing of everyday life in contrast with the war unfolding is both entertaining and insightful. The show is so funny because it is matter of fact and not at all sentimental. The characters mirror this tone with their snappy comments, quick responses and bickering. However, as an audience we do feel sentiment towards the characters and although Derry Girls is silly in the best kind of way, there are also some moments of enlightenment about what it is like for people caught up in conflict. It is quite a feat to be able to capture this atmosphere whilst also being a blast.
Thrown into the mix are era-defining music, film references and fashion. A particular highlight is Michele’s foul-mouthed reaction to watching Pulp Fiction for the first time. Each of the girls has been very well written and acted. It is easy to identify yourself and your friends with a member the group. Erin is the dreamer hoping for something more, Michele is rebellious and loud, Orla has her head in the clouds, and Carla is earnest and nervous. The characters are exaggerated but much like with The Inbetweeners there is (unfortunately) a basis of truth in there. Lisa McGee perfectly characterises the strangeness of being at high school, the mechanics of friendships and conversations that seem to make perfect sense at the time but are in fact riddled with hilarious logical contradictions.
We are five episodes into Derry Girls and there has been the accidental death of a kleptomaniac nun, a feud with the local chip shop, and a disastrous party. As the series has progressed the influence of the Troubles has gradually increased and the fifth episode sees Erin’s family and friends head for the Republic ahead of the looming Orange March. With one episode left in this season and season two in the works, catch up now on All 4 — it’s proper craic.