I watched the much-awaited "Call the Midwife" Xmas special the other night. And I'm very disappointed. Why is it that series cannot seem to stay brilliant for longer than a couple seasons?
I have been a devoted fan of “Call the Midwife" since it has been available in the States. I loved the focus on the interrelationships among the midwives themselves, among the nuns themselves, and then between the two groups. Each episode focused on particular people they worked with out in the community, mostly women, many of them poor. We saw how the people lived and the roles the keen midwives/nurses played in dealing with deprivation, abuse, and need.
When there was a boyfriend on the side, it was often an interesting dynamic. For example, after much blushing and shuffling, the super-tall, physically awkward, downwardly mobile Chummy (played by the comedian Miranda Hart) married the dorky local constable after a clunky and sweet romance.
This week’s 90-minute Xmas special – a teaser meant to keep us hooked in until we are served the third season – seems to have lost that special unique approach. Instead it relied on a big disaster (a device often used – as in “Grey’s Anatomy” – when a series is no longer able to come up with authentic human stories) which led to much of the town being crowded into a hall from which emanated no noise whatsoever when one heterosexual couple or the other had their private moments in conveniently empty rooms.
The midwives we grew to love as we watched them develop through pride in their profession and their ability to do good in the community have been turned into simpering, giggly girls all tittering over love of a good man. This was discouraging.
Americans see this show very differently than the original British audience. I read an article in The Independent newspaper in which the writer/producer Heidi Thomas explained, “In America, midwifery is a minority profession… Over here 82 per cent of babies are delivered by midwives, but in America only 8 per cent of babies are – and they’re often [from families who are] Christian or follow an alternative hippy way of life. It’s seen as quite radical.”
No longer radical. If this special indicates the tone that the third season is going to take, the nuns are no longer going to be nuanced and prickly characters, the midwives are soon going to be just a bunch of wives, and the show is going to be more Hollywoodish schmaltz than a tribute to the potential of socialized medicine to support communities.