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The North Remembers

By Mahons On April 15th, 2019

Who would ever have associated Northern Ireland with great television? And yet in two productions, one epic and international, the other humerous and local it serves two of the best shows going.
Game of Thrones and Derry Girls are two of televisions bright spots. Some might see too much of a contrast between Orla, Clare, Michele and Erin as maidens in the Maiden City and Sansa, Ayra, Cersei, and Daenerys playing power games in Westeros, but I love the give and take across the stage, be it big or small.

Game of Thrones films many scenes in the rugged beauty of Northern Ireland. So many a tourist industry has developed. Derry Girls also films there, in the vexing and beautiful Derry. The writing and acting on both is fantastic, storylines weave wonderfully. The supporting cast of each show an endless marvel of talent. One set on great castles and battlefields, the other in classrooms and kichens which serve as battlefields of their own. Game of Thrones offers the fun of epic fantasy and Derry girls the fun (and funny) of epic reality. The characters in each navigate around their world, following and breaking the rules.
Game of Thrones has intense violence, lavish sex and moments of great humor. Derry Girls has a background of violence through which everyday lives are led, with the girls on the brink of sexual awareness and a humor so finely tuned you think you lived it youself.

Television is often and rightly dismissed. Ernie Kovacs who did it perfectly said it was called a medium because it was neither rare nor well done. But the grand sword and fury drama and the small scale real life comedy show how it can be well done. Escapes from reality and escapes into reality. The art form rises from the medium.
We can say Game of Thrones was a place that never was, full of knights, dragons, dwarfs, kings, queens and pirates. Derry Girls a place that used to be, full of classmates, nuns, aunts, teachers and shopkeepers in a pre-peace process Northern Ireland. Each world filled with moments of heartache, warmth, bravery and laughter. Do yourself a favor and try them if you haven’t yet. Each episode builds on the others. Game of Thrones too big a hit to not find it, Derry Girls more modest and may require some Netflix searching. But well worth the trouble. Both shows a fitting reminder that its scenic splendor and witty population make Northern Ireland the memorable place it is.

40 Responses to “The North Remembers”

  1. Absolutely superb quote by Ernie Kovacs.

    “We can say Game of Thrones was a place that never was, full”

    Never was and yet also not rare at all. What’s in GoT that wasn’t in Lord of the Rings and 100 other dreary war worlds where people fight with bows and arrows and lasers and try to look and – worse – sound epic. I was forced to watch a few episodes by my son, and, staying on the theme of Irish TV, I’d honestly prefer to watch 90 mins of the Angelus. Phoney, pretentious, lousy acting and the most embarrassing script. Who writes that crap?

    Derry Girls sounds more promising. If it’s anything like that great hard-hitting NI satire series “Give My Head Peace”, based on the earlier “Two Ceasefires and a Wedding”, it’ll surely be good. I’ll check it out.
    There have been strangely few TV series set in Ireland. Father Ted, of course (like Derry Girls” a Channel 4 production), and Young Offenders is supposed to be good. But little else.

  2. Noel – as a Motif fantasy epics are not for everyone. We will have to disagree as to where GOT stands in that genre.
    You would like Derry Girls. The characters are not all black and white and some long time Irish actors get their moment in the sun while some new ones rock in breakout performanes.

  3. The accents and customs may not cross the Atlantic for my fellow Americans but are spot on. I think it is as sharply written a TV comedy as I’ve ever seen, and one with constant suprises. Invoking the religious and irreverent, the us v. them mentality, the wickedly funny putdowns etc.

  4. I don’t have Netflix, which this is shown on?

    Did Netflix create the series?

  5. Mahons finish the last sentence of your post……

  6. The great Ernie Kovacs….. a true master of the “medium”.

    I have not watched Derry Girls but I will now.

    Game of Thrones… to use an over used word is Epic…. Last Night we sat with Pizza Soda and Popcorn as the series started it’s last season….

    Good post Mahons

  7. “What’s in GoT that wasn’t in Lord of the Rings and 100 other dreary war worlds where people fight with bows and arrows and lasers and try to look and – worse – sound epic.”

