The British series Derry Girls, which is available for streaming on Netflix and has been renewed for a second season, makes the peculiarities of life in Northern Ireland relatable to a global audience. The Channel 4 comedy is set in Derry town in Northern Ireland in the 1990s, during the period of ethnic strife known as The Troubles. Written and created by Lisa McGee and loosely based on her life, the show captures how life goes on despite tensions caused by the widespread political conflict.
The second season of Derry Girls will be telecast on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom on March 4. The show revolves around a bunch of teenagers whose denim jackets, love for Whigfield, secret diaries and tactless approach to dealing with their crushes will be instantly recognisable to viewers across the world: Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), a poster child for teenage angst, Erin’s dreamy and none-too-wise cousin Orla (Louisa Harland), the well-intentioned but perpetually panic-stricken Clare (Nicola Coughlan), the delightfully foul-mouthed Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnel), and James (Dylan Llewellyn), Michelle’s cousin from England, who is the butt of all jokes. They are studying at an all-girls Catholic school, even James – the school board worries about his safety at a boy’s school because he is, you know, British.
Over the course of six episodes in the first season, the girls have many mini-adventures – making plans for a summer trip to Paris, scrubbing down (and being tied to the radiator) at the local fish-and-chips shop, falling in love with a priest, running a school magazine and becoming minor celebrities after witnessing church-related miracles. Every episode ends with the girls failing beautifully at being anything more than absolute disasters.
The Troubles are never too far away, finding their way into the story through blockades that cause traffic, protests that threaten to turn violent, and debates over whether sex should be had with an English soldier. The comedic chaos is punctuated by exactly two moments of poignancy in the whole season. By and large, life in all its unimaginable and bizarre glory goes on. The series maintains a reckless and irreverent tone and is never weighed down by politics or nostalgia.
Apart from the four teenagers and “that wee English fella”, the set of characters includes the remarkable Siobhan McSweeney as Sister Michael, the school’s head nun whose deadpan and caustic humour never misses its mark. Erin’s family is made up of a typical controlling mother, a do-gooder father, a brutally blunt grandfather, and Aunt Sarah, who is as loopy as her daughter Orla. Though these characters are highly exaggerated, they fit perfectly into the madcap universe of Derry Girls.
The sharp cast and impeccable writing are amplified by a soundtrack featuring artists such as The Corrs, REM, Madonna, Whigfield, and Vanilla Ice. The show begins and ends with The Cranberries song Dreams, reminding viewers that these are a bunch of kids whose lives are changing every single day.