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Viewers give thumbs-up to new Derry Girls sitcom

The first episode of Derry Girls, featuring James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn), Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Jackson), Orla McCool (Louisa Harland) and Clare Devlin (NIcola Coughlan), was screened on Thursday night.
Seamus McKinney

More than one and a half million viewers tuned in on Thursday to watch the first episode of Channel 4's new Derry Girls sitcom.

It focuses on the lives of four Derry teenagers as they negotiate the challenges of adolescence against the backdrop of the troubles in the city's Bogside.

The girls are all students at an imaginary convent school based on Derry's Thornhill Catholic girl grammar school. Led by local actress, Saoirse Jackson, the show also features Irish comedian, Tommy Tiernan as her dad and Game of Thrones star, Ian McElhinney as her grandfather.

A spokesman for Channel 4 confirmed the show peaked at 1.7 million viewers, making it Hat Trick Production's best performing sitcom since May 2016.

Social media reaction to the show in Northern Ireland was overwhelmingly positive although there was criticism of the high level of swearing in the broadcast.

Derry film maker, Margo Harkin posted: “The writing is just terrific. I feel so proud of Lisa McGee.”

Among the more high-profile figures to take to social media to praise McGee's production were Girls Aloud star and Derry woman, Nadine Coyle, Republic of Ireland football star, James McClean and SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood. For a brief period, the hastag #DerryGirls was also trending at number four in the world on Twitter.

Screenwriter, Frank Cottrell-Boyce (London Olympics opening ceremony) tweeted simply: “That was class.”

While the show was an undoubted hit in Northern Ireland, mainstream critics also praised the broadcast.

The Guardian reviewer was looking forward to next week's episode.

Tim Dowling said: “Derry Girls is such a fresh look at growing up with the troubles as a constant backdrop that it sometimes unsettles, although it mostly stays on the charming side of wicked.”

The Telegraph's Ed Power was more measured although he gave the show the thumbs-up.

He wrote: “Derry Girls was messy, irreverent and given to wild mood swings – just like the teenagers whose growing pains it brought so endearingly to life.”

A key test for Derry Girls and McGee's chances of a second series will be how it is received in England, Scotland and Wales. While no breakdown was available, reaction on the influential Mumsnet social network site gave an indication.

For the greater part, contributors were positive although there was criticism of the Derry accents.

One contributor posted: “I enjoyed it. I lived in Northern Ireland during the late 80s/early 90s so was a bit nostalgic I guess. I remember my mum refusing to leave for a bomb threat because she didn't have her face on.”

The second episode goes out next Thursday.

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