By Ben Thompson
From its debut in January 2018 on Channel 4, the sitcom ‘Derry Girls’ became an instant smash hit. It was the most watched television series in Northern Ireland since modern records began in 2002, watched by a average of 519,000 viewers.
The programme is set, predictably, in Derry, Northern Ireland, in the midst of the Troubles. Despite the backdrop of terrorism and conflict, the programme brims with hilarity and heart-warming sentiment.
It revolves around a group of four teenage girls – Erin, Clare, Orla and Michelle – and their English friend, James. You wouldn’t be mistaken in drawing a comparison with ‘The Inbetweeners’, as both programmes make use of awkward moments and ‘cringe humour’ to create a response. It never feels forced, however, and always provokes more of a genuine laugh than a grimace.
Although the show is first and foremost about the lives of these girls growing up in Northern Ireland, serious issues are also touched upon – without ever running into preachy territory. Religion, Anglo-Irish relations and sexuality are dealt in with good humour, without losing sight of the weight behind each topic.
Northern Ireland continues to generate a lot of interest through Britain and in the media. It is at the forefront of Brexit negotiations, with the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) insisting Northern Ireland be treated like other regions of the UK in the process of leaving the EU, while its prohibition of abortion and same-sex marriage sets it apart from Britain and the Republic of Ireland when it comes to progressive gender and sexual politics.
This is reflected in ‘Derry Girls’ with good humour and a lot of heart. When it needs to be serious, it does it exceptionally well. When it requires a moment to lighten the mood, it delivers with full gusto.
The first series of ‘Derry Girls’ is due to be released on Netflix in the near future. For the time being, all episodes are available on All4.