The personal exploits of a 16-year-old girl and her family and friends during the Troubles in the early 1990s.
It’s hard to accurately describe Derry Girls, because it’s one of those shows about nothing in particular that is endlessly amusing. Erin is very much a “regular” teenager. She’s not popular, but she’s not unpopular either. She’s got her group, which includes her truly whackadoodle cousin, Orla (who, along with her equally spacey mom, lives with Erin’s family); her potty-mouthed, brash friend, Michelle; Clare, a person who will unwillingly go along with an ill-conceived plan and then be the first to confess; and Michelle’s cousin, James, a doofy, sweet guy who usually doesn’t deserve the grief the group gives him. Together, they attend their all-girls Catholic high school (yes, even James) and try to go about living their lives amidst a civil war.
(No one is a familiar face for me, though they all have a handful of smaller credits to their names.)
Saoirse-Monica Jackson as Erin
Although Erin is billed as the protagonist she’s not my favorite character, but she is the most relatable one. She’s generally a decent person, but girl has her moments of teenage entitlement you may occasionally recognize in your old self that will make you feel shame (SHAME. *ring*). She lives with her parents, baby sister, aforementioned wacky aunt and cousin, and her maternal grandpa:
The day-to-day interactions of Erin’s family are a delight to me. Her grandpa is kind of an asshole, and he hates his son-in-law to a comical degree (another guy who doesn’t deserve it), and her mom is such a mom—in one episode she’s wandering the house complaining about needing more clothes to fill up a load of laundry…and then she spots the school uniforms on Erin and her friends. The show is great at little moments of subtle physical comedy.
Although Orla rarely talks, she gives great reaction shots. When she DOES open her mouth, it typically has nothing to do with whatever situation is right in front of the group. Look out for her Napolean Dynamite moment in the last episode.
Clare is that friend you grew up with who you one day look at and realize, we no longer have anything in common. But you still get together because, well, she’s familiar. Clare is timid, fears authority, and is always trailing behind warning everyone of the consequences of their actions. To be fair, Clare is probably right most of the time (they get up to some stupid shenanigans), but I don’t watch TV for realism, so: Shut up, Clare.
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell as Michelle
Every group needs a sex-obsessed, foul-mouthed friend who almost gets you beat up and then expelled on the first day of school, right? Michelle is kind of a pain in the ass, and I am always like THISCLOSE to being done with her, but then she says something amusingly true and I like her again.
Fans of Parks & Rec will understand what I mean when I say James is a Jerry. As the only male student at an all-girls Catholic school, you’d perhaps think he would be a hot commodity, but James is a little shy and geeky, and these girls aren’t welcoming of a guy in their space. He’s in the group by default, being Michelle’s cousin, but the guy is a glutton for punishment (find some new friends, bebe). Michelle makes fun of him every chance she gets, and there’s a running gag where he constantly has to correct them that he’s not actually gay.
Siobhan McSweeney as Sister Michael
Sister Michael is, hands down, the best character on this show. Her deadpan delivery and utter lack of interest in these teenage drama queens’ internal lives are everything. I fell in love with her in the first episode when she called everyone into her office after an unfortunate incident with a nun in detention. Nothing shakes this lady. How do you not cackle at a fictional nun who announces at the school talent show, “Every year I sit backstage, listening to the singers, and it really makes me realize how talented the professionals who originally recorded these tracks were.”?
Couch-Sharing Capability: High
If you and your friends are children of the ‘90s then this is the perfect video capsule to remind you of that time before Facebook and cell phones. You can sing along to the ‘90s music soundtrack and cringe over Erin’s awkward interactions with her inappropriate crush (a priest, in a very amusing plotline about a dead dog and a Virgin Mary statue).
Recommended Level of Inebriation: In Moderation
If you get too sloppy you may have some trouble getting into the cadence of their Irish accents, and trust me, you don’t want to miss a line. If you want to have some fun but not too much fun, take a shot whenever self-righteous Jenny Joyce does something annoying.
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Excellent
With only 6 half-hour episodes, you’ll breeze through this in no time. It’s the perfect little gem in a sea of so-so Netflix “originals”: heartwarming, funny, weird, and relatable. If you enjoy it, you’ll be happy to know the second season has just finished airing on the BBC and last week they announced it’s coming back for a third season!