Call the Midwife (2012– )
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Now that the East End is suddenly fashionable, even Shoreditch and Brick Lane, what has happened to Wapping where I trained and which used to be so scruffy?
One thing has changed for the better. In those far off days when a woman was admitted with an attempted abortion, euphemistically called "incomplete abortion", the police had to be notified and a policewoman would sit by the bed (drinking tea with the night nurse) until the unfortunate patient (who probably already had half a dozen children at least) was well enough to be arrested.
Some of the diversions from the book are to allow the characters other than Jenny Lee to have stronger story lines, which I can accept to an extent. But some of the story lines have been expanded for dramatic effect, so they are not relying upon the original author's memoirs, but rather the imagination of the scriptwriters, which I think is somewhat regrettable.
Having said that I am finding the series entirely watchable, and enjoyable. All the cast seem to be good, but I must say I am most impressed with Miranda Hart as Chummy, what a brick she is.
Following the life of young midwife, Jenny Lee, this series is set barely a year following her arrival at Nonnatus House in London's East End. Judging by the title you may guess that this is a series about midwifery but it is so much more. From episode to episode, there are a variety of themes from poverty, to love to faith, family, and friendship. The stories have a nostalgic feel but each episode has themes that are relevant to this day. While there IS a lot pertaining to maternity care and nursing and the hardships that come with it, there's always an unflagging sense of hope.
Each of the characters, the nurses, the nuns, and the residents of the East End; have their own special charms which are brought to life by a fine cast including veteran actors Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris, and a personal favorite, Stephen McGann. Jessica Raine is a brilliant actress. It has been a joy to see what she brings to the role of Nurse Lee in each episode. She plays the competent, confident midwife well. She's evolved from the rather innocent and naive girl in season one. Having seen her in other brilliant roles outside of Call the Midwife (Doctor Who, etc.) she's fast becoming one of my favorite young actresses.
While the series centers around Jenny Lee, my favorite character by far is Camilla Cholomondley-Browne -- also known as Chummy. She provides brilliant comic relief. Kind of uncomfortable in her own skin in the first season, it's lovely to see her come out of her shell and bloom while still keeping her ever present sense of humor. Actress Miranda Hart truly brings Chummy to life in all the best ways. For Chummy, this second series represents more than just a changes that affect her life and Constable Noakes's life but also huge changes for all at Nonnatus House. There was more than a couple romances that unfolded, one being a total shock! Since I'm such a hopeless romantic, it did my heart good to see all the love in the air.
There is so much more to this series than I ever expected. It's drama, it's heartache but also about laughter and finding one's true calling. All in all, this series is unbeatable and refreshing in every way. With three additional episodes, including a Christmas special, up from last years six episode tally, this series is sure to please fans of the show and hopefully bring new fans on board. If you enjoy "extras", the Blu- ray and DVDs feature fun cast interviews and stories about how the series came to be and the best part -- 10 additional minutes per episode that didn't air in the US! This series is a must own for British TV fans and anyone looking for a superb, feel-good show to add to their DVD collection.
*I received a complimentary copy from the publisher/publicist for review purposes. I received no compensation. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.*
Although I was around in the 50s I was not brought up in the East End so cannot comment about that.
Putting this portrayal aside, although I am surprised the BBC would fall down on the historical detail, I was delighted to see that Auntie Beeb has once again commissioned another well worthwhile period drama.
Call The Midwife is set in late 50s East End of London and is, as the title suggests, about a group of midwives who deal with the welfare of pregnant women and of course deliver their babies.
The series is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth who worked as a midwife in London's East End during the 50s, and beyond but who sadly died in 2011.
The cast is extremely well put together which includes the inimitable Pam Ferris who is a midwife, but also a nun, Judy Parfit, also a nun but is apparently slipping into senility and Jenny Agutter, yet another nun.
Together with these and other nuns are the midwives who share a home with the nuns.
There is some very graphic detail in the series regarding the birth of the babies which can be quite harrowing but at the same time extremely enlightening.
Jessica Raine who plays Jenny Lee is well suited to the starring role but for me the midwife I have truly fallen in love with is Chummy, played by Miranda Hart.
When Chummy arrived she appeared to be accident prone and had only just scraped through her final exams.
Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) was Chummy's biggest critic but when the chips were down and Chummy had to deliver her very first baby on her own, which was a very difficult breech birth, she showed her true colours and Sister Evangelina had to acknowledge that Chummy was a very valuable addition to team.
One of the plots concerned Conchita Warren, played by Carolina Valdes. This is Carolina's debut on British TV. She had previously only appeared in three Spanish short films. She plays the Spanish wife of painter and decorator Len Warren played by Tim Faraday. Conchita is a Spanish Civil War veteran but cannot speak a word of English.
She has had 24 (twenty four) children and is expecting her 25th. All her children have survived and she is the epitome of motherhood. The love of each and every family member toward each other simply oozes out of the Warren household.
There is a major problem when Conchita gives birth to her 25th child and I must admit these scenes were highly poignant.
Although Carolina Valdes apparently has had a very limited TV acting career thus far she proved herself a very capable actress whilst playing the extremely difficult part of Conchita
All in all this drama has the potential to become an extremely popular series.
One thing that struck me was although the series is set only 54 years ago how primitive midwifery was back then, even though the National Health Service had been set up by then, but only nine years earlier.
What made up for this though is the total dedication the midwives had in their vocation and the care, and indeed love they gave to their expectant mothers and aftercare to the new born babies.
Well done again Auntie Beeb.
The actors are all great for their parts - I could not find fault with anyone of them! I could relate most easily to Miranda Hart/Chummy, as I am also tall for being a woman - or at least I was considered very tall when I was young. (Nowadays there are quite a few young girls the same height as I.) I can still remember the problems with people staring and having to comment on my height, with many otherwise interesting men being shorter than myself, the feeling of being ungainly, the self-doubts... In fact, I also had dreams of entering a convent from exactly the wrong reasons - just the same as Chummy (to get out of the love-searching once and for all, and not having to think about it anymore).
The reason I am not giving this series 10 stars, though, is that I have read the books, and I think the television producers have changed too much. I can in some cases see that the revised version of an event makes better television - but as the books are supposed to be non-fiction, I think this was still wrong. There can still be real people out there who are alive, and have to watch important memories from their youth or child-hood pictured in the wrong way.
Some of the episodes can be hard to watch, especially since I am pregnant, and I think that anyone feeling overly anxious about their pregnancy may want to hold off watching this series, because it really shows the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of pregnancy and child birth.
I found one major goof that had me laughing: In one episode they mention knitting blanket squares, and people are shown knitting them. When assembling the squares to make a blanket what they actually have are crocheted granny squares.