On The Bandwagon: “Call The Midwife”

call the midwife

Every week in On The Bandwagon, Marissa Morales gives you recommendations for all the TV you really should be watching by now.

Have that Downton Abbey withdrawl, America? I know I do, and while it’s airing overseas, we won’t see it until January. JANUARY. It sucks, but thankfully PBS has given us another gem, Call the Midwife, which serves as an excellent filler in the mean time.

Call the Midwife is based on a memoir by Jennifer Worth of same name. It only makes sense that our central character’s name is Jenny (Jessica Raine), and Jenny has been trained as a nurse in London in a post-World War II England. She gets a job in East London, which turns out to be a very different world than she expected. First of all, the job is with an order of nuns. Second, it is DIRTY. East London was gross, complete with a scene of maggots under a plate of biscuits. Not ideal for a nurse, who serves as a midwife. The nuns that Jenny lives with are fun, including a batty older woman (Judy Parfitt) who makes obscure remarks but serves as excellent comic relief in a show that can really rip your heart out. The first episode has two other women who are trained in nursing, also serving in the nunnery as midwives, Trixie (Helen George) and Cynthia (Bryony Hannah). Every couple episodes, each of them gets a nice subplot that involves a patient.

That’s really where the show is to be appreciated most: its cases. Initially, I wasn’t sure how many weird cases you could set in East London, but it turns out there’s a lot that can get weird. This includes, but is not limited to: A woman who has been having kids since the age of 13, a black baby born to white parents and a kidnapped baby. I know I may not be making this sound like the most interesting thing, but I promise you, it is.

The second episode introduces Chummy, played by Miranda Hart. Those familiar with the actress are probably having the same moment I did: “How in the fuck did she land a PBS show? And why hasn’t she sooner!” While she isn’t as free to be as funny as she is on Miranda, the character of Chummy is still awesome and is worth squealing with delight when she appears onscreen, particularly when it comes to watching her attempt to ride a bike.

If you’re looking for the same romantic intrigue that Downton gives, so far, you won’t find it here, though the show has just introduced a new character named Jimmy that is possibly going to be a love interest for Jenny. There is also a romantic interest for Chummy, which is just awesome when you think about it. The only character that has a romantic plot thus far is named Chummy. Come on, that’s pretty great. Most of the romance in the show is limited to the parents of the children, or even to an old widowed man. I appreciate that in a drama, as it’s easy to rely on that to make a show interesting, and it’s refreshing to see a show rely on the medicine.

This show is also awesome for folks who have interest in history, because boy is it interesting to see East London in the 1950s. I realize that might come off as sarcastic, but it’s true. The way medicine worked, and even midwifery in general is a pretty fascinating topic. Especially when you see how “old hat” giving birth was to a lot of women. Most of the time they knew the drill, and didn’t see making a big fuss of it.

This show came out at a great time, as it’s allowing PBS to snowball on the success of Downton Abbey, ala AMC’s Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Call the Midwife is something a little different, and definitely worth watching. There’s already awards buzz surrounding the show once the first season has finished airing here in the States (the first series has already finished airing in the UK) and it would be awesome if the show could garner a strong viewer base. We all want to be ahead of the curve when it comes to TV, so do yourself a favor and hop on board. Plus, it’s PBS, so there’s no excuse of “I don’t have cable!” It also allows you to be the smug bastard that watches PBS, so win-win!

PBS is currently airing the new season on Sunday and Wednesday evenings here in Chicago, but as it’s PBS, be sure to check your local listings. This article may not have completely done the show justice, but come on, how good are you at explaining how good Downton Abbey is? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Watch this show, please!