Calling Attention to the Midwife

When hanging out with a group of friends this weekend, most of them were thrilled it was Sunday for the same reasons: “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones”.  Some threw the new HBO show “Silicon Valley” in there too.

Now I have mentioned before that I enjoy “Game of Thrones” just fine, and “Silicon Valley” has me very intrigued and entertained so far.  Now “Mad Men” is a show I tried very hard to like, but eventually gave up on.  But when I started thinking about which show I got most excited for on Sundays, I realized it wasn’t any of these.  It isn’t “Downton Abbey” when it is on, though I am usually pretty excited for it. It definitely isn’t “The Walking Dead”, which frequently piles up on my DVR.  I can’t even tell you why I bother to keep watching “Once Upon a Time”, as I genuinely have no idea what is happening anymore.

The show that never sits on the DVR for more than 24 hours though, that show is “Call the Midwife”.  This is a British import that airs on PBS. I probably wouldn’t have ever heard of this quiet little show were it not for a co-worker who seems to always know which British shows are on the air.  This show doesn’t aspire to transcend genres or tell some massively complicated story over the course of eight years.  this is a show whose greatest strength is its cast of characters.

I’d actually contend that, player for player, this show has the best written female characters on television. Old, young, midwife, nun, this show offers up almost a dozen regular female characters covering a huge range of life experiences.  The show, which is set in England post-WW2, centers on Nonnatus House, the home for nuns and midwives servicing the working class neighborhood.  The expecting mothers provide new storylines and drama, but the interpersonal relationships of the characters at Nonnatus as well as the men in their lives comprise a good percentage of each episode.  

The lead character is Jenny, but, to be honest, she is probably the weakest of the bunch.  It is the same problem of “Orange Is the New Black” in that the lead character has to stay grounded since she is the heart of the show, while the other characters get some of the juicier storylines, while Jenny doesn’t get much to do except fall in love with guy after guy only to decide she isn’t sure if she really loves them after all.

Even though Jenny’s romantic storylines kinda suck, her interactions with her peers are really why this show keeps me hooked.  Be it the lovably awkward Chummy, the nun with doubts, Sister Bernadette, or my vote for the unsung hero of this program, the quiet and caring Cynthia, I will watch, fully invested in what happens to them in a given week.

A while back, I lamented that there aren’t enough shows out there that I can watch and enjoy without having to do an extraordinarily close reading of every episode, watched in order.  This show answers the call.  Well-written, compelling, and digestable in just about whatever order you want, Call the Midwife is my Sunday show, as well as a show you should pay a house call to if you have the time.

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