    The major thing that Game of Thrones, or to give it it’s proper title A Song of Ice and Fire, has is that it doesn’t try to be Lord of the Rings. Tolkien set the standard. Overwhelmingly. And most fantasy series since have tried to be the next Lord of the Rings. And have tended to fail miserably when doing so.

    In Tolkien almost everyone is either entirely good or entirely bad, with very full morally grey characters. Boromir, perhaps, is the only real grey character and he is only grey because he is being negatively influenced by the One Ring. Before he was influenced by it he was good, and after the stopped being influenced by it he was also good. In between he was bad.

    In A Song of Ice and Fire there are very few black and white characters. No one it seems is morally perfect, with the exception of Eddard Stark – ironically also played by the same actor who played Boromir. It is 400 characters with very different shades of grey, from characters who are generally good but do bad things, to characters who are generally bad but do good things, and every other potential in between.

    To focus on the fantasy elements, the dragons, the sword and sandal type stuff, misses the actual point of A Song of Ice and Fire. At its heart it is about court drama, based heavily on the War of the Roses.

  8. //Mahons finish the last sentence of your post……//

    I thought it was a competition.

    “Both shows a fitting reminder that its scenic splendor and witty population make the ….

    … the Northern Irish the friendly, tolerant, mild and peace-loving folk they are.

  9. 😉

  10. who are your favorite characters in Ice and Fire Seimi?

  11. Noel – funny. I messed up the edit. I’ve actually found people from NI to be very warm and generous which was the tragedy in the fact that they were so divided.

  12. Patrick – glad to know you like a story where The Wall turns out not to work…

  13. Patrick one of Seimi’s favorite characters is Seamus who is a demented flatulent gargoyle who goes full Trekie in correcting the author of this post on the title of the TV show.

  14. lmao…..

  15. Harsh. To be fair I don’t think I was correcting anyone but if I was it was in response to Noel.

    Patrick,

    Probably one of Tyrion, Jamie or Arya.

  16. I’m sorry Seamus I called you Seimi…

    Tyrion, Jamie or Arya….. I concur but if I was to pick my top 3 I would be hard pressed to decide between Jamie or Brienne of Tarth.

    First place is definitely a tie between Tyrion and Arya.

  17. Seamus- I will pray to the Old Gods for you. Fighting Noel’s blasphemy is a worthy justification.

  18. I have watched all of Game of Thrones and. I enjoy the spectacle of it but unlike most other people I know who watch it, I can’t follow the storylines accurately. Ask me who is winning or who is enemies or allies with whom and I will grin and give you a dumb look, but I enjoy it. I have loved both series of Derry Girls, but even I with relatives from that lovely town struggle with some of the fast paced strong accents.

  19. I’m one of those people who get annoyed at people who haven’t read the books.

  20. I haven’t read the books ! I did read a 2 page summary of the first seven series of it. Do I get a gold star… or to sit on the iron throne 😉

  21. Probably more than most have read.

  22. he never finished the damn last book

  23. I tried to watch GOT but just couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Each to their own I suppose. Derry Girls is refreshing in the sense that the conflict is a backdrop to the story but certainly not the central character. DG is warm and mostly pretty amusing but hilarious in parts with Da Gerry and Sister Micheal’s droll, dead pan delivery being outstanding.

    I’ll let you into a secret, the external house shots in DG aren’t actually filmed in Derry at all but in the street I grew up in in West Belfast.

  24. I watched part of one episode.

    There was an 80 year old woman leading an army or whatever.

    I said to myself ” well how about that, let’s watch anything else “

  25. Phantom

    Was that Derry Girls or G.O.T 😉

  26. that 80yr old Woman was the fabulous Diana Rigg

  27. Can’t think of that scene. Closest I can think of is Olenna Tryell. Who is one of the only characters who is better in the TV show than the books.

  28. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=My0nMDTV-Ow

  29. wow I guessed the age spot on

  30. that’s her death scene I put up

  31. I haven’t watched GOT yet, but then I’m notoriously slow to pick up on new TV shows. ITV’s “Victoria” is one show I’m currently enjoying. I had seen the odd clip of Jenna Coleman on the BBC’s dreary, ultra-PC “Dr Who” but all the characters in that silly show are make-believe and flat as pancakes. It’s been a pleasure to see Ms Coleman play a real part, and play it well.

