TV review: Derry Girls, Channel 4 (3 stars)

TV review: Derry Girls, Channel 4

Promising start for this 90s-set Irish sitcom

Since the overwhelming glory of Father Ted, TV people's hunt for the next big Irish comedy has been somewhat elusive. Moone Boy, London Irish and The Walshes all had their moments but none of them left an indelible impression or stretched to many episodes (and sorry, but Mrs Brown's Boys should be discounted in this regard for its general and continued awfulness). On the evidence of a pair of Derry Girls episodes, that search seems set to continue, though there are still plenty of pleasures to be had in playwright and TV writer Lisa McGee's new show.

Tapping deep into the well of McGee's own 1990s upbringing in Derry, the Troubles are never far from people's minds. But life carries on, especially when school has to be attended, nun-teachers need to be upset, and identities have to be forged. The show focuses on a gang of teenage female pals led by Erin (Saoirse Jackson) whose chaotic home life contains a highly strung mother (Tara Lynne O'Neill), largely feckless dad (Tommy Tiernan) and sour-tempered grandad (Ian McElhinney), while her pals (the ditzy one, the foul-mouthed one and the neurotic one) only serve to cause her further woe and embarrassment. As if that wasn't awkward enough, an English lad (cousin to the foul-mouthed one) starts attending their all-girls school when it's decided that he wouldn't survive one day at a school with Irish boys.

Starting in 1994, the period details are largely nailed: there's a homage to the Reservoir Dogs 'Little Green Bag' slo-mo scene, the Cranberries, The The and Salt-N-Pepa fill the soundtrack, and 'Love is All Around' is performed enthusiastically by the school choir.

While the troops still wander the streets and the Good Friday Agreement a little way off, the big questions are tackled: should a teenage girl fancy a Brit soldier? Are five bags of chips too many for one (very extended) family to consume on a Friday night? How does Ian Paisley still manage to make himself heard when the TV is on mute? There's plenty of promise in the opening segments to suggest more funny things are to come and, above all, Derry Girls has the huge advantage of not being Mrs Brown's Boys.

Derry Girls starts on Channel 4, Thu 4 Jan, 10pm