In 2021 we’re used to our teen drama coming with rich Californians, selfies on Instagram, recreational drugs and naïve parents. But it wasn’t that way in the 1990s – the era of beanie babies, Clueless, girl power…and the troubles in Northern Ireland.
That’s where this sitcom takes place, following the most mismatched group of gal pals you’ll ever meet – there’s the anxious and kind-hearted Clare, Orla the quirky space cadet, potty-mouthed Michelle and their scholarly and perpetually confused leader, Erin. Oh, and they’ve got themselves a token (yer) man too, in Michelle’s cousin James, and (dramatic pause…) he’s English.
Watching this is like sticking your head through a magic, time travelling window, staring straight back into the 90s – there are references to The Cranberries and Macaulay Culkin, and Erin won’t leave the house without a choker necklace and at least two items of denim. And with this being before the dawn of social media, all the bitchiness is done right up in people’s faces. Ah, don’t you miss it?
But there was, of course, more than bad fashion and good music going on. The Troubles in Ireland were at their height, and the girls regularly encounter the fall out – at one point their school bus is held up by a roadside bomb – as their coming-of-age takes place amidst armed conflict.
The writing on display here is bloody marvellous. Lisa McGee finds a way to make even the most mundane of interactions hilarious, exploiting every given opportunity to crack a joke and then finding a few more to squeeze in between the gaps. And with all these not-yet emotionally developed teenagers running around causing chaos, she’s got plenty of material to go at. Therefore, despite the Troubles torn setting, every second of each 20-minute episode is spent with a smile, a laugh or a sympathetic eye roll. It really is great craic.
And Ed Power of The Telegraph thinks so too. He says it’s “far from the gallows giggles a Troubles comedy might have portended… messy, irreverent and given to wild mood swings – just like the teenagers whose growing pains it brought so endearingly to life.” Rebecca Nicholson of The Guardian loves it too, for both its “wicked sense of humour and pitch-perfect 90s nostalgia,” and its ability to be “as silly as it is quick-witted,” calling it “the funniest thing on TV.” The Independent’s Sean O’Grady might agree with her there, saying “The writing and the performances are superbly fluent, natural, and funny.” We agree, so get yer wee remote there, and stick it on.
First shown January 2018. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.