Derry Girls: Series 2
Lisa McGee’s sitcom set in Derry during the Troubles mines pointed humour from potential tragedy, and its rambunctious jokes fly so fast many are in danger of being lost to previous laughs
As someone who is neither British nor Irish, this writer’s first encounter with Lisa McGee’s Derry Girls resulted in a certain amount of befuddlement amid the plentiful belly laughs. Yes, it’s a late Troubles-set period piece, but it was still difficult to come to grips with the stark reality of the Catholic/Protestant divide in the titular Northern Irish town of Derry (Londonderry to the ‘Prods’) even at the beginning of the 1990s. Still, it’s that hyper-specific milieu that sets Derry Girls apart from similar rambunctious-teen sitcoms. The jokes fly so fast many are in danger of being lost to previous laughs (and, admittedly, sometimes to accents of limited – for this gal – intelligibility). But it’s the world McGee creates, and the characters inhabiting it, that really shifts this show from good to great.
Rubber-faced drama queen Erin, her foul-mouthed, oversexed mate Michelle, pint-sized ‘craic killer’ Clare, space cadet Orla, and Michelle’s perpetually confused and abused English cousin James (something of a stand-in for non-initiated viewers) all felt fully formed from episode one of the first series. Their desperation to understand and participate in the workings of the adult world, despite that world making little sense, marries character and place seamlessly. In series two, the show continues using the Troubles as a matter-of-fact backdrop for the girls’ lives, mining pointed humour from potential tragedy while highlighting the absurdity of it all.
Derry Girls is also refreshing because it allows teenage girls to be just as wayward, crude, funny, desirous, and often dumb as teenage boys have been portrayed since ‘teenagers’ became a concept. Rounded out by a brilliantly game supporting cast of parents and teachers, it won’t please strict acolytes of po-faced, respectable social realism, but those with more – small-c – catholic tastes will find a lot to be devout about. [Michelle Devereaux]