Welcome back, Call the Midwife.
I sat on a tube train this morning – one of the many I will use in 2013 I assure you – and I realised I hadn’t blogged since the Strictly final. Then I realised that this will not do. So I stood there wearing my funny snow hat and holding on for dear life as the Piccadilly Line threw me every which way and reflected on the television of the year so far. Although there have been some blinders so far like Channel 4’s cult-thriller and generally unsettling Utopia and a new series of ITV’s Dancing on Ice, I settled on BBC’s Call The Midwife for my first venture of 2013. Which holds a certain amount of irony – in a roundabout way – because, as I write this, I am sitting in a feminist orientated lecture (and not really listening) talking about reproductive rights.
Series one of the BBC1 medical drama pulled in about 10 million viewers each of its seven weeks so it wasn’t really any great surprise when it was recommissioned. It pleased me though – I enjoyed it. I’m quite squeamish but I love a good cry at a cute little baby being born. The background stories of the expectant women and the relationships between the nuns, the midwives and their patients made Call The Midwife a real gripping drama. Based on a book of the same name of memoirs, the house-long program follows a group of midwives – some nuns and others not – as they live in Nonnatus House in 1950s East End London, deliver the local babies and care for the growing children. Among a brilliant cast is Miranda Hart. I cannot stand her, as I have made perfectly clear before, but I have a big soft spot of Chummy the slightly-clumsy-looking-and-tragic midwife – which is a bit weird considering I cannot stay in the room when Hart is on television elsewhere. I don’t find her comedy funny in the slightest but yet I laugh at her character endlessly. I don’t know why, maybe I envision myself a bit like Chummy (minus the whole midwife thing), or maybe I’m just being a typical hypocrite like so many of us bloggers so very often are.
Last night saw the return of the booming bundle of joy – running its series on the Sunday before/after Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute each time – and I understand from my rating-tweeting friends that it raked in the normal 10 million, maybe surpassed that, and the episode didn’t disappoint. I had missed Call The Midwife and longer for another instalment since the Christmas Day special. Evidently, I was not alone in my yearning as my Twitter feed went crazy for the familiarity of babies crying in the East End.
In my view, the first episode of series two was hard-hitting. Several stories, as always, were intertwined but the one that gripped and upset me the most was the domestic-abuse-come-neglect storyline going on with Molly and her husband. She loved her husband and we knew that from the start but I didn’t expect the story to play out quite the way it did. She took abuse from him as demonstrated by multiple harsh bruising on her body and various vicious bouts of violence during the program. Her poor mother told of how she had never had a good relationship with her daughter since she had been separated from her during evacuation procedures during the war. It was clear she was staying with her husband despite the abuse she suffered at his hands – even thought they had a little girl who witnessed these beatings – but I didn’t expect Molly to be allowed to escape to a ward in order to deliver her baby in peace. I just sort of assumed that the husband would have done it haphazardly whilst Jenny the midwife and the mother banged on the door furiously. That didn’t happen. Baby arrived safely and the family of four were soon isolated and holed up inside their own home. And then came the bit I really never dreamed would happen – the fire engine outside the house and the poor young children being rescued. I actually cried at the thought the newborn would perish but thankfully he did not. I didn’t expect neglect to be a part of Molly’s story because I assumed she was abused and forced to be in the home all day. I didn’t expect her to be an associate of her husband’s business forcing her to leave her children. It is refreshing for these programs not be haunted by its own predictability. I thought deeply about what life must have been like for women in these situations and indeed the woman this was based on – how scared they must be, how worried, how distraught.
The second, and arguably secondary, storyline of the evening also followed the path of abuse and exploitation – albeit a little differently. To cut it short – or shorter than the previous summation – the woman was pregnant with a child fathered by one of the sailors on board the crew of the vessel she was on. It transpired that her father felt it a viable asset to have his daughter on board to ‘relieve’ the problems any crewmen might have and that would, in turn, prevent arguments and tensions between the seamen.
I seem to have strayed off into review and recap territory mainly so forgive me, but I love this program. It is, in my view, that sort of drama series that you didn’t know was missing from your life until it was introduced into it. I’m secretly hoping it runs into a dodgy patch though – just so I have something to rant about.