Jun 13, 2016

[TV] Call the Midwife: Season 1

Tobie and I are big Miranda fans but in the end the darling Miranda Hart wrapped up that show has her commitment to Call the Midwife got bigger and bigger, in a manner of speaking. But hey, it's a show that has gotten a lot of accolades and so I can totally understand why she would prioritize a project like thus  but we'll also forever miss the awkward adventures of the ever-loveable Miranda.

Call the Midwife BBC period drama that follows a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London in the 1950s. The story is somewhat narrated by one of the nurses in her old age and it covers a lot of their adventures, their personal struggles and all that fun stuff.

What I like about a lot of these BBC dramas like Downton Abbey is that it's not like they're totally totally serious all throughout. They introduce little comedic bits even as modest as a witty one-liner or a quick zinger that are bound to make you smile but not necessarily laugh out loud or whatever. And I like that balance to things.

Synopsis: Call the Midwife is a BBC period drama based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth. The series was created by Heidi Thomas with executive producers Pippa Harris and Caro Newling.

It's 1957 and we follow Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) as she begins her new job as a nurse midwife at Nonnatus House, a nursing convent in the Poplar district of East End London. The convent hosts a small group of nuns along with a few midwives and a handyman. They small team does their best to support the the diverse needs of the relatively poorer community including hosting regular clinic sessions and making house calls on all the expecting mothers in the community. Thus they sight of the midwives on their bikes as they make their rounds remains somewhat iconic to the series.

The series is narrated by Jenny in her old age as performed by Vanessa Redgrave, which makes for an interesting framing device for things. At the same time, I feel like the writers really went to certain lengths to make sure that her dialog as an older character was practically like prose and the usual medium for imparting key nuggets of wisdom. And all this is a sharp contrast to how the younger Jenny is in the series itself.

Miranda Hart's role as nurse Camilla Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne or "Chummy" is just brilliant. She's not precisely the same clumsy character as Miranda was in her titular show but not exactly a model of grace and dignity either. I was worried that she'd become more of a comic relief character for the show but everyone has their light moments and they also made sure to give Chummy some true moments of awesome.

Another character who naturally has a lot of recall is Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt), who is tad eccentric given her age. We first see this in terms of her proclivity for cake and there all these other seemingly random utterances that sound both poetic crazy but sometimes hold some genuine wisdom that becomes of value to the characters during one or another tense situation that comes up. And I love her rather chaotic nature that is still well-founded in an honest effort to be helpful when needed yet also a little mischievous.

The show is a great character piece, so it's wrong to think that the show is all about Jenny alone. We sort of follow her perspective in these stories, but that doesn't mean the show is tied to her throughout. Thus the journey we take follows all the different sisters and midwives in their day-to-day lives. And when you manage the world of new life, there's a lot of colorful stories to be told.

Call the Midwife is a brilliant series that touches the heartstrings and resonates wisdom on so many levels. And it's not one of the heaviest dramas around yet still manages to remain quite serious about things. This first season gets a great 5 different birthing positions demonstrated on the show out of a possible 5.


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