This review contains spoilers
Listen to the current outpouring of grief over the privatization of Channel 4 and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a wall-to-wall quality broadcaster, rather than the one responsible for Naked Attraction and Katie Price’s Mucky Mansion . It’s an inconvenient fact that many of the shows cited as proof of the channel’s greatness come from its first 20 years, rather than its last. However, he still regularly delivers a few nuggets, and here is one: Derry Girls, back for a third and final series.
As a TV comedy, it’s pretty much perfect. Writer Lisa McGee brilliantly captures a time – the 90s, which now seem like an absurdly innocent time for teenagers, before social media and all its horrors – and a place, with McGee presenting an alternative to the grim image of Northern Ireland offered elsewhere.
One of the last times we saw veteran actor Ian McElhinney, he was shot dead in BBC’s grim Northern Irish drama Bloodlands. Here, McGee sends that stuff by having McElhinney’s character, Joe, embark on a sinister journey to bury a body under cover of darkness: it will be Fluffy, a neighbor’s rabbit.
This episode began with our heroines – and their unfortunate friend, James – trying to make a short film about growing up in the Troubles: “Kids from Germany made a short film about the Berlin Wall and it won an Oscar! Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) rolls her eyes; she suggests that they better fabricate fake videos for You’ve Been Framed.
It’s sweetly nostalgic – the Spice Girls’ Wannabe on the soundtrack, a video store in one of the scenes – without being remotely sentimental. Most importantly, it’s hilarious. Part of it is the actors, because somebody comes in with an injury and says, “It’s nothing. You should see the other guy,” is a very old joke, but when delivered by the deadpan Siobhán McSweeney as Sister Michael, it’s extremely funny.