These award-winning TV shows with Irish creators, writers and actors are favourites of the Irish Country Magazine team
Irish actors have been main players on the global film stage for many years. The likes of Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel Day Lewis, Maureen O’Hara, Brenda Fricker and Fionnula Flanagan have become Hollywood icons and put our tiny but talented island on the movie-making map.
However, perhaps with the exception of the endlessly quotable Father Ted, it’s only in recent times that Irish television has really come into its own.
With the success of Bad Sisters and Derry Girls at the recent TV BAFTA awards, we’re taking a look at some of the best Irish TV shows that you may have overlooked.
1. Bad Sisters – Apple TV
This series, created by Irish writer and actress Sharon Horgan, is a tour de force of female talent and empowerment. Depicting sisterly solidarity as you’ve never seen it before, the black comedy showcases the acting prowess of some of Ireland’s finest actresses including Ann-Marie Duffy, Sarah Greene, Eva Birthistle and Eve Hewson.
2. Extraordinary – Hulu and Disney Plus
This series stars up-and-coming Cork actress Máiréad Tyers and we absolutely love the premise. Tyers plays Jen, a 25-year-old woman who is the only person without a superpower in a world where everyone else over the age of 18 does. The show was written and created by Fermanagh native Emma Moran and stars Derry Girls legend Siobhán McSweeney as her mother, Mary.
3. The Clinic – RTÉ Player
Who didn’t love The Clinic? The Irish medical drama debuted on RTE in 2003 and launched the careers of Irish actors like Aidan Turner and Amy Huberman and Victoria Smurfit. It ran for seven seasons, becoming one of the most popular shows on the national broadcaster and you can revisit it now on the RTÉ Player.
4. Derry Girls – Netflix
Created and written by Lisa McGee, Derry Girls is universally acknowledged as one of the best sitcoms to come out of Ireland in a very long time. It was inspired by McGee’s upbringing and centres around the lives of a group of girls (and one guy) as they navigate everyday family and school life set against the backdrop of The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Special mention to the award-winning Siobhán McSweeney (Sr Michael) and Nicola Coughlan (Claire) who went on to become a household name when she starred in the Netflix phenomenon, Bridgerton.
5. The Fall – Netflix
Another Northern Irish success story came in the shape of The Fall, starring Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson. The sinister crime drama follows the story of Detective Stella Gibson (Anderson) as she attempts to bring serial killer Paul Spector (Dornan) to justice in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse.
6. Love/Hate – RTÉ Player
The Irish drama series Love/Hate aired between 2010 and 2014 on RTE One and became one of its most popular and critically-acclaimed programmes ever. It was lauded for it’s unflinching portrayal of Dublin gang culture and launched the career of the Oscar-nominated Barry Keoghan – who will forever be remembered as ‘the guy who shot the cat’.
7. Raw – RTÉ Player
If you haven’t seen Raw, this is definitely one to dig out of the archives and enjoy. The show centred around the highly charged atmosphere of a kitchen in a busy Dublin restaurant and the complicated lives of the staff. The award-winning series ran for five seasons and can be viewed on the RTE Player.
8. Moone Boy – Sky
The sitcom Moone Boy was co-written by Irish actor Chris O’Dowd as an homage to his youth growing up in Boyle, Co Roscommon. It follows the adventures of a young boy named Seán who relies on the help of his imaginary friend (O’Dowd) to see him through the ups and downs of everyday life with his eccentric, small-town family. Deirdre O’Kane also stars in the popular series.
9. Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope – RTÉ Player
Created by Irish writer Stefanie Preissner, the TV series centres around the lives of two twenty-somethings from Cork as they navigate life, love, partying, work and the unravelling of their friendship in Dublin. The show, which features Amy Huberman in a supporting role, stars Seána Kerslake as fund manager Aisling and the late Danika McGuigan as art student Danielle.
10. Catastrophe – Netflix
This show, written by and starring Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, follows the story of an Irish woman who has a fling with an American executive during a passionate week in London. When she discovers she’s pregnant, she’s shocked when he agrees to move to London to try to make things work. The entire series is now available to watch on Netflix.
11. This Way Up – Netflix and All 4
Irish comedian Aisling Bea created and stars in this poignantly funny series about a woman putting her life back together following a nervous breakdown. Set in London, it also stars Sharon Horgan as her sister and if you only watch one scene in the whole thing, make it the one where they awkwardly sing Zombie at a family get-together. Genius.
12. Normal People – RTÉ Player
There was never a better time for this heart-rending TV series to air than during the first few months of lockdown in 2020. The show, adapted from the wildly successful novel of the same name by Irish author Sally Rooney, starred Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones and launched them both into the celebrity stratosphere. Mescal has since gone on to win an Olivier award for his role in A Streetcar Named Desire and an Oscar nomination for the film, Aftersun.