What is so special about a show based on the lives of 16-year olds you ask? Well, Derry Girls is like your every average teen show, except it really is not. It is much more than a high school sitcom. The show is set in the Northern Ireland city of Londonderry against the backdrop of the ‘Troubles‘ when the country was torn by poverty and terrorism by the IRA.
For the uninitiated, the Troubles is named as the turbulent time faced by Ireland that started in the 1960s and went on till 1998, till the Good Friday Agreement. For most of us, who are used to watching American television shows, might find this show a bit obscure. The show is touted to be the most-watched series in Northern Ireland since 2002. The show based on the lighter side of the conflict zone debuted on Channel 4 on January 18 and has people talking about it all around the globe.
Derry Girls is based on the lives of 16-year old girls, Erin who stays with her parents, grandfather, aunt, and cousin Orla. The duo is good friends with Clare, the group’s moral compass and Michelle, who wants to date men in an otherwise conservative Catholic neighborhood. The girls study at the Our Lady Immaculate College, where Sister Michael, a nun who runs the school is equally exasperated with the shenanigans of our girls as much as they are.
These girls are joined by James, Michelle’s cousin, who is a Britisher forced to attend the all-girls’ school because the authorities fear for his life in a boys’ school. This is again an allegory to the ongoing tensions between Ireland and England.
The girls have the same hangups as do teens such as crushes, heartbreaks, curiosity about sex, fangirling over pop-icons, and more. However, what strikes a chord with the audiences is how the humor isn’t dreary, due to the backdrop of the political tension, but is in fact light-hearted. Their parents are strict and god-fearing, but they do provide comic relief with their whimsical beliefs and some questionable life choices.
Showrunner and writer, Lisa Mcgee grew up in Londonderry and has used some of her experiences in writing Derry Girls. Lisa, in 1990 had written a letter to the then President of the United States, Bill Clinton asking him to bring about peace and ceasefire in Northern Ireland. Mcgee, who is a playwright has used this instance in one of the episodes, as the Derry girls get excited to meet Bill and want Chelsea to swim in their school’s pool. The writing is water-tight and leaves no scope for any lapses. The humor is cheeky, playful and the jokes aren’t too over the top or in your face as well.
As compared to 13 Reasons Why and Trinkets, this show isn’t too dark and gloomy and makes up for an interesting weekend watch. The show has only 12 episodes, with six episodes in each season and runs for only 22-26 minutes. The only drawback is the heavy Irish accent make it near-impossible for people outside of Ireland to decipher. But with subtitles, that problem can be solved.
Saoirse-Monica Jackson plays Erin, her cousin Orla (Louisa Harland), their friends Clare (Nicola Coughlan) and Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), and Michelle’s English cousin James (Dylan Llewellyn). Saoirse fits in the role of Erin who aspires to become a writer, only to be brought back to reality by her eccentric cousin Orla who puts Pheobe Buffay to shame with her antics. Clare Devlin who plays the paranoid Nicola has become a worldwide sensation as she effortlessly plays her part.
The rest of the cast also with their perfect comic timing and a tinge of British humor, it provides excellent entertainment. Their accents are thick and you might need to check the subtitles every now and then for their usage of words such as ‘wee bit’ and wains (meaning children). The cast that has been put together is one of the best ensembles in a teen sitcom on the web right now.
Derry Girls, which has been renewed for season 3, has its two seasons airing on Netflix.