Derry Girls

I’ve sped through two 6 episode seasons of Derry Girls and loved every minute. Set in Londonderry in the 1990s when Northern Ireland was experiencing the “Troubles” a time of military occupation and bombings by the IRA, Derry Girls focuses on a tight knit group of teenage girls growing up amidst violence. In spite of all this we see Erin Quinn and her friends and family dealing with taking exams, the goody-two shoes at school, mothers, the fragility of a friendship.

Writer Lisa McGee is adept at weaving stories together and taking her audience on a funny and meaningful tour of teenage Ireland. I commend her for the funniest laundry joke I’ve ever seen and for adeptly mixing hilarity and pathos. She protects no sacred cows. Now there is a lot of swearing, so you’ve been warned.

Each actor superb and as an ensemble they produce delight from start to finish. There is no weak link in this cast.

I can’t wait for Season 4.

Derry Girls is available on Netflix and www.meilju22.com.

The Ukimwi Road

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Travel writer par excellence Dervla Murphy’s The Ukimwi Road: From Kenya to Zimbabwe chronicles her incredibly journey across Africa on her bicycle in 1992. During this time, AIDS was sweeping through Africa and as Murphy traveled, she learned how AIDS impacted the people of each country. Murphy talks with healthcare professionals, missionaries, corrupt border officials, health educators, prostitutes, feminists,  truck drivers, and more.

Her plan, Murphy insists, was to have a pleasant 3,000 mile ride through Africa. Instead her ride is an intense education into the AIDS epidemic in which she seeks answers to what caused Africa’s epidemic and how can it be stopped in a place where so many men won’t use condoms or stick with one partner. One of Murphy’s strengths is that she judges herself as much as anyone else. She seeks to understand the people of Africa and critiques the role of foreigners who’ve colonized and now offer aid in forms that usually fail.

Murphy’s witty and perspicacious. She’s a keen observer and thorough researcher, who made me feel like I was right there with her listening to stories around a common dinner table as she also made me grateful that bedbugs or dirt roads on a rainy day were affecting me.

Moone Boy

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My new favorite comedy is Moone Boy created by Chris O’Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy. In this Irish sitcom import, Martin Moone (David Rawles) is a twelve year old with a full grown imaginary friend named Sean. Martin lives with his shambolic family, which consists of his father who runs a sign shop, his mother who becomes Weight Wishers counselor and three older sisters who don’t like Martin at all.

Martin needs someone in his corner and Sean helps him navigate the slings and arrows of school, romance, and family life. Set in 1989-90s, Moone Boy reminds me of The Wonder Years. It’s got wit and heart. The acting, particularly Martin’s performance, is natural and the pace is brisk. Each episode, available on Hulu.coma and PBS in some areas, wrings the most from every story. In the two seasons I’ve seen every episode delights.