Review: The Young Offenders, BBC Three

BBC Three must either be cursing Derry Girls or thanking it. The hit Channel 4 sitcom has beaten them to the screens with a ribald comedy charting the lives of badly behaving hormonal Irish schoolkids. On the other hand it has raised the profile of Irish comedy in general which can only be a good thing. And The Young Offenders certainly proves that Derry Girls is no one-off fluke.

Pedants, of course, may point out that The Young Offenders, written by Peter Foott, came first. Set in Cork in the present day the sitcom is a spin-off of a hit movie. The same actors Alex Murphy and Chris Walley return as Conor and Jock, two dimwitted but amiable spotty teens always on the lookout for a new low-level criminal scam. That is when not getting mugged themselves, there seems to be a stabby thief on every corner, who they usually know from school.

The look is very similar to Derry Girls despite the series being set two decades apart. The school uniforms have barely changed and nor have the kitchens (I didn’t spot any horses on the council estate in Derry Girls though). Sometimes even the jokes overlap - in the first episode here there is even a similar gag to one in Derry Girls about all wanting to be individuals but dressing exactly the same.

The Young Offenders does feel grittier though. There is a whiff of Limerick comedy duo Rubberbandits about Conor and Jock’s scrawny tracksuited sartorial style. The crime element is played very much for laughs though. Conor and Jock’s theft of lead from a roof ends in a shambolic bike chase and the scuzzy duo getting covered in paint that could come straight out of a Keystone Cops movie. 

The result is a series that oozes bags of energy and charm. The chemistry between the co-stars helps too. Despite their intellectual failings and their hapless attempts at being hard men we end up liking these crap criminals. 

Watch here. Or on BBC One, Fridays, 11.25pm from February 9.

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