As series two of ‘Derry Girls’ headed into its final stretch, Lisa McGee tackled that teenage rite of passage – the school formal.
This being ‘Derry Girls’, Our Lady of Immaculate Conception’s formal was hijacked by Leah O’Rourke’s insufferable lick Jenny Joyce who turned it into a 1950s prom.
Before she got to make the announcement during the school assembly, Jenny serenaded the pupils of Our Lady Immaculate Conception with an excrutiating barbershop quartet song she had written with her friends about Monday morning.
This elicited a typically withering put down from Sister Michael: “I believe you wrote the lyrics yourself? You obviously have a lot of time on your hands. Lose the jackets.”
Sister Michael introduced a new pupil, Aoife Hinds’ Mae Chung to the school during assembly, recognising it would be a bit of a culture shock for her… coming from Donegal.
Soon Clare, Orla, Michelle and Erin were debating whether to approach Mae to be part of their gang.
Michelle was quick to point out if she did become one of them, James would have to leave.
Clare tried to impress Mae with a burst of Cantonese but she was having none of it.
“Dull white girls want me to join their gang,” she observed wearily but she was swayed when she heard Clare was a lesbian, as she had always wanted a gay best friend.
When Jenny Joyce atried to ingratiate herself in her usual oily way, that also helped win her over.
It wasn’t long before Erin, Michelle and Clare were beginning to fret over who they would bring to the prom, while James announced he would be going to a ‘Dr Who’ evening instead.
Erin spied a former boyfriend Calam Lynch’s John Paul O’Reilly and set her sights on netting him, despite the fact he was with a girlfriend who was a model and was rumoured to be up for a part in ‘Baywatch’.
“Baywatch just don’t have Derry people,” Erin scoffed.
“They’re too pasty…”
As she watched a heartbroken John Paul break up with Cara, Erin moved in for the kill – advising him it would not make sense to pursue the love of his life and try and win her back.
Erin argued he should go to the prom with her instead.
With Michelle and Orla settling on their dates and Erin’s Ma refusing to buy her a dress, the gang hit the shops with Mae and a credit card Michelle had “borrowed” to buy dresses.
When Jenny Joyce also appeared and purchased the dress Mae had her eyes on, the Donegal pupil swore vengeance.
The Quinns, meanwhile, were troubled by a broken TV with Gerry once again getting the brunt of Joe’s jibes.
Mary and Sarah also vented their frustration at not being able to watch ‘London’s Burning’.
With Mae on the warpath and Erin struggling to fit into her dress, the prom threatened to be an unholy mess.
Last week’s return to form for ‘Derry Girls’ offered hope that after a bit of a wobble in Series Two McGee’s popular sitcom was back on track.
Unfortunately, the penultimate episode was as uneven as the second and third – raising the odd laugh but not doing enough to convince.
Few can dispute Lisa McGee has a nose for a good, laugh out loud line.
However some episodes in the series have raised doubts about the ability of some storylines to last over an entire show.
This episode, like others, stretched credibility and felt a little thin.
Orla’s choice of date looked like a desperate attempt to shoehorn one character into a situation for easy laughs.
A scene involving James near the end felt like an easy way to placate the audience.
A recreation of the prom scene in ‘Carrie’ also did not work, although Aoife Hines did a decent job as Mae.
A sequence announcing the 1994 IRA ceasefire provided director Michael Lennox with a chance to riff on the previous series’ climax, only this time it was to the sound of The Cranberries’ Troubles classic ‘Zombie’.
Next week’s episode will centre on Bill Clinton’s Presidential visit to the Maiden City.
No doubt, the ingredients will be there for a memorable epusode.
However ‘Derry Girls’ will have to deliver more than just the odd line next week if the second series is to avoid that feeling that it has lost its fizz.
Dan McGinn is a journalist who was previously the Ireland Political Editor and Ireland Deputy Editor of the Press Association and has worked for the Irish News, Belfast Telegraph and other publications and for TV and radio. He currently works in public affairs and is also a film and television critic with his own blog, They’ll Love It In Pomona covering the latest cinema releases.