It seemed, last winter, that everyone and their cousin was obsessed with the British-TV-turned-PBS series, Downton Abbey ; even my husband was watching it (nightly!) on Netflix. It was quite a phenomenon, although – I’ll admit – entirely lost on me; I was in a particularly busy work spurt so didn’t really have a chance to get into the story line, but I guess it must have been good if something so… British, so PBS-ish, and so – I dunno – apparently dull (sorry) could capture such a broad American audience’s attention. Don’t get me wrong – I like British film and TV, I love PBS, and I can get as addicted to a good series (and Netflix’s “Watch Next Episode” button) as the next girl, but Jane Austen-esque period pieces have never been my thing. (Friday Night Lights? MadMen? I’m there.) I’d never have predicted that Downton Abbey would sweep the nation as it did, but, hey, it totally did – both in the UK and here – and it’ll surely do so again this winter, when its third season airs stateside. Maybe I’ll check it out and finally understand what the fuss is about. In the meantime, there’s another British series scheduled to air on PBS this fall that I definitely have a date with.
Take a look:
Call the Midwife , another period drama, looks (and sounds) from its trailer to be just about as British and PBS-ish as Downton Abbey, and it was similarly successful in its first season on British shores; it’s been the BBC’s most successful new drama since 2001. As a point of personal preference, I think its 1950s East London setting totally trumps any late-Victorian aristocrats’ country mansion, but I’m betting the ‘50s London thing will also appeal to both Downton and MadMen fans alike, landing in something of a sweet spot between the two similarly sensational, if very different, TV dramas. Call The Midwife has endless potential for dramatic story line gold, too: birth (obviously), death (see the trailer, above), lust, love, an attractive young heroine mistakenly landing herself in a convent? Oh, the possibilities. But the coolest part is that the series is based on real-life memoirs; its story line is, more or less, true.
Bonus Natural Parenting points, of course, go out to Call the Midwife for increasing midwifery’s visibility in the media, and thus in the public eye; the concept may not be all that foreign to British audiences – midwives still lead both hospital and home births far more frequently in the UK than they do in the US – but the American mainstream remains highly dubious of, and divided over, the very idea of midwife-assisted births. In its plot summary, the series’ official PBS webpage describes the midwives and nuns characters’ “primary work” as “help(ing to) bring safe childbirth to women in the area and to look after their countless newborns.” That midwives are presented in the series as credible birth professionals will be a boon to their real-life public image in the States today, where the practice of midwife-assisted home (and hospital) birth is beginning to make a comeback, but is still overwhelmingly misrepresented and misunderstood.
The series will premiere on PBS on September 30, and will also appear on Netflix in the near future.
Do you plan to watch it? Do you predict Call The Midwife will be as much of a hit as Downton Abbey was/is? Are you as excited for the 1950s-era sets, costumes and hair-do's as I am? Share your thoughts!