A very timely antidote to so much weary and sad TV teens dealing with largescale existential conflicts
Being a teenager is complicated, I won’t deny it. But perhaps series are taking the drama of adolescence a little too seriously. In recent times, the term ‘teen series’ has become synonymous with depressing series. The Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why and HBO’s Euphoria both feature sad protagonists who are permanently smothered under the weight of their own existence. And while they do handle sex and drugs in the full-on way the issue deserve, it’s inevitable that we pine for a slightly less obscure portrait of adolescence.
Perhaps that’s why Derry Girls is such a godsend with its bluntly-spoken protagonists who unceremoniously deliver their often politically incorrect sense of humor. The original Channel 4 series is available in Spain from Netflix (just entered its second season) and follows the exploits of a group of carefree teenagers, even though their day-to-day reality is the furthest thing from carefree that you could imagine.
In fact, the stars of Derry Girls have more reasons to be living tormented teenage years than their US counterparts, given that its set in the small city of Derry in the 90’s, slap bang in the midst of what was to be referred to as the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland . It’s not unusual to see the girls crossing paths with groups of British soldiers on their way to school, or to hear news about terrorist attacks on the evening news over dinner.
What Derry Girls actually does is to transform this contextual aspect of their lives into just another speedbump in the everyday lives of a regular group of characters who’ve become accustomed to army checkpoints on the roads and bomb scare evacuations. For Erin, Clare, Orla, Michelle and James, their day-to-day lives are obviously similar to that of any other teenager and their concerns revolve around the typical issues involved in this period of life. In fact, most of Derry Girls’ comedy actually springs from overlapping a teenage plot with a serious historical backdrop. One of the best scenes in season two involves the girls taking a trip up to Belfast for a Take That concert, only to end up becoming suspected suitcase bombers, even requiring the intervention of the bomb squad.
The same goes for a coming together between young Catholics and Protestants, which on paper should be an ideal occasion to promote dialogue and forge bonds to live together in peace…, the girls on the other hand only have eyes on the opportunity to make out with boys. The perfectly defined characters were born for the pace and tone of the show’s humor, as in all the best sitcoms, while we cast our gaze upon the island’s recent idiosyncratic history, something that only comedy makes palpable with its spoonful of sugar.
Let’s spare a though also for Moone Boy, the autobiographical series co-created by actor Chris O’Dowd, and also set in a rural Irish town, but on this occasion set in the 80s. With its biting humor and teens who just want to have the craic, Derry Girls has become the most popular Irish comedy since the masterful Father Ted (not to be missed and if you’ve seen it, you might recognize actor Ardal O’Hanlon doing a small role in the second season) and a very timely antidote to so much weary and sad TV teens dealing with largescale existential conflicts. Because yes, the teenage years can be fun too.