New Derry Girls: 13 pictures from opening episode

Tuesday:Derry Girls; (Channel 4, 9.15pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Monday, 11th April 2022, 5:00 pm

Nostalgia is a powerful force, especially in the media world.

Late last month, Kenneth Branagh won his first Oscar (after seven attempts) for writing the screenplay for big-screen hit Belfast, which was inspired by his and his family’s experiences in the city during the early years of The Troubles.

It’s been a huge hit both at home and abroad.

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Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), Michelle Mallon (Jamie - Lee O'Donnell), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson), Orla Mccool (Louisa Clare Harland), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn)

Likewise, Derry Girls has found a wide audience around the world. And like Belfast, it’s inspired by the real-life adventures of its writer, Lisa McGee, albeit from 25 years later during the later years of The Troubles – she grew up in the 1990s – and in a different city.

The second series opened with 3.2m viewers, making it Channel 4’s biggest comedy launch for 15 years, while in Northern Ireland, it’s been one of the most popular shows around since the first run aired in January 2018.

So big things are expected of the third season, particular as it’s the show’s last.

“It was always the plan to say goodbye after three series,” claimed McGee during a Twitter message to fans. “Derry Girls is a coming of age story; following five ridiculous teenagers as they slowly… very slowly… start to become adults, while around them the place they call home starts to change too and Northern Ireland enters a new more hopeful phase – which was a small, magical window of time. It has been an honour to write it and I will forever be proud of everything it’s achieved.

Michelle Mallon (Jamie - Lee O'Donnell), Orla Mccool (Louisa Clare Harland), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson), Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn)

“Who knows if Erin, Clare, Orla, Michelle and James will return in some other guise someday, but for now this is it for us.”

Fiona McDermott, head of comedy at Channel 4, adds: “It’s no surprise that Derry Girls continues to delight a growing legion of fans – a combination of magical writing and adorable characters make this show both timely and timeless.”

The programme has made its young cast – Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell and Dylan Llewellyn – very familiar indeed, so much so that Coughlan, Jackson, O’Donnell and Llewellyn, alongside co-star Siobhan McSweeney, who plays headteacher Sister Michael, were invited to take part in The Great Festive Bake Off in 2020.

McSweeney’s profile has also been boosted; she’s now the host of The Great Pottery Challenge and has recently starred in ITV drama Holding.

Orla Mccool (Louisa Clare Harland), Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson), Michelle Mallon (Jamie - Lee O'Donnell), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn)

But for Coughlan, popularity has been a double-edged sword. Following Derry Girls’ success, she landed a role in Bridgerton. Then, when Covid hit, plans to film the sitcom’s third run were pushed back, which meant they clashed with the Netflix smash-hit’s schedule. Sadly, the consequences of that is that Coughlan’s character, Clare, won’t appear as much as was originally intended.

One person who also, unfortunately, won’t be appearing at all is Jamie Dornan. There were rumours that he was set to have a cameo, and although he’s friends with McGee and would love to have done it, he recently confirmed that his participation in other projects means he couldn’t fit it in.

Never mind. We can at least comfort ourselves with the thought that, according to Coughlan, the scripts are the best they’ve ever had – which means we’re in for something very special indeed.

Orla Mccool (Louisa Clare Harland), Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn), Uncle Colm (Kevin McAleer), Michelle Mallon (Jamie - Lee O'Donnell)
Michelle Mallon (Jamie - Lee O'Donnell), Orla Mccool (Louisa Clare Harland), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson), Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn)
Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson), Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn), Michelle Mallon (Jamie - Lee O'Donnell), Orla Mccool (Louisa Clare Harland)
James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson), Michelle Mallon (Jamie - Lee O'Donnell) and officers
Sister Michael (Siobhan McSweeney)
(L-R) Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn), Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), Orla Mccool (Louisa Clare Harland)Michelle Mallon (Jamie - Lee O'Donnell),
Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan)
Sarah Mccool (Kathy Kiera Clarke), Orla Mccool (Louisa Clare Harland), Mary Quinn (Tara Lynne O'Neil), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson), Michelle Mallon (Jamie - Lee O'Donnell)
James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn)
Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), Geraldine Devlin (Phillipa Dunne)