Our favourite reprobates are back - it's the fourth series of The Young Offenders

Friday: The Young Offenders (BBC One, 9.30pm)
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Series two and three of the Cork-set smash-hit sitcom, a spin-off from an equally popular 2016 movie, were filmed back-to-back in 2019, and after the latter aired a year later, everything went quiet, making fans worry they’d seen the last of best friends Conor (Alex Murphy) and Jock (Chris Walley).

Thankfully, their creator, writer Peter Foott, was merely refreshing his creative juices before coming up with more crazy antics for the duo, their friends, family and acquaintances to get themselves involved in. He knew there was still life in his characters and, perhaps more importantly, so did Ben Caudell, commissioning editor for BBC Comedy.

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“We’re so happy to have The Young Offenders back,” claims Caudell, “so that viewers once again enjoy the adventures, and misadventures, of all these brilliant comic characters – they may not be quite so young, but they’re still very much offenders.”

Series four of The Young Offenders kicked off last weekSeries four of The Young Offenders kicked off last week
Series four of The Young Offenders kicked off last week

The fourth series kicked off last week, picking up the story three years after Conor and Jock’s previous activities, during which they’ve been separated while spending time in prison.

Life has also changed for their mum/guardian Mairead (Hilary Rose), who is now married and settled with Sgt Healy (Dominic MacHale), much to Conor’s horror – he’s convinced that Healy will spoil all his mischievous fun.

But while some things have definitely altered for the duo, others have very much remained the same, according to Walley: “Every episode with the lads, they go on a learning curve and by the next episode they’ve forgotten what they’ve learned, so they’re always taking two steps forward, one step back. They’re maturing a little bit and then they’ll be immature again.

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“Jock’s got a child now so his circumstances are forcing him to mature, but he’ll always at heart be a child. So he’ll never be too mature because if he was too mature there would be no comedy or no fun.”

“I think every character is so flawed and every character has such strong motives that you can relate to someone in the show,” says Murphy, when asked about the programme’s enduring popularity. “And the writing is so good, every character learns something about themselves and with just comedy and improv and heartfelt moments throughout in 27 minutes, it’s a brilliant show.

“There’s very little pop culture references too, they’re very much in their own world. We have the 12 people we know and that’s who we interact with and as viewer it’s just a nice break to watch a show where nothing outside of their world is really referenced so you can just chill out.”

The latest episode sees Conor realise he has to start paying his own way, so he takes a job working alongside Mairead at the fishmonger’s.

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But at the forefront of his mind is winning back his old flame Linda. Unfortunately, she’s now engaged to his arch enemy Gavin Madigan, who tries to taunt him into taking the Leaving Cert exam. What could possibly go wrong?

Obviously lots – it just wouldn’t be The Young Offenders if everything worked out fine.

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