Derry Girls: a mature, deft and irresistibly funny comedy

In season two, Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle and co embark on a peace initiative adventure holiday – with surprising enthusiasm.

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How do you bring an end to one of the most complex, violent conflicts in history? Through years of extended, tortuous diplomacy? Or do you turn to the bright hopeful faces of a new generation, and, um, low-budget activity courses?

“I think we can all agree that for generations there’s been a deep lack of trust between your communities,” a young priest says earnestly to the Catholic girls of Our Lady Immaculate College and the Protestant lads of Londonderry Boys Academy. “And that’s where abseiling comes in.”

So begins the second series of Derry Girls, Channel 4’s school comedy set in Northern Ireland in the 1990s, as Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle and co embark on a peace initiative adventure holiday – with surprising enthusiasm. “We’re doing it for peace all right,” Michelle quips. “A piece of that fine Protestant ass.”

As with its first season, Derry Girls mines the specificities of teenage life in the Troubles for its humour (a discussion of the differences between Catholics and Protestants brings about lines such as “Catholics really buzz off statues”, “Protestants hate Abba”, and “Protestants keep toasters in cupboards”). But in doing so the show extracts irresistibly funny universal gems: parents’ circular domestic conversations about kitchenware, desperate status-seeking among schoolmates, the trauma of unflattering waterproof trousers and being forced to fall arse-first down a mountain in front of your peers in an ill-advised attempt at social bonding. Moving effortlessly between pitch-perfect depictions of teenage female experience, brazen sexual humour, knowing political references and shrewd observations of pervasive human quirks, this mature, deft comedy is just as wonderful the second time around.

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 15 March 2019 issue of the New Statesman, She’s lost control