  32. //I said to myself ” well how about that, let’s watch anything else “//

    Funny, I was thinking it wouldn’t be your kind of thing either.

    There needs to be something in it beyond its own internal mechanisms, some parallel to our own world or some insight into our own condition, to give it an emotional impact. As it is, it’s at best nothing more than escapism and – rather cheap IMO – drama, something you (I) can’t begin to relate to in any way.

  33. Brex

    Victoria is an averagely watchable drama but it isn’t realistic. Jenna Coleman plays the part of Victoria with a very modern egalitarian liberal sensibility. She wouldn’t be out of place on a social workers committee. The part is written to gain 21st Century audiences empathies and emotional involvement. It isn’t at all how the real Victoria would have been.

  34. I think GOT is an amazing piece of television. The comparisons to LOTR are perhaps understandable, but ultimately unfair. It is like comparing Star Trek to Star Wars, or Columbo to Dixon of Dock Green: they all have their merits, but one is not inherently ‘better’ than the other.

    I have watched the first series of Derry Girls. I did enjoy it, and will watch the second series. Whilst much of the exterior scenes are filmed in and around Derry, most of the school interior scenes and, as Paul points out, some of the street scenes, are in fact in Belfast. The school scenes are filmed on the Falls Road in St. Mary’s, a campus of Queen’s University Belfast, as well as in Hunter House College. Many of the street scenes are around the Whiterock Road/New Barnsley area of west Belfast.

    There is also a link between the two series, in that Ian McElhinney, who plays Granda Joe in Derry Girls, also played Ser Barristan Selmy in Game of Thrones (he also played General Dodonna in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).

  35. //Many of the street scenes are around the Whiterock Road/New Barnsley area of west Belfast.//

    I wonder would they have been let film (I was going to write “shoot”) some of the Derry Girls scenes on the Shankill. 🙂

  36. that is one of the things about brit tv and movies more so with tv, you see the same actors in a wide variety of character roles

  37. I wonder would they have been let film (I was going to write “shoot”) some of the Derry Girls scenes on the Shankill.

    I remember a lot of years back, Billy Connolly was starring in a film based here, something to do with wigs and hairpieces – anyway. They filmed parts of it in the street in which I lived. The street was decorated to look like a street from a PUL part of Belfast – red, white and blue bunting, Union flags etc.
    The film crew had approached the local community to ask could they film. In return, community groups asked the film company would they do something for the local community. they responded by providing a three-course meal for the local pensioner’s group, amongst other things.
    When asked the fairly obvious question of why they hadn’t just filmed the scenes in a PUL street, apparently the answer was that they had approached local community workers on the lower Shankill Road with the same offer, and were asked by a community leader – allegedly one J. Adair Esq. – that they had to pay £10,000 to film in the area.
    Don’t know how true the story is.

  38. The film was ‘An Everlasting Piece’. About two wig salesmen in the north just prior to the 94 ceasefire.

    Hit and miss but pretty funny in parts.

  39. One of the local productions had a major issue with me. It was The Fall. Which is a serious tv show about a serial killer. One of the parents of one of the victims is played by BJ Hogg (who also appeared briefly in Game of Thrones). So there is a seen where this grief stricken father is reading out a statement appealing for information. A really somber, emotional scene. And I can’t stop laughing. Because BJ Hogg more famously appeared as Big Mervin in Give my Head Peace.

  40. Because BJ Hogg more famously appeared as Big Mervin in Give my Head Peace.

    I knew I wanted to comment on something.

    If it’s anything like that great hard-hitting NI satire series “Give My Head Peace”, based on the earlier “Two Ceasefires and a Wedding”, it’ll surely be good

    Two Ceasefires and a Wedding was original and funny. The first episodes of Give My Head Peace were pretty amusing. By the time it got to flogging the dead horse of the eighty fifth series or whatever it was truly, truly, truly dire.

    Please, please let Noel be being sarcastic above.

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