Derry Girls: Audience buzzing for new NI-based sitcom


Derry Girls Channel 4.
Channel 4


Derry Girls centres on 16-year-old Erin Quinn (middle) and her friends growing up in early-90s Derry

New comedy Derry Girls made its TV debut on Thursday night – but was it beezer or pure bert (that’s bad, to you non-Derry folk)?

An eager local audience was among the 1.6m people who tuned in to see if the Channel 4 sitcom delivered laughs and a true-to-life portrayal of the Troubles-era city in the early 90s.

Creator Lisa McGee based the show on her own experiences growing up in Londonderry.

The show centres on 16-year-old Erin Quinn and her muckers as they navigate a daily teenage life of school, nuns and the occasional Army patrol.

And the early feeling on Derry Girls is that it’s more good buzz than brock – here’s a rundown of the reaction following Thursday night’s premiere.

The build-up

Hopes were high for the show described as an “Inbetweeners for clever girls” by The Times.

Creator McGee has said she wanted to portray that Derry was “a brilliant place to live and grow up”.

“I just thought ‘someone needs to show the other side of it’ – that these people are funny. You never got to see that side of Northern Ireland.”

Channel 4


Creator Lisa McGee based the show on her experiences growing up in the city

Early on, Derry Girls seemed to promise a faithful portrayal of its time and place – from the soundtrack (The Cranberries, Cypress Hill) to the all-green uniform of the nuns-run Immaculate Conception school (based on Thornhill College, where McGee and countless other Derry girls went).

And, of course, the accents and linguistic somersaults of Derry slang.

For those actors not from the city, the accent proved a challenge – but some found useful ways of getting the vocals down.

Galway native Nicola Cloughlan, who plays Claire, said she based her accent on pop star Nadine Coyle.

Channel 4 even released a handy glossary of Derry words to those new to the (wile) specific language of the city (hi).

Meanwhile, ahead of Thursday’s broadcast real-life Derry girls took to social media to share their teenage school photos using the hashtag #DerryGirls.

But did the show live up to the hype?

The critics

Over in the Belfast Telegraph, Leona O’Neill was positively lurred with what Derry Girls had to offer.

She wrote that it “turned out to be an authentic and hilarious depiction of life in a troubled city during the early 90s”.

“On first glance Derry Girls is warm and honest, laugh out loud funny and as vibrant as the Derry girls it represents,” she said.

The local view from the Derry Journal was just as positive, with Brendan McDaid writing that the show is “a more innocent Inbetweeners set in what were more innocent times perhaps, but no less funny for that”.

Critics from across the Irish Sea seemed just as enthused and had no problems deciphering the Derry dialogue.

Channel 4


Michelle Mallon, played by Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, was a hit with viewers

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Ed Power said the show was “as much a celebration of nineties nostalgia as it was a chronicling of coming-of-age in the teeth of an armed conflict”.

Finlay Greig, in the i News, said the combination of teenage coming-of-age drama and the Troubles was a “winning formula”. while Guardian TV critic Julia Raeside told Good Morning Ulster that the show spoke “the universal language of the teenager”.

The audience

Social media couldn’t get enough of Derry Girls – the hashtag #DerryGirls was even trending at number four worldwide on Twitter after the show’s debut.

But, the main question is did people like it?

Actually, sack that – the main question is did the people of Derry like it?

Let’s be honest here – we’re not short of an opinion (or 300) in Derry.

And every aspect of this show, from the accents to the particular shade of green in the school uniforms, was up for close scrutiny.

Thankfully, Lisa McGee won’t be barred from her home town any time soon – the verdict on Derry Girls is largely “happy days”.

Derry-based novelist Claire Allen told Good Morning Ulster that the city’s people were “just loving it and really took it to heart”.

“For me it was one big dose of nostalgia,” she said. “I think a lot of people loved it and they loved to see Derry portrayed beautifully and positively on a national forum.”

Meanwhile, other well-known Derry natives such as Republic of Ireland international footballer James McClean and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood praised the show on Twitter.

Others appreciated some minor details that brought the comedy to life – like the signed, topless photo of Donegal’s finest Daniel O’Donnell spotted on the desk of a nun.

Renowned writers from across the UK were just as impressed.

Jack Thorne, screenwriter and playwright behind West End mega-smash Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, said he “loved it” and hailed the “beautiful writing” by McGee.

Fellow screenwright Frank Cottrell-Boyce, who co-wrote the London Olympics opening ceremony with Danny Boyle, likewise tweeted McGee a simple message: “That was class.”

Meanwhile, the show already appears to have a breakout star in the form of Michelle Mallon, played by Jamie-Lee O’Donnell.

Not all the reaction was overwhelmingly positive (well, we are talking about Derry here).

Some locals pointed out the occasional lapse in the accents, while others ripped into the level of swearing by Erin, Michelle and co.

But others said they had just one criticism – that the show’s half-hour runtime was just too short.

For the debut pilot of a comedy show, never mind a comedy set in the Troubles with a very specific time and place for laughs, that isn’t half bad.

Or, as ye might say in the north west, it’s pure lethal hi.