'Derry Girls' is Probably the Best Comedy You've Never Seen

The cast of "Derry Girls" (Photo: Netflix)

Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell and Dylan Llewellyn in "Derry Girls" Season 1 

(Photo: Netflix)

If you, like me, are also late to discovering the wonderful romp that is Netflix comedy Derry Girls, then you may not know that it is, in fact, the best British teen sitcom on television. But, surprise, that's absolutely the case. 

A raucous and often raunchy series about a squad of ill-mannered teen girls, the show is sort of the feminist answer to popular male-focused teen comedies like The Inbetweeners, showing us that young female characters are just as capable of being crass, silly and utterly relatable as boys are. 

Set in Northern Ireland in the 1990s, Derry Girls takes place against the backdrop of The Troubles, the colloquial name for the three-decades-long conflict between nationalists (mainly self-identified as Irish or Roman Catholic) and unionists (mainly self-identified as British or Protestant) that often resulted in bombings and other acts of terrorism. But this show is the furthest thing from a serious or even a political drama. Instead, it's a hilarious and deeply poignant coming-of-age story - just one that has to happen to be set at a particularly tumultuous time in history.  

Photo: Netflix)
Photo: Netflix)

Loud, messy and utterly heartfelt from start to finish, Derry Girls follows the everyday adventures of a quartet of Catholic schoolgirls: Melodramatic Erin, who dreams of a bigger life than the one she's living; foul-mouthed Michelle, who hides her insecurities behind brash swagger; weird Orla, who occasionally carries hunting knives around with her; and goody-two-shoes Clare, who stresses out about breaking rules and getting bad grades but still shatters one of her community's biggest norms by coming out as a lesbian at the end of the series' first season.

There's also Michelle's English cousin James, forced to tend the girls' school because his family is convinced he'll be regularly beaten up at the boys' version, who gets regularly insulted by the girls and even his own family members, but who remains their most steadfast friend

This story will feel very familiar to anyone who has ever been - or known - a teenage girl. From gossip and school dances to detentions and group trips to concerts there's a beautifully joyful sense of possibility to all their adventures, a sort of general wide openness to everything that's perhaps only possible when you're that age, and so much of the world seems new.

Whether they're obsessing over the trendy new teacher who somehow arrives at their Roman Catholic girls' school or trying to figure out a way to sneak off to a Take That concert, their experiences feel deeply universal. And even though the dark threat of IRA bombings exists in the background of many scenes, it's played for laughs as often as poignancy - when an innocuous lie about a hidden suitcase full of vodka the girls are hoping to drink brings in the bomb squad, for example - which feels much like the way it must have been often been viewed during the times themselves. The magic of this show lies in its very ordinariness, in the ways that the familiar beats of life can be seen in every moment, even as soldiers wander the streets and school buses have to be routed around potential danger zones. 

Photo: Netflix)
Photo: Netflix)

Derry Girls is full of awkward comedy, from cringe-worthy moments, slapstick jokes, and puns on Irish slang that may not land as well for American audiences. But the heart of this series is the relationship between its quartet of female leads, who are so easy to love and root for, no matter what ridiculousness they happen to be involved in. Whether they're fighting, chasing boys, sneaking out on their parents, or trying to get the new transfer students to be friends with them because they think it'd be cool to have a diverse friend group, they're loveable, hilarious and loyal to a fault. They're the friends you'll wish you had at their age - and if you're lucky enough to still count yourself a similar squad, you'll want to give them a call when you're done. 

Basically: If being a Derry Girl is really a state of mind, then I'm all in. 

Have you seen Derry Girls already? What did you think of it? Share your thoughts on the show - and whether you're looking forward to Season 3 - in the comments. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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