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We Are Lady Parts series two review – brilliant punk TV that’ll leave you in tears
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We Are Lady Parts series two review – brilliant punk TV that’ll leave you in tears

In the three years since this all-female, all-Muslim punk-band sitcom first aired, We Are Lady Parts has very much lived up to the creative, reproductive connotations of that title. Writer-director Nida Manzoor has further spawned a well-received debut feature, the kung fu coming-of-ager Polite Society, and star Anjana Vasan’s fruitful career has produced the Bafta-winning Black Mirror episode Demon ’79, an Olivier-winning stage turn opposite Paul Mescal in A Streetcar Named Desire, and a starring role in Brit-com flick, Wicked Little Letters. These are busy women, but they’ve managed to get the band back together anyway, and Lady Parts are once more ready to rock your living room.

We find them in the tour van, rounding off “a magical summer of gigs” and planning to “lay down our legacy” by recording an album with legendary producer, Dirty Mahmood (Anil Desai). First, though, they’ve got to find the money for studio time and that won’t be easy, with band manager Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse) struggling to book paying gigs and punk-purist Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey) determined not to sell out.

Only recovering people-pleaser Amina (Vasan) seems to have achieved a state of inner calm. With her PHD in micro-biology now complete, she’s bagged a dream job at a stem cell research institute and a confident, take-no-prisoners outlook. This is her “Villain Era”, she says, and it inspires series two’s first new song, which eye-rolling drummer Ayesha (Juliette Motamed) harshly – but not inaccurately – dismisses as “a basic girl-power song”.

It’s a strength, though, that We Are Lady Parts can pivot from quoting Marxist Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz to covering mid-noughties nu-metallers Hoobastank in the same episode, and Amina’s endearing dorkiness remains the show’s beating heart. Her manic-neurotic monologues still provide the narration, but this series is also more interested in the other band-members’ lives. Ayesha is discovering there are nuances to being a queer Muslim that her white liberal girlfriend doesn’t always get, and sweet-natured Bisma (Faith Omole) is sick of being the band’s “Mummy Spice” while trying to integrate her identities as a mother, an artist, a Black woman and a Muslim.

The Bafta-winning costume design of PC Williams is crucial to all this, from the culturally appropriating cowboy hat Amina wears to a folk gig (“We didn’t raise you on the Kansas prairie”, her mother reminds her), to Mumtaz’s levelled-up niqabs. Since clothing is clearly essential to self-expression for these characters, when the inevitable hijab debate comes, it at least feels earned and – like Amina’s preferred modest fashions – appropriately layered.

Better still is the series’ exploration of intergenerational tensions, primarily between the Millennial Lady Parts and their Gen Z usurpers, new Muslim band on the scene, Second Wife. It also places itself on the Millennial-Gen X fault line, with punk pioneer Sister Squire (a cameo from Manzoor’s own comedy hero, Meera Syal of seminal sketch show Goodness Gracious Me) aghast at the political emptiness of Lady Parts’ lyrics: “You are a fierce band of Muslim women and you’re not even having to hide that … You’ve got a platform here … What are you saying?”

The band members may be confused about who they are, but their sitcom isn’t. We Are Lady Parts strides into its second series with a combination of insouciant self-assurance and anarchic enthusiasm that is itself very punk. The show’s surrealist flights of fancy pair now particularly well with the new theme of music industry skullduggery, resulting in instant anthems such as Malala Made Me Do It and Glass Ceiling Feeling, fit to sit alongside series one classic Bashir With The Good Beard.

We could do with more music. Compared to similar sitcom-musicals, Girls5eva or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, We Are Lady Parts feel sparse on songs. But then, this reflects the happily homespun nature of their composition, arising out of jam sessions with the showrunner and her siblings. And if the main criticism we can level at a show is that we like everything it does, but we want more … well, that’s hardly a criticism at all, is it?

Series two doesn’t up the ante, but it does takes the show’s tried and tested comedy components and uses them to once again build towards an emotionally satisfying pay-off. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself a little teary in the series’ closing moments, as you contemplate the transcendent power of female friendship and electric guitar riffs. This is a show that’s consistently more than the sum of its (lady) parts.

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  • We Are Lady Parts series two aired on Channel 4 and is available online

Source: theguardian.com