There really isn’t a big story how I found out about this show. I was just on Netflix and wanted to watch something to kill time. Saw this, it’s an Irish show, I think SING STREET randomly came into my head, and just put this on. However, I think it needs more exposure, so I’m doing my part to spread awareness.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, and Dylan Llewellyn, all known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of.
In support, we have Tara Lynne O’Neill, Kathy Kiera Clarke, Tommy Tiernan, all known for stuff that I’ve either never heard of or seen, Ian McElhinney (STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE ), and Siobhan McSweeney (ALICE 2  and MR. HOLMES ).
Now for the crew. The series creator and writer is Lisa McGee, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. The director is Michael Lennox, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. The cinematographer is Oli Russell, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Finally, the primary editor is Lucien Clayton, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of.
This is my honest opinion of: DERRY GIRLS (Season 1)
Set in Derry, Northern Ireland during the Troubles, circa 1992. The story follows teenage Catholic students, the awkward Erin Quinn (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), her oblivious cousin Orla McCool (Louisa Harland), the anxiety ridden Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), the overly crass Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), and her sweet-natured English cousin James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn), as they try to live in their troubled home.
This review needed to happen and I’ll tell you why. Because I think I’m a tad obsessed with it. Over the weekend, literally, all I watched was this show. Back to back once. Put it on to put some sound in the room, pause to write in my blog, and then put it on again when I felt like taking a break, procrastinating, or finished writing and felt like giving myself a reward. And that’s just referring to the weekend in question. I’d already seen the entirety of the show once before and fell in love with it. Even after the weekend in question, I still put it on to kill the silence. I’m pretty sure I’ve not watched this show more than ten times now since I saw it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was wrong about that. Yes, I think this show is that funny, but even more importantly, I think it’s that good.
First off, let’s talk about what sells this show, and that’s the incredible talent in the four leading ladies, and the one wee English fella.
Erin is the awkward girl. When she sees her crush, David Donnelly (Anthony Boyle), she’ll try and get his attention by pretending to not know he’s there, and get his attention “subtly” by laughing loudly and hysterically at a comment that no one made. This is how she acts whenever she’s around anyone that she likes. From the nice and popular girl at school in episode two, to having the hots for a freakin’ priest in episode three, her reactions to every situation that’s sprung on her are priceless.
But let’s talk about my favorite characters. Third place goes to Michelle. She’s about the most “I don’t a fuck” character I’ve seen in a long time that didn’t feel cartoonish. She’s the smoker and drinker, the trouble-maker, often the very reason why the five get into trouble. She’s impulsive, is far removed from being a “lady,” flipping people off, both those that she likes and doesn’t like, is highly self-absorbed, and is completely insane. One of my favorite elements about her is that she’s about as integrated to the Troubles as a person can get. Imagine for a moment you’re a teenager on the bus to school. It stops and soldiers armed with assault rifles come on. What’s your reaction? If you’re a native of Los Angeles, like I am, that’d be downright alarming. Panic, paranoia, the shitting of the pants would never end. However, during the Troubles, which lingered in Northern Ireland from the 1960s and ended in the late 90s, Michelle is so used to shit like this that she’ll crack a joke. “Do you think if I told him [an attractive armed soldier] I had an incendiary device down my knickers, he’d have a look?” This bitch is so crazy that I love every microsecond that she’s on screen. She’s definitely the Eric Cartman of the show, but I enjoy Michelle a million times more.
Coming in at number two is James. This poor kid. Because the Irish are on such bad terms with the English, James is constantly a punching bag for the girls and their comments regarding the English, especially Michelle, who is relentless with her insults toward him. And yet, he’s so sweet, and nice, and considerate. The pilot episode is so brilliant because all he wants to do is use the bathroom to pee. But he’s in an all-girls Catholic school, Michelle refuses to care about his plight, isn’t allowed to use the female restrooms, Sister Michael (Siobhan McSweeney) won’t let him use the staff restrooms, I swear to God, the comedy is on par with the “Potty Emergency” episode from ANIMANIACS. One of my favorite quotes from the show now is, “Don’t be such a dick, James.” I love this kid, but equally important is his actor, Llewellyn. You should see him in some interviews when talking about this show. His expressions are priceless like he really has just gone through the Looking Glass and looks beyond excited to be where he is. That’s energy you can’t fake and it’s wonderful to see.
But far and away, my number one favorite character… and I don’t think I’m alone in this for those who are familiar with the show, is Orla. Orla is my new spirit animal. This girl is 100 percent on her own page, in her own book. I don’t even know if I have the proper words to describe her. She misinterprets sentences, forgetting context. She doesn’t process insults. Half the time, she isn’t even paying attention the conversations around her. She’s awkward, but unlike Erin who thinks she’s funny and awesome, Orla doesn’t think about it at all. She says what’s on her mind, almost does what she wants to do without a care for consequences, she’s absolutely amazing. She is about the most lovable goof I’ve ever seen on screen and I love her.
I think the only character that comes close to bland, or “annoying,” is Clare. Due to the amount of times I’ve seen this first season, I’ve grown to cringe every time her already high-pitched voice reaches a pitch that would make Minnie Mouse’s ears bleed. Whenever under stress, she talks incredibly fast, which only enhances the problem, and she spends much of her screen time being a nervous wreck. However, I’ve also grown to let it slide, as Clare does have her funny moments. She is a walking anxiety attack who conforms, is obsessed with getting good grades, despite numerous times being held back by poor decisions, both of the other girls’ doing as well as her own misguided contributions to her downfall, and always trying to do the right thing even if it means getting the girls into deeper trouble than Michelle will get them into. To be fair, she has great reactions to her situations.
Even the side characters get more than a few laughs. Sister Michael is so blunt and uncaring for the events around her, busting a whole lot of proverbial balls. Jenny Joyce (Leah O’Rourke) is the school suck-up, who think she’s some sort of golden child and often expresses that through performance arts. O’Rourke absolutely slays me when she sings, in that she can’t, but she has this over-the-top confidence in believing that her voice and talent is some kind of gift to the world. Tell me the truth, is she a closet amazing singer and had to learn how to sing badly? Or is she just owning that shit like a boss? I would believe either.
Can I just say that I love Irish slang? “Puff off,” unless I’m mishearing it, is my personal favorite. I don’t even really think I want to know where the phrase comes from. Two possibilities come to mind. So if in my reviews you see some weird phrases, it’s because I’ve watched this show way too much.
<<<SPOILERS>>> [ I especially love how the first episode almost comes full circle by the final episode. At least, by my interpretation, which could have been completely unintentional for all I know. But I love how the show starts off with Erin being completely at odds with Orla and how unflinchingly weird she can be, but by the show’s closing, she’s standing up for her cousin, triggered by the very girls they were “bullying” in the first episode, fully embracing Orla’s weirdness. Really, this ending works on more than a few levels, but this is the interpretation that really jumped out at me. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Overall, I think this show needs to be seen. At best, every joke lands. At worst, it’s so likable that there’s always a smile on my face. Maybe I’m overhyping it, but make no mistake, this has quality writing, characters, and humor. This show gets my highest endorsement. Plus, it’s an easy watch. Only six episodes, half-hour each. Give it a shot and see for yourself.
My honest rating for DERRY GIRLS (Season 1): 5/5