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The Lockdown List: Derry Girls (2018 – present)

Image Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

The comedy show ‘Derry Girls’ follows an ensemble of students trying to navigate their way through teenage life. Despite being incredibly well-written, it is criminally underrated and many have not heard of this gem. Especially during these times, watching a show like this can be an extremely important way to destress and detach from reality. 

The five friends, consisting of Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), Clare (Nicola Coughlan), Orla (Louisa Harland), Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), and James (Dylan Llewellyn), all have quirky personalities that seem to blend perfectly together to create a great dynamic. Everyone will be able to relate to at least one of the characters and be reminded of their own school life. Whilst the situations the group find themselves in are a little exaggerated for comedic purposes, the down-to-earth concept of the show allows viewers to look back on their own experiences as teenagers and the stresses one had to endure. You watch the students deal with classic juvenile issues like boys, popularity and most importantly, stressfully cramming for exams that won’t matter in a month. The show presents these moments as comically serious and it replicates the way that everything that goes wrong in a teenagers life seems to feel like the end of the world. 

Apart from the main cast, the set of recurring characters are all extremely well-written and complement the show perfectly. The constant quarrels between Grandpa Joe (Ian McElhinney) and Erin’s dad, Gerry (Tommy Tiernan), make for some realistic family content. We all have that one family member that seems to go on and on incessantly about the same story for hours like Uncle Colm (Kevin McAleer). The teacher’s pet, Jenny (Leah O’Rourke), and apathetic Sister Michael (Siobhan McSweeney) also add to the show’s relatable nature. The personality traits of all of these additional characters can be seen in everyone’s daily life, making the show feel familiar. 

Being set in the small town of Derry, Northern Ireland, during the 90s, the show explores the historical context of ‘The Troubles’ through the eyes of the different generations represented by the characters. In spite of its main aim being to make the audience laugh, the show scatters bits of history throughout its episodes. Even though its most informative scenes are embedded within humour, it opens your eyes to how these malleable teenagers would have reacted to the political and religious turmoil taking place in Ireland. This is enhanced by the employment of James, who is the only male and English national of the group, creating an interesting tension within the show. The more obvious links to its context can be seen in specific episodes, such as when the group go on a trip with ‘Friends Across the Barricade’, an initiative to get Catholic and Protestant pupils to integrate and socialise through the use of cringey team-building exercises. 

Overall, ‘Derry Girls’ is a lighthearted and easy watch for any comedy fan. The decision to base the show within this specific historical context only adds to the layers of comedy that run throughout its two series. It’s a perfect way to spend time, whether it’s during lockdown or to procrastinate from doing your work at home.

By Amy Britton