REVIEW: ‘The Young Offenders’

After the huge mainstream success of ‘Derry Girls’, Ciaran Gallagher talks to TLR about ‘The Young Offenders’, a series which aired recently on BBC iPlayer and is proving to be a bit of a sleeper hit.

Ireland has gained some limelight as an under-explored area for contemporary sitcom setups, thanks largely to the blow up phenomenon of Derry Girls. If Derry Girls is deserving of the great and positive response it received then Young Offenders deserves equal, if not higher, praise and attention.

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‘The Young Offenders’, is a series from RTÉ and available on the BBC iPlayer, based on the 2016 film of the same name. Though this is not a sequel to the events of the film but rather a fresh start building on the best elements of that film. Whilst the film is a good watch, arguably the setup is stronger in the sitcom format.

Based in modern day Cork, we follow the misadventures of two teenage boys, Connor and Jock; two inseparable friends and criminal mastermind wannabes with vastly more confidence than competence. Both keep themselves occupied both between illegal, get-rich schemes and maintaining the interests of two girls of the same age. In pursuit of these two endeavours the boys must evade and overcome obstacles such as Connor’s vigilant mother, the girls’ disagreeable and hyper protective father and a seemingly omnipresent and dedicated Garda.

The show explores relatable and farcical scenarios with convincing finesse. There is a very memorable scene based on a bus that is a strong example of balancing suspense and ridiculous humorous quips. Someone in the production team has a proficient love for inserting musical scenes into the mix which often start as awkward as if they’ll be abandoned any second but resolve into infectious, engaging occasions.

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Whilst there is often a temptation to milk lesser known accents and local habits from Ireland, to the show’s credit, it avoids this pitfall. The culture and colloquialisms of South West Ireland do shine through for comic effect but never feel pushed upon us.

And though the two boys have a typical urge to prove themselves as independent young men (with more spunk than sense) there is time afforded to more serious moments ranging from the sweet to the dark and harsh that really captures our concern for the characters. The sober moments can have strong potency but we’re never left with uncomfortable conclusions to each episode that might be unbefitting of a good comedy.

Whatever the mood of the moment the performances are excellent. Hilary Rose, Connor’s mother, is flawless. Every micro-inflection breathes the typical, short-tempered, young Irish single mother, struggling to make ends meet and raise a troublesome teenage boy. PJ Gallagher, as the suspicious and anxious father to the two girls, is a hilarious ball of bubbling frustration whose facial expressions are hard to watch without constantly smirking back. There are also a number of side characters that enter and exit the show in the space of half an episode that are nevertheless strikingly memorable.

‘The Young Offenders’ is a rich and entertaining experience with a generous helping of laughs to offer and a delicate side of touching moments. A second series has been commissioned and there should be a good deal of gas left in the tank both in terms of story and comic potential to keep going for another six episodes (or more). I’d highly recommend this one for Irish and non-Irish audiences alike.

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