Derry Girls is the comedy you need to beat the January blues

Lisa McGee's coming of age tale is causing a stir online - here's why

Derry Girls Cast

It’s January, you’re broke, payday feels as though it’s never going to roll around and you’re back to work with not a single Bank Holiday in sight.

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What could possibly pull you out of the depths of despair at one of the most depressing times of the year?

Flick over to Channel 4 on Thursdays at 10pm and introduce yourself to the Derry Girls.

Lisa McGee’s coming of age comedy is set in what would appear to be one of the least comedic locations – the city of Derry, in the middle of the Northern Ireland conflict in the early 1990s – but it’s actually laugh-out-loud funny.

A cracking cast, armed with a script that’s bursting with brilliant one-liners and backed by a soundtrack that’s dripping with 90s nostalgia, deliver a 30-minute dose of much needed black comedy.

While elements of the plot are obviously exaggerated (you’d never dare swear in front of a nun in a convent school, believe me), there’s something – or someone – for everyone to relate to.

Leading lady Erin Quinn (Saoirse Jackson) is the dreamer, who just can’t escape her eccentric family. Mum Mary (Tara Lynne O’Neill) is a no-nonsense Irish mammy with a terrifically acidic tongue, granda Joe (Game of Thrones star Ian McElhinney) is a thundering delight with hidden depths, and dad Gerry (Tommy Tiernan) is struggling to keep up with the lot of them.

Mary (Tara O'Neill) and Gerry (Tommy Tiernan) - Derry Girls (Channel 4, SD)
Mary (Tara O’Neill) and Gerry (Tommy Tiernan) – Derry Girls (Channel 4)

Meanwhile next-door-neighbour cousin Orla (Louisa Harland) is in a world of her own, a trait she doubtlessly inherited from her superbly spaced-out mum, aunt Sarah (Kathy Kiera Clarke).

Erin’s school friends are both her salvation and her downfall. Honest Clare (Nicola Coughlan) wants to keep everyone on the straight and narrow so she can become a success in life, even if that means throwing them all under the bus when disaster strikes.

And then there’s mouthy Michelle (Jamie Lee O’Donnell), who never thinks before she speaks and is basically the party queen we all wish we’d been in the 1990s. The human embodiment of YOLO with hoops Pat Butcher would be proud to call her own, it’s little wonder she’s already a fan favourite online.

If Michelle is the girl we wish we were, then Jenny is the girl we probably wish we hadn’t been. But let’s face it; every former Head Girl or student council member among us (me included) probably sees more shades of himself or herself in the endless perky prefect who just can’t help poking her nose in.

And then there’s poor old James (Dylan Llewellyn), the wide-eyed English fella, who serves as the eyes and ears of those who haven’t the foggiest idea what these wee girls are going on about.

Derry Girls - Channel 4
The Derry Girls – and boy (Channel 4)

But the real magic of Derry Girls is its ability to take a situation we all looked upon from the outside with horror and trepidation and give us a whole new perspective on it.

I grew up in Dublin, miles from the border, with only an outsider’s knowledge of what The Troubles were and what the Peace Process really meant. For me, Northern Ireland evoked images of Ian Paisley, John Hume, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness, the IRA, UDA and numerous other combinations of letters that stood for organisations involved in a situation I knew very little about.

It was all-too easy to forget that beyond the security alerts and tales of horror broadcast via news bulletins there were girls and boys just doing their best to keep calm and get on with it.

There were children and teenagers, with the same everyday troubles and growing pains as me, just going about their business. And while the conflict and the atrocities carried out during the time were no laughing matter, these – as Erin so eloquently puts it in her diary – children of the crossfire still lived, loved and laughed just as much of the rest of us.

That’s what it’s so wonderful to have writers like Lisa McGee, who can open our eyes to another side of the story.

If you’ve not watched Derry Girls yet you’d best “catch yerself on” and catch up on All4, before tuning in for the next episode, hi!

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Derry Girls continues on Channel 4 on Thursdays at 10pm