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.
This show is extraordinary.
It portrays so vividly the changes of an era in Great Britain, when the latter half of the 20th century blasted into people's daily lives at poor East End London, with all its hopes, marvels, progress, and shifts from a traditional to a modern lifestyle.
The performances are brilliant; the characters are as lovable as well-written; the atmosphere is perfectly recreated, and though quite serious health and social issues are crudely shown along the episodes, the tone is always permeated with hope, love and joy of living.
We do not come from a Christian upbringing, and I am not a Catholic, but I strongly sympathize with the humanistic and sensible approach of Nonnatus House's team of nuns and midwives, where tolerance, acceptance and care for life ranks higher than dogma or empty beliefs.
It is very hard to write a really deep, philosophical and poetic show while maintaining a light-hearted spirit and lots of humour, and Call the Midwife really makes it in a masterly way.
I have to say it gets better and better as the seasons pass, always intertwining the main characters' personal stories and individual cases with relevant and updated issues of public health and bioethics.
By the way, the admirable British public health system, which made wonders in the 50s and 60s and promoted equal access to safety, well-being and human development, also becomes a magnificent political statement in our own age, all the more appreciated in a retrospective look.
There is nothing to complain about of this show, which exerts an honest, compelling, deeply satisfying magnetism on viewers.
For those of us who love motherhood, babies and pregnancies, there is the unique plus of rejoicing at the sight of so many just born babies at the moment of delivery, in a remarkably natural and non-sensationalist feat of cinematography. You can feel the unmistakable miracle of life in each episode, with its sufferings and joys, which is so unusual among a current TV grid full of violence, special effects, overt sex, glorified evil and frenzied action.
Kudos to BBC! Yes, they have made it again, once more!
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.
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.*
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.
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.
This series is based on the best-selling memoirs, Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth, who died six months before the first episode aired. The series depicts, in part, and has been expanded upon, her work as a district nurse and midwife in the East End of London during the 1950's and 1960's. Obviously, story lines needed to be expanded to create a long-running series such as this, but that does not hinder the enjoyment of the program, and in fact, probably adds to it, as it allows for development of new and existing characters.
Every single cast member is believable. The acting of everyone is phenomenal and realistic. The writers have done an exceptional job with the scripts. The sets seem to be relatively accurate for the time period. You couldn't ask for a better more realistic series.
While some reviewers have complained that this strays away a little from the memoirs, I can't see that anyone could expect a long running series not do so. When Jennifer Worth was writing her memoirs, she was writing them as a memoir and not in preparation for a long running television probgram. For this to have worked for television, , more needed to be added, and the script writers have done it in an exceptional way.
There are wonderful actors throughout the series, many kudos to the casting director. The wonderful Judy Parfitt is my favorite as the mischievous but lovable Sister Monica Joan but her role is, at times, heartbreaking as she descends and ascends through stages of dementia sometimes confused but always eloquent -- an octogenarian Ophelia. I'm very impressed with the actress, Jessica Raine. She plays Nurse Jenny Lee with a great range of emotions without making it maudlin or silly. I'm also struck by her uncanny resemblance to a young (and beautiful) Judy Garland -- even if Garland's looks came at the expense of surgery. Helen George as Trixie is great and perfect as the 1960s modern girl. (She reminds me so much of my older cousins at that time though they were much sillier.) Miranda Hart is AHmazing as Chummy! And, of course, you can't not mention Cliff Parisi as Fred Buckle with his many "schemes." Halfway through the series, Nurse Phyllis Crane (Linda Bassett) is introduced. She may rub wrong at first but her heart is just as golden as the others. She also played in another favorite of mine, the series "From Lark Rise to Candleford" as the wonderful and wise Queenie. And throughout these immaculately told stories is the redoubtable Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne, always kind and stalwart.
There have been some comments on whether London's East End in the 50s and 60s has been portrayed accurately. I don't know about then but when living in London in the 70s, I had been through the slums and what is shown on the show is a bit on the rosy side. But then again it is television.
Don't miss out on this series. You'll be missing out on so very much. And especially on some well told stories about humanity, the goodness of people's hearts, the heartbreak we all face and that life goes on.
