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The wait is finally over. A year since we left Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle and James dancing in the assembly hall at school, the Derry Girls make a triumphant return for a second series. Expectations were high due to the huge response to the first series and thankfully, the series two opener doesn’t disappoint.
We’re back in mid-90s Derry as the girls head off for an outdoor pursuits weekend as part of a cross-community peace initiative. They will have the chance to meet some Protestant lads and Michelle is particularly determined not to miss an opportunity to get to know them better.
Some of the best moments in the first episode are rooted in the sheer awkwardness of being a teenage girl. There’s always the risk of saying the wrong thing and making a fool of yourself in the fraught borderlands between childhood and adulthood. Each of the fab five remain all lovable idiots in the greatest sitcom tradition.
The episode is very, very funny even when touching on the tensions between the communities during the Troubles. In one scene, a familiar face acting as a mediator during the weekend away asks the lads and the girls to come up with things that Protestants and Catholics have in common with one another. What’s being looked for is an acknowledgement of a shared humanity – that they all cry, laugh and love.
Instead, he gets a never-ending list of differences including Catholics getting a buzz off statues and Protestants not liking Abba. What could have been a collection of throwaway lines builds into something more affecting about the nature of relations between both sides during the Troubles. It is a superbly crafted piece of writing from creator Lisa McGee that is both moving and hilarious.
That was the core strength of the first series of Derry Girls, its laser focus on the specific experience of being a teenage girl in Derry in the 1990s. Recommissioned by Channel 4 after the pilot, the show became the most watched show in Northern Ireland since modern records began in 2002. It was an immediate success that benefitted from positive word of mouth and reviews. Murals were painted in Derry and the show has also been enjoying a positive international reaction since being picked up by Netflix even if some viewers seem to be struggling with the accents.
The success of Derry Girls demonstrates that appointment TV hasn’t gone away, even though viewing habits might be changing. This is one show that everyone will be talking about again. Welcome back girls, you were missed.