Review: New series of Call The Midwife shows why I was wrong to avoid BBC's nostalgic drama

I’ll be honest, I had thought the viewers of Call The Midwife (BBC1, Sun, 8pm) were the sort of people who read Helen Forrester novels and cover their toilet rolls with crocheted ladies.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 5:00 pm

And as I – a Midwife virgin, if you will – dived into the first episode of this tenth series, my prejudices were confirmed – everything seemed too clean and well-ordered for East End London in the 1960s, while elderly nuns wobbled on sticks, and women wore tabards to scrub the front step. The closest thing to drama was Jenny Agutter asking for “two spoons of Nescafe” in her morning coffee.

But then ‘stuff’ started to happen: talk of a partnership between the nuns of cash-strapped Nonnatus House and a swanky private hospital up west; births going wrong; racial integration as Caribbean immigrants struggle to make their way in a prejudiced society.

In fact, this one episode covered not just these issues, but also feminism, the role of nurses and midwives in modern medicine, thalidomide and the aftermath of Britain’s nuclear tests in the south Pacific.

Leonie Elliott stars as Nurse Lucille in Call The Midwife
Leonie Elliott stars as Nurse Lucille in Call The Midwife

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Call The Midwife is not a fluffy nostalgia-fest, it is proper drama, with a definite sense that the past is not always ‘a golden era’ when kids played out in the street all day and the only snowflakes fell from the sky.

I underestimated it, and now I have nine series to catch up on. Once I’ve finished Tuppence to Cross the Mersey, that is.

I know I keep banging on about it, but this week’s Taskmaster (Channel 4, Thurs, 9pm) contains one of the funniest sequences I’ve seen in a long time – puerile, but utterly hilarious. Please watch.

Make Up: A Glamorous History (BBC2 Tues, 9pm) was an unexpected pleasure, full of historic titbits about the role of appearance in Georgian society, politics and power games.

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