Two first dates, one awful (and parentally supervised), the other tentatively promising. A giddy road trip singalong (or should that be shoutalong) scene set to The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). A Brief Encounter-style fantasy sequence in black and white, dubbed in clipped RP. Muppet-esque puppets. Projectile vomiting. The first few episodes of We Are Lady Parts, the new Channel 4 comedy from writer-director Nida Manzoor, manage to cram in all this and more. It’s a riot, gleefully overthrowing expectations at every turn.
Lady Parts are an all-female, all-Muslim punk band, fuelled by “one part boredom, two parts identity crisis.” There’s singer Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey), who works in a Halal butcher and freaks out whenever her sort-of boyfriend broaches the subject of commitment; bassist Bisma (Faith Omole), the author of a graphic novel about periods that she’s pitched as “The Handmaid’s Tale meets Rugrats”; no bullshit drummer Ayesha (Juliette Motamed), who moonlights as an Uber driver and manager Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse), constantly smoking through a niqab.
When we first meet them, they’re practising a track called Nobody’s Gonna Honour Kill My Sister But Me, but their sound is lacking something - they need a lead guitarist, and fast. Enter microbiology PhD student Amina (Anjana Vasan), who is lured in when Ayesha sends her good-looking brother Ahsan (Zaqi Ismail) to hand out audition flyers.
Amina narrates each episode in a breathless, high-flown stream of consciousness, like an Austen heroine whose attention span has been shot to pieces by infinite scrolling. The 26-year-old is searching for a “meaningful connection” with a potential husband on her “marriage app” before she becomes “a withering shell of a woman,” although her mum and dad think she should probably just go Interrailing instead.
She’s also a talented guitarist, with a shrine to Don McLean hidden in her wardrobe, but she’s held back by major stage fright (hence the, erm, projectile vomiting). The promise of a date with Ahsan eventually persuades her to provisionally embrace her inner punk - though she’s not initially thrilled by Saira and co’s lyrics (sample line: “Voldemort’s alive and he’s under my headscarf”).
Manzoor’s characters are immediately memorable, and never feel like tired comedy ‘types’ that we’ve seen before. Amina’s parents (especially her mum, desperately trying to live vicariously through her strait-laced daughter - hence the Interrailing obsession) are a delight, thrilled to learn that she’s joined a rock group, and the band have an easy, believable camaraderie.
The episodes that follow encompass everything from rom-com tropes to musical dream sequences to touching - but never cheesy - depictions of family ties and female friendships. The mish-mash of genres gives We Are Lady Parts an irresistible anarchic energy, and its cast of characters give it plenty of heart. By the end you’ll be desperate to join their gang.
We Are Lady Parts is on Channel 4, Thursdays at 10pm; all episodes are available to stream on All4.