Posted by: ritagone | April 17, 2019

Call the Midwife

Well, if you were to put a gun to my head and ask me to name my favorite TV show of all time, I would have to say that it’s “Call the Midwife,” a British period piece of the late 1950’s into the early 60’s, set in an impoverished section of London near the River Thames. It’s based on the memoirs of midwife Jennifer Worth, whose aged voice-over which is heard at the opening and closing of the show is supplied by Vanessa Redgrave.  The cast is magnificent, the writing is beautiful, and the sets make you feel that you know what it was like to live in that place and during that time.

But what really wins my heart is the frequent use of voice-over narration like this, which was from last week’s episode dealing with a baby born with a cleft palate into a family of rambunctious siblings to a harried mother whose husband was at sea most of the year:

“We can decide to be happy, make much out of little, embrace the warmth of our ordinary days. Life unfolds, as a mystery, an enterprise whose outcome cannot be foretold. We do not get what we expect, we stumble on cracks, are faced with imperfection, bonds are tested and tightened, and our landscapes shift in sunshine and in shade.  There is light. There is. Look for it. Look for it shining over your shoulder on the past. It was light where you went once; it is light where you are now; it will be light where you will go again.”

How can anyone resist such beautiful sentiments expressed bravely and honestly at the end of an hour-long episode that wrings your emotions and makes you stop and think about humanity in all its glory and its gainliness?

For eight years this series has touched me and made me both laugh and cry.  I have watched characters come and go, age, die off, and battle such things as alcoholism or whether or not to stay in the calling of a nun or return to civilian life and marry.  There’s no spectacle the way there is with “Game of Thrones,” to be sure; just the occasional kids’ Christmas or Easter program where the little ones are dressed in costume and someone invariably goofs up a line or spills red punch on the outfit right before going onstage.

They’ve tackled subject matter that was controversial back in the day historically (abortion, Downs syndrome, wife beating) and remains so even today.  There is humor that comes at just the right time, as if the writers and producers know when to lighten up and let the audience laugh instead of cry. (And I’ll wager that’s exactly what they do know!)  I know many people love the sentimentality of “This Is Us” right now, but I find “Call the Midwife” much less manipulative, more touching in its story lines.  If you’re a “This Is Us” fan, in fact, watch an episode of each of the shows and see which one feels more sincere, less contrived.  I’d be interested in what you have to say.

In short, if you haven’t already guessed it, I love this show.  You can watch it on Netflix or Amazon Prime (but you have to pay for each episode on Prime), and if you’re looking for something really good, this is where I’m sending you.

Hey, have I ever steered you wrong before?

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