I should begin this post by thanking my friend Amy, as she is the one who introduced me to this brilliant TV program (I used the term “brilliant” since that is a very British type of word and the show is British…see what I did there). Amy is a great resource for me in the film and TV department. She has similar tastes to me, so I can trust what she recommends. Anyways, about a month ago Amy messaged me on Facebook, asking if I was watching “Call the Midwife.” It sounded vaguely familiar, but I had not seen it yet. She briefly told me I had to watch and that the second season was about to start. So, on my next free afternoon, I sat down and was treated to the best that British TV has to offer.
A few years ago I was introduced to another British TV show, the now famous/infamous “Downton Abbey.” I was an early convert to the show, watching the entire series in one day (in all fairness, Netflix listed it as a mini-series and not as a TV show). However, as time has gone on, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with this program as more sensational story lines have crept in. The final straw was the season 3 closer. I think that was it for many viewers. So, lately there has been a Downton shaped hole in my heart. However, I’ve found that “Call the Midwife” doesn’t just replace Downton, it actually knocks it off the pedestal. I am continually impressed with the stories, the acting and the lack of a soap opera feel.
For those of you unfamiliar with the program, let me fill you in. The show begins with Jenny Lee, a young nurse who has recently trained to become a midwife. She is transferred to London’s East End, a poorer neighborhood where the babies are a flowing. Her privileged upbringing is immediately challenged by the poverty of this community. Yet, she grows and is able to see these women as women, and not for their poverty. She works at a convent, where a mixture of Sisters and young nurses tend to the women in this community. Some of the shows end with the Sisters praying beautiful sung prayers. It takes place in post-World War II London, which I find such an interesting chapter in England, with the rebuilding and modernizing. But there was one occurrence that made me just love this show.
In the second episode a new midwife joins the house. Her nickname is Chummy and she is awkward, a bit of a mess, and can’t even ride a bike (the main form of transportation for the midwives). My first impression of her was pity with an expectation that she would not be able to make it as a midwife. “She’ll be gone by the end of the episode,” I thought. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see her stay and become a beloved regular. And this is the main difference between British and American television. In American TV, Chummy would be a joke, hurried off at the end, only existing to teach the main characters a lesson. In British TV, she joins the cast and shines as one of the major characters. So, the moral of this story is, when possible, watch British TV.
Season 2 of “Call the Midwife” is currently airing on PBS. The first season is available to watch instantly on Netflix.