I have to admit to having been somewhat sceptical about the Beeb’s period drama Call the Midwife when it first hit our screens in 2012. Skimming through the details in the exuberant press pack, I shuddered at the thought of yet another drama treading ground Heartbeat and The Royal had already covered. Luckily, and as so often happens (you’d think I’d be wise to it by now), I was pleasantly surprised by a programme that wasn’t so much a novelty, but a breath of fresh air.
Jennifer Worth’s best-selling books had been given the full BBC Monty, and the end result was pure TV heaven. Jessica Raine in the leading role of Jenny Lee was engaging and entertaining, while the holy supporting trio of Judy Parfitt, Pam Ferris and Jenny Agutter proved that even in ridiculous-looking headwear, great acting will out.
Far from being a Heartbeat clone, Call the Midwife trod its own path, shedding light on Britain’s post-war years, from the social and financial difficulties faced by ordinary families, to the change in common attitudes towards issues such as abortion and racism.
The show might have looked as cosy as a cuddle, but rather enjoyably, there was plenty of meat on its bones – and no small dose of edge too. Yet the biggest surprise for me was Miranda Hart. She could so easily have overshadowed proceedings with her larger-than-life personality, but her alter ego Chummy was every bit as brilliant and loveable a character as the others. By the time the credits rolled on the last episode of series two, with Chummy expecting her first baby and the achingly vulnerable Sister Bernadette finally choosing Dr Turner over the church (whoopdeedoo!), I was hopelessly addicted, and am desperate to find out what the women of Nonnatus House have in store for us for the festive special.
It’s going to be interesting to see what the team behind the drama comes up with, when you remember all of Jennifer Worth’s original material has been used up by the first two seasons. I’m hoping Shelagh and Patrick’s wedding will be among the action of the Christmas episode – it seems like too good an opportunity to miss – and we’re sure to see more of Chummy and Peter’s young son.
But will Nonnatus House still be standing? Fans will remember everyone (okay, me) was horrified when the place was earmarked for demolition (they wouldn’t, would they?), leaving both nuns and midwives facing an uncertain future. Fingers crossed it’s a question that’s answered in the forthcoming special.
Of course, no episode of CTM would be complete without the arrival of a newborn or two, and no doubt with a few complications to up the ante. Though considering the quality of everything that has preceded it, I really hope the powers-that-be won’t be so cliched as to pick up on the Yuletide theme and serve up a birth that echoes the Nativity.
Call me daft, but I reckon Sisters Evangeline, Monica Joan and Julienne wouldn’t have a bar of it.
Call the Midwife can be seen Christmas Day at 6.15pm on BBC ONE
Contributed by Scheenagh Harrington