Tuned in to homegrown student drama 6Degrees yet?

The cast are (L-R) Jess (Georgia Maguire), Sandie (Jayne Wisener), Conor (Cillian O'Sullivan), Chris (Ryan McPharland), Danny (Niall Wright) and Eva (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell)
The cast are (L-R) Jess (Georgia Maguire), Sandie (Jayne Wisener), Conor (Cillian O'Sullivan), Chris (Ryan McPharland), Danny (Niall Wright) and Eva (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell)

OK, so it has something of a Hollyoaks feel to it, a bunch of photogenic students living near-alcoholic lives between lectures.

But wait, those are various Belfast thoroughfares they’re meandering along as they debate the ins and outs of twentysomething living: Is Conor in love with Sandie? Did Eva wake up this morning in a park in Lisburn? Did Chris bed the wasted blonde at that party? Will Jess get over the breakdown of her relationship? Will Danny’s mother stop drinking?

It’s a mini-soap opera filmed in Belfast, written, produced and acted almost entirely by local talent - an altogether homemade creation, and even better, it doesn’t engage with the hoary old themes of the Troubles but instead uses Belfast as a backdrop, pretty much like anywhere else in the UK, a place where people come to study, party, quarrel, make friends, fall in love and languish, only with slightly flat accents.

6Degrees is exciting because it’s a Northern Irish drama - a rare and therefore precious offering. It’s by no means perfect - some of the writing is so-so and themes like pill-popping and secret homosexuality have lost the heavy weight of scandal they may have had in the early 90s. But nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction, a drama that is trying hard to be honest, youthful, edgy, peopled with characters we can relate to: Sandie (Jayne Wisener) the pretty, polite blonde who you imagine will never be late for lectures; Conor (Cillian O’Sullivan) the dashing jock type with a secret; Chris (Ryan McPharland) the joker of the pack; Danny (Niall Wright), who is earnest and nice even though he feels like he has the world on his shoulders; Eva (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), who parties hard and keeps a brash attitude in place to hide her vulnerabilities; and Jess (Georgia Maguire), who is struggling to find her feet away from home.

See 6Degrees on BBC Two Northern Ireland Tuesdays at 10pm or catch up on the BBC iPlayer now.