Call the Midwife (2019)

Call the Midwife (BBC One)

‘Every day dawns anew, every morning begins afresh…’ Like the first cuckoo of spring, the New Year hasn’t properly begun until we’ve heard Vanessa Redgrave heralding the return of Call the Midwife with one of her homespun fortune cookie philosophies.

But while it’s easy to mock, amidst all the fashionable talk of Netflix this and streaming that, Heidi Thomas’s East End saga continues to draw the biggest drama audience in Britain (Bodyguard aside).

This week, the East End was all aflutter over the imminent arrival of a royal baby (Prince Edward – who, continuing his thwarted showbiz ambitions, arrived off-camera). Of course, Her Majesty’s confinement was never going to take place at Nonnatus House – or as the waspish Nurse Crane (Linda Bassett) so memorably put it: ‘She isn’t likely to tip up here waving a jam jar full of urine.’

Lines like this could have been written by Victoria Wood, but at other times the show is in deadly earnest. Yes, it’s cloyingly sentimental in places – but a bathroom scene in which the midwives dealt with the aftermath of a botched backstreet abortion pulled no punches. And which other primetime drama would so unflinchingly tackle the subject of pregnant women’s piles?

Elsewhere, poor, muddled Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt) went wandering off without so much as touching her luncheon meat and Eccles cake, and a young actress called Jessica Clarke gamely growled and grunted her way through no fewer than three deliveries.

As it’s now 1964, hemlines are up, and a tower block has been introduced to the standing sets. There are also two fresh recruits (Fenalla Woolgar’s Sister Hilda and Ella Bruccoleri as the ‘green as grass’ Sister Frances), and the distinctly irreverent Miriam Margolyes has been installed as Mother Superior. Other than that, it’s business as usual for Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) and the gang – and nigh on 10 million loyal fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

Just time for a quick final word from our narrator: ‘There is hope. When the light shines in. Hope is another chapter. Hope is what comes next.’

Ah, lovely. Thanks Vanessa.


TV extra:

 

Death in Paradise (BBC One)

Call the Midwife wasn’t the only reliable winter warmer back this week: Amiable copper and part-time bingo caller Jack Mooney (Ardal O’Hanlon) also returned for another series of Caribbean Cluedo on the tropical island of Saint Marie, where the local fish is always red herring. This week’s case, involving a murder (obvs), a goat, a pair of swimming trunks and a lizard called Harry, was as daft as you’d expect – though still not quite as silly as Luther.

 

On Drums… Stewart Copeland! (BBC Four)

Drummer jokes? Former Police tubthumper Stewart Copeland has heard ’em all. But he got the last laugh in this excellent, good-natured documentary explaining how the humble bass drum pedal – discovered in New Orleans in the late 19thcentury – became the foundation for all rock and roll. And for an encore, he even made a convincing argument for The Beatles owing their success to Ringo. Consider that drum thoroughly banged.

 

Published in Waitrose Weekend, January 17 2019

(c) Waitrose Weekend