I thought the 2013 Midwife Christmas Special was way too gloomy and sad and not a whole lot of the episode spent on the holiday season. I don't remember a lot of the details (erased the DVR entry), but was this the episode where Sister Bernadette (former) marries Dr. Turner? If so, that was a good highlight. I did not like to see her leave the convent, but yet she was a lovely bride and looked very happy. Dr. Turner looked very happy, as well as his son Timothy.
I have seen some very scary childbirth scenes in Call the Midwife. I realize upon reading some backstage reports that some of the newborn infants are fake and some are real. The women screaming in the painful agony of childbirth: I turned down the sound when my husband was in the room. He would not understand. He is my second husband, and was not part of my life when I had two sons (now grown) with my first husband. The screaming sounds real. It is so heartbreaking. One poignant day was when Nurse Cynthia births a baby who ends up deceased. Cynthia feels it is all her fault, and that she did something wrong. Only later is it revealed that the baby passed away from undeveloped lung structures.
The racism of the poor white women was appalling. Here was a kindly African woman in the throes of labor, and they wanted to ignore her. The actress who portrayed her was very good and convincing.
Of course, Chummy has the greatest humor (IRL well-known comedienne in UK), and naturally awesome one-liners. Her love affair with the constable was heartwarming. When Chummy hit him on her bicycle, that was so uproariously hilarious yet painfully embarrassing. He didn't get angry or call his lawyer, but he was instantly enamored of and attracted to her. They began a courtship, ending of course in their delightful wedding and her subsequent breech-birth (?) delivery of their son Fred - named after the convent's motor scooter-teaching and pig-raising handyman (I think he is the handyman, but I am not sure).
Judy Parfitt is a trip. The being lost, the stealing, the astrology, the phone answering and then forgetting what was said -- was there any name for Alzheimer's/dementia back then? Senility maybe.
Nurse Jenny is sweet. Sister Julienne (actress) I saw as a teenager in The Railway Children. Judy Parfitt I saw as the Queen in Ever After with Drew Barrymore. Vanessa Redgrave (unseen) I saw in Evening (TV) plus Camelot. The other sisters I had not seen before. Sister Evangelina's tart tongue reminds me of Mrs. Patmore on Downton Abbey. Trixie and Cynthia I like, also Jane. Jimmy is nice.
My own childbirths were early 1970s, U.S. I had general anesthesia with one, and spinal with the other. Both sons survived. They were delivered in the best hospital in our city, so I was told. The labors were quite painful, so some of these memories come back during Call the Midwife. Kudos to this series. Hope it continues for a long time.
The subject matter is really unique and absorbing and the acting superb! The complexity of the characters and their interaction, the humor, the secrets, the context, and the weight and undercurrents of its gracious messages have impacted us and continue to do so.
So many times it seems that these British series don't last and are canceled just as we are dedicated to them. It is rewarding to see "Call the Midwife" continuing on and we hope it does so for many years to come. We will continue to be fans as long as "Call the Midwife" lives!
Truth be told, I think it is a program that will attract more women than men simply because of the topic dealt with in every program. There is always at least one birth and they are filmed in such a way as to be very believable without being graphic,as we know they are not a real birth. Watching it,however,makes you believe it is. Well done BBC. I love it!
spoiler alert :-
The show highlights not only the difficulties faced by maternity services in the 50s but also the development and progression of services with the introduction of the NHS and the move away from home birth and towards hospital deliveries. The deliveries are mostly realistic and show many complications that women face that just aren't written about in other TV shows such as inverted uterus, eclampsia, still birth and babies born with abnormalities.
The characters are endearing and the story lines have often left me in tears of sadness and joy. Each episode is an emotional roller coaster. A real pleasure to watch.
The reason for its success on paper is simple. It features good actors, good story lines and is gentle viewing on a Sunday night. It's not afraid to tackle big issues, but there's always humour along the way.
The show has had to change over time, losing its main leading lady in Jessica Raine after series three and then dealing with Miranda Hart's decision to scale back her appearances.
The BBC's decision to commission multiple series ahead of time shows how much 'Call the Midwife' has touched the public's heart.
For those people who are reading this to decide whether they should watch it or not, I ask that you please give this show a chance to become one of your favorites as well!
I am not religious, but I find that it does not mater when it comes to this show though there are a lot of religious material in it, I can still find it enjoyable, because the main focus is on the story's of the births, and the family that was created at the Nonnatus house.