Everyone has heard of Sherlock and Doctor Who, but Call the Midwife is the BBC’s hidden gem waiting to be discovered by Americans. The show, set in the late 1950’s, focuses on Nonnatus House, where midwives and nurses work with women and mothers in Poplar, London. The show was created by Heidi Thomas, and many episodes are written and directed by women, so it’s a show about women, written and produced by women, for women. Each episode brings in different patients, and the show has covered all kinds of conditions and special cases. So, why watch?
Nonnatus House is run by Sister Julienne, who always seems to have the right answers. Her backstory, revealed in later seasons, is touching. Sister Monica Joan is easily the crowd favorite, an elderly nun who is too old to work, but remains the heart of Nonnatus House – and prone to stealing things and reciting poetry. Sister Winifred is trickier to like, but her views that would be considered problematic now reflect the time the show is set in. Sister Mary Cynthia, formerly just Cynthia, is one of the show’s most brave and interesting characters. The actress who played Mrs. Trunchbull in Matilda plays Sister Evangelina, a staunch believer in old rules with a hidden soft heart.
Nonnatus House employs and houses several nurses. Jessica Raine’s Jenny Lee is the real life inspiration for the show, which is based on the memoir of Jennifer Worth, also titled Call the Midwife. After Raine’s departure from the show, Helen George rose up and stole the show with her portrayal of Trixie Franklin, whose sparkling personality masks her deeper insecurities. Nurses Patsy Mount and Delia Busby are both strong and funny, and their story will certainly break your heart and make you cheer within episodes. Nurse Phyllis Crane seems feisty at first, but quickly becomes friends with the younger nurses, especially Nurse Barbara Gilbert. Barbara is very innocent and kind-hearted, making the audience root for her. For comedic relief, Nurse “Chummy” Noakes is always good for a lighthearted line and a laugh.
The nurses and nuns all truly love and respect each other. Their bond with each other is so admirable and believable. It’s rare to see on modern television, which normally wants to only have a woman be a love interest or a villain, and certainly doesn’t show enough strong female friendships. The show does have some romantic relationships, and Shelagh (formerly Sister Bernadette) and Patrick Turner are easily one of the best ‘ships on television. From being forbidden to be together to having children, they have created a beautiful life together. And who could forget that Chummy and Peter met when she hit him with her bicycle?
In its six seasons, Call the Midwife has only had five male characters as regular actors, as opposed to the fifteen female actresses who have played regular characters. Dr. Patrick Turner is Poplar’s main doctor who works with the Nonnatuns, and advocates for all patients to receive the best care possible. Fred Buckle is Nonnatus’ handyman, and takes up lots of odd jobs throughout the years. Reverend Tom Hereward manages to get tangled up in romantic relationships with two different nurses, but his heart is in the right place. While the men who feature regularly on Call the Midwife all seem to be gentlemen, there are a fair share of male characters on the show who represent the cruel side of human nature.
As previously mentioned, the show is based on memoirs from an actual Poplar midwife. The show chronicles things like the post-war baby boom, the invention of gas and air to relieve pain during deliveries, the invention of birth control, and the thalidomide baby tragedy. Every case is unique, and the Nonnatus nurses double as district nurses who take care of mostly homebound patients.
This is just a preview of all the characters and goings-on in Call the Midwife. The show is about to start it’s seventh season and already renewed for seasons eight and nine. Call the Midwife is the perfect binge-watch show for anyone who loves historical dramas and females supporting females. The first six seasons and Christmas specials are available on Netflix now.
GIFs from giphy.
Cover photo courtesy of The BBC.