Irish teenagers grow up admist in 1990s Northern Ireland while navigating angst with the background
While I was born in the 1970s, the ’90s are my jam. The resurgence of ’90s culture and fashion means I am no longer a fuddy-duddy and now I am entirely on point. It marks no surprise when Derry Girls came to Netflix, I was in love.
Derry Girls takes place during the early 1990s in Londonderry (colloquially known as “Derry”), Ireland. It follows five friends as they navigate teenagedom amidst the backdrop of The Troubles. The girls, and one boy, flounder about with the expected angst and struggle which is hilarious, painful, and relatable. Each kid is an archetype of your typical teen personality. Erin is the anxious one, Orla is the weird cousin, Clare is the people pleasure, Michelle is the bad girl, and Michelle’s hapless English, used to underpin English/Irish relationship, cousin James rounds out the group.
The action takes place mostly at their Catholic girl’s school and James is included in their class. James’ Englishness is used as an underpinning to the current English/Irish relation. He is seen as ridiculous and stupid (and for some reason, there are constant joke about his “gayness” with his constant attempts to point out he’s not at all gay). He’s placed at the all girl’s school for fear he would not survive the Irish all boy’s school due to his Englishness. James bears a lot of cousinly abuse from Michelle and he struggles to find a place to fit as an other both being English and a male.
Derry is on the border of English Protestant run Northern Ireland and Catholic Ireland which makes it a common location for altercations between IRA and the English. I was curious how writer/director Lisa McGee would play out The Troubles as a character and it went much better than expected; I was expecting it to be ham-fisted but it wasn’t. It felt natural that the cast is doing something and an event tied to The Troubles happens and the cast respond to it as something that happened every day because it did happen every day. The kids and their parents are mindful of the situation: bridges are being bombed and people are being shot. Scenes that take outside shore up English/Irish relations as armed soldiers are in nearly every take There is a scene where Da Gerry, Erin’s dad, finds a straggler hiding in the trunk of his car. There is a conversation on what to do: smuggle the straggler across the border and stand him at the service station. Da Gerry is adamant on not smuggling the straggler across the border, the ramifications are huge, but everyone else is against him. This scene, and the fear of consequences of everyday life, play smartly out on the television screen.
Young Sheldon in its 22 minutes per episode is a nice palette cleanser to the trash dumpster fire that is the world.
Season 2 of Young Sheldon brings us firmly into Sheldon (Iain Armitage), age 10, to his high school years while navigating his experiences as a prodigy child that perhaps would overwhelming to anyone. He encounters how to have fun (S2 E10: A Stunted Childhood and a Can of Fancy Mixed Nuts) (this episode is also the root of his use of “Bazinga!” when he does something he perceives to be funny), jealousy (S2 E07: Carbon Dating and a Stuffed Raccoon), and forming better familial relationships (S2 E08: An 8-Bit Princess and a Flat Tire Genius).
(Let us take an aside for S2 E08: An 8-Bit Princess and a Flat Tire Genius. Meemaw (Annie Potts) buys Sheldon a gaming system which is the clone of Nintendo NES with a clone of Zelda but the system is called Takemi (or something similar; it was hard to see). Now before this scene, there was a cutaway of kids happily playing the real NES as well as Atari 7800. So why give Sheldon the knock-off system? It can’t be copyright issues since they already showed the cutaway. If anyone has the answer, that would be delightful.)
Spin-offs don’t necessarily do as well as their mother shows (The Lone Gunman (X-Files) and Torchwood (Doctor Who))(I loved Torchwood, FYI.). This does not necessarily mean they are bad shows rather a myriad of reasons such as bad time on the weekly slot or the production stumbles just a bit in the first few episodes. It’s to be expected, of course, that as the new show typically uses the same showrunner and production team, the spin-off will come out of the gate running strong as a Kentucky Derby winner. The Big Bang Theory has been a cash grab for CBS for years, so whether or not fans of TBBT, and the general public at large, would accept Young Sheldon was a question to the gods.
My partner pointed out Young Sheldon may have its roots in TBBT but it could survive, successfully even, on Sheldon’s bowties without the TBBT connection. It’s a better than average sitcom, it’s warm, funny, and has the right laughs thrown in. It’s not complicated or requires a chalkboard to figure out its formula. Young Sheldon is not poised to be CBS’s #1 Sitcom no should it be as it doesn’t have quite enough oomph to vie for that spot but it does have a comforting familiarity to ease into without necessarily having to know its origins or connections to another show. You could successfully watch Young Sheldon and not watch a wit of TBBT and lose nothing.
Is CBS All-Access worth purchasing for just Young Sheldon (and/or TBBT as well)? My answer would be no (though yes to Star Trek: Discovery) but if you do have the service, you wouldn’t feel like you’ve wasted time watching Young Sheldon in its 22 minutes per episode is a nice palette cleanser to the trash dumpster fire that is the world.