A radical sitcom premise is let down by an ultimately safe narrative
You can't fault We Are Lady Parts for originality. If you are able to point us in the direction of another comedy series about a female Muslim punk band, that would be a surprise. Nida Manzoor has certainly hit the jackpot for spotting a gap in the TV market, but beyond that, how does the six-parter fare?
After a sprightly opening episode in which we are introduced to our nerdy central character and voiceover narrator Amina Hussein (Anjana Vasan), it all rather falls into a safe haven, featuring pretty much everything you'd expect from such a story, beat for beat, all the way up to the clichéd reunion finale (this can't in any way be dubbed a spoiler as it's visible from three episodes away). For a show with such a radical premise, We Are Lady Parts is effectively Modern Sitcom 101.
When she's not touting for a potential male suitor, Amina is a strait-laced microbiology PhD student giving guitar lessons to kids on the side, though it's soon clear that she doesn't have the temperament to take her own special musical talent onto a higher level. Crippled by stage fright, she throws up whenever the spotlight falls on her. Meanwhile, in a garage across town, a three-piece punk band (Lady Parts) is looking for that missing cog in their machine: a skilled lead guitarist with attitude (Amina is halfway there).
While the focus remains on Amina throughout, we get cursory glimpses into the other band members' lives (maybe a second series will flesh out their back stories) as a means to explaining their psychological woes: Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey) still hurts from a family loss while Ayesha (Juliette Motamed) struggles with her sexuality. Where this series really strikes home is in its use of music, with original songs merging with exciting cover versions: the band play a raucous version of '9 to 5' for no acclaim in a pub filled with Union Jacks and Leave posters, while in one fantasy sequence, Amina lightly sings a stripped-back, heartfelt 'Creep'. First-series syndrome has struck many eventual comedy classics such as Blackaddder and Seinfeld, and there's plenty of raw material here for We Are Lady Parts to evolve and soar.
Channel 4, Thursday 20 May, 10pm.