A story with a point of view that you haven’t heard before is one thing, but when it’s expressed with so much confidence, that new point of view becomes genuinely thrilling. That’s what We Are Lady Parts offers as one of the Peacock streaming service’s first original sitcoms, and underneath its gimmicky concept, this British import has some unique stuff to offer.
Our protagonist and narrator is Amina Hussein (Anjana Vasan), a 26-year-old biochemistry Ph.D. student who’s desperate for a husband because all her friends are now married or engaged. She also teaches guitar to kids, though she never plays in public because she has vomit-inducing stage fright. That’s where a three-piece all-female all-Muslim punk-rock band calling themselves Lady Parts comes in, as lead singer Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey) is desperate to fill out the group’s sound. She drafts her former schoolmate Amina as their lead guitarist, overcoming the newcomer’s reluctance by dangling a date with the drummer’s hot brother Ahsan (Zaqi Ismail).
This is the brainchild of Nida Manzoor, whose previous credits include directing two episodes of Doctor Who. She’s not only director but also screenwriter here, and she co-writes the band’s original songs like “Voldemort Under My Headscarf.” The single-camera format lets Manzoor switch up genres like the old NBC sitcom Scrubs, as Amina imagines herself and Ahsan playing the leads in a black-and-white 1940s movie or having a different date judged by a panel of TV game show judges. The band’s manager (Lucie Shorthouse) is only glimpsed briefly out of her niqab, and she cuts a figure like Kenny from South Park, if Kenny dropped f-bombs and chain-smoked. The members of Lady Parts — who include drummer Ayesha (Juliette Motamed) and bassist Bisma (Faith Omole) — curse freely and crack penis jokes, and the dorky and overly intense Amina feels the need to hide them from her more traditional Muslim friends. The other members turn out to have secrets, too.
None of those secrets involve running off to marry a Syrian jihadi, which is a running joke among the band members. It carries some distinctly unfunny consequences when it escapes that circle, which happens in the fifth of the season’s six half-hour episodes. That’s when an internet journalist (Sofia Barclay) whom Ayesha has been dating — there’s one of those secrets — publishes an unflattering profile of the group, exposing the members to online hate, which takes on a different character for Muslim women. Amina’s best friend (Aiysha Hart) responds to this with some creepy and possessive behavior to try to steer her back on the path of righteousness. Meanwhile, Saira emerges as the most complicated of the group, whose broken family is the reason she treats her boyfriend (David Avery) like crap and doesn’t cover her head. That’s when this show breaks free of the conventions of sitcoms and shows about bands.
Amina appears rather bland next to her, even if Vasan does well at capturing her often-panicked inner thoughts in the character’s voiceover. The actors all play their own instruments, and their punk-rock cover of “9 to 5” works quite well on its own and even better in the show, when the group sings it to a hostile crowd of middle-aged white guys in a London pub. We might have had more on the women’s different backgrounds, since they’re clearly from all over the Muslim world, and how Amina adapts to playing punk when her musical hero is Don McLean. Then again, with less than three hours of run time to work with, there’s only so much a show can do. Peacock’s hot favorite is Girls5eva, which was created by Tina Fey and has recognizable actors, but I dare say We Are Lady Parts is the more adventurous program about a band. There truly has never been anything like it on TV, and we need more.