Call the Midwife
|Call the Midwife|
|Created by||Heidi Thomas|
|Based on||Memoirs of Jennifer Worth|
|Narrated by||Vanessa Redgrave
(voice of mature Jenny)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||23 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Pippa Harris
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Neal Street Productions|
|Original channel||BBC One
BBC One HD
|Original run||15 January 2012– present|
Call the Midwife is a BBC period drama series about a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London in the 1950s. It stars Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Helen George, Bryony Hannah, Laura Main, Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris, Judy Parfitt, Cliff Parisi, Stephen McGann, Ben Caplan, Emerald Fennell, and Victoria Yeates. The series was created by Heidi Thomas, originally based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth but since expanded to include new, historically sourced material. The first series of six episodes premiered in the UK on 15 January 2012. The series is produced by Neal Street Productions, a production company founded and owned by the film director and producer Sam Mendes, Call the Midwife Executive Producer Pippa Harris and Caro Newling. Call the Midwife achieved very high ratings in its first series, making it the most successful new drama series on BBC One since 2001. A second series of eight episodes aired in the UK in early 2013. The series achieved a consolidated series average of 10.47 million viewers. A third 8-part series aired in the UK from January 2014, with a consolidated average of 10.53 million.
The autumn 2012 PBS broadcast of the first series of Call the Midwife in the United States received widespread critical acclaim, earning a Metacritic score of 8.0. The Wall Street Journal declared that "this immensely absorbing drama is worth any trouble it takes to catch up with its singular pleasures", while The Washington Post stated that "the cast is marvellous, the gritty, post-war set pieces are meticulously recreated". TV Guide called the series "a delight to watch", while the San Francisco Chronicle described it as "sentimental, poignant and often heartbreaking".
The plot follows newly qualified midwife Jenny Lee and the work of midwives and the nuns of Nonnatus House, a nursing convent, part of an Anglican religious order, coping with the medical problems in the deprived Poplar district of London's desperately poor East End in the 1950s. The Sisters and midwives carry out many nursing duties across the community. However, with between 80 and 100 babies being born each month in Poplar alone, the primary work is to help bring safe childbirth to women in the area and to look after their countless newborns.
Cast and characters
Nurse Jenny Lee arrives at Nonnatus House in 1957, at the age of 22, completely unaware of the world she is about to enter. Believing she has accepted a job with a small private hospital, she is somewhat surprised to find she's moving into a convent. Furthermore, the deprivation of the East End is a huge culture shock for the young woman who has enjoyed a privileged upbringing in the home counties, and spent time in Paris before training as a nurse. However, although initially shocked by the conditions in which her patients live, Jenny comes to accept the material limitations of the world in which she works, and to love the people who must live there. She went to London to escape her forbidden love to a married man, Gerald. Her best friend Jimmy arrives and although he makes her feel more at ease, he also makes things more complicated by revealing that he's in love with her. She turns him down and they remain friends. She becomes good friends with all of her fellow colleagues and patients and always tries to help those around her. Toward the end of Series 2 and midway through Series 3, she starts dating Alec, a friend of Jimmy's. After Alec's death and her return to Nonnatus House after taking time off to grieve, Jenny decides to begin working at the London Hospital in the Maternity Ward she although leaves soon after, not liking the hospital's policy of having an impersonal relationship between patient and nurse. At the end of Series 3, she meets Phillip Worth (her future husband), the cousin of an expectant mother she is caring for and begins a relationship with him. She eventually decides to pursue a career change to care for those with terminal illnesses, and leaves Nonnatus House to work at Marie Curie Hospital in Hampstead.
- Miranda Hart as Nurse Camilla "Chummy" Browne (née Camilla Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne), later Camilla "Chummy" Noakes
Camilla Cholmeley-Browne, otherwise known as Chummy, is the daughter of a prominent family who has found her way into nursing and midwifery by a circuitous route. Eternally good-humoured and monumentally kind, Chummy is crippled by lack of self-confidence. Her great height and physical clumsiness play their parts, but a loveless childhood spent in boarding schools has made the greater impact. An adept midwife, she is hampered by acute shyness and - perhaps more crucially – a complete inability to ride a bike. Chummy soon wins the hearts of her colleagues, but her struggle for self-belief always threatens to capsize her. By the end of season 1 after a string of dates she marries Police Constable Peter Noakes. In Series 2, Chummy applies for a place as a CMS missionary in Sierra Leone, Africa. She gets accepted, and she and Peter move to Africa for six months. Upon their return Chummy reveals that she is pregnant, much to the delight of her fellow nurses. In the final episode Chummy goes into labour, and despite complications she gives birth to a son, Fred. Chummy once stated that she had never been happier than when she was at Nonnatus House.
- Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne
Sister Julienne is the sister-in-charge and most experienced midwife at Nonnatus House. She is both deeply religious and profoundly practical, and confers dignity on her patients through her sensitive, non-judgmental approach. She is often called upon to mediate between her fellow sisters when they quarrel with her tact and gentleness. By necessity, Sister Julienne conceals a steel fist in a velvet glove, managing her charges and fellow sisters alike with a combination of tact and no-nonsense advice. Her steadfast, compassionate guidance makes her an anchor for her colleagues, and in a very real way it is she who holds the inhabitants of Nonnatus House together. She always offers comfort and help to the young midwives and also has a notably close, warm, and maternal relationship with Sister Bernadette, serving as her chief mentor and confidante.
- Pam Ferris as Sister Evangelina
Sister Evangelina is the only one of the sisters who comes from the same tough, uncompromising background as the community they serve. Physically vigorous, she has a robust sense of humour. Her energy and drive make her extraordinarily effective at her job. However, she does not suffer fools gladly, and her blunt speech often offends. She has a particularly contentious relationship with the aristocratic Sister Monica Joan, who often provokes her to breaking point. Growing up in poverty has toughened her up, making her into a very comical character in the show. Sister Evangelina knows a lot about the poverty and hardships in Poplar and often shares her insights with the young midwives. She is very close with Sister Julienne, to whom she often serves as a sounding board. In Series 3, it is revealed she has a younger brother, Vincent, and her Christian name is Enid.
- Judy Parfitt as Sister Monica Joan
Born into a leading titled family, Sister Monica Joan was one of the first women in Britain to qualify as a midwife. In the closing years of the 19th century, this was seen as a radical act. Her additional decision to become a nun scandalised her relatives, who never came to terms with her life choices. She dedicated her entire adult life to providing midwifery services to the poor of the East End. Now in her 90s, Sister Monica Joan has retired from practice, but lives full-time at Nonnatus House, cared for by her fellow sisters. She has an eccentric, mercurial personality, and is obsessed with cake, astrology and knitting, in no particular order. She has a very different nature from Sister Evangelina's, and misses no opportunity to bait her. It is never entirely clear how much of Sister Monica Joan's eccentricity is due to the frailty of age, or (as Jenny suspects) sheer wilful naughtiness. She has a habit of devouring all the cakes, leading them to try to hide them from her. She also knits woolen teddy bears, and casts her horoscope in the stars and planets in order to tell her future. In the final episode of Series 1, after recovering from pneumonia, she is arrested for stealing from the market. Later, she is suspected of stealing a ring, a bracelet, and a pearl necklace found in her possession. But, Mother Jeasu (nun) testifies that Sister Monica Joan inherited those items from her mother. She is acquitted and gets back all the suspected stolen possessions that were taken from her: some ribbons, a handkerchief, a china robin, and several other things. In Series 2, she reconciles with her nephew and his family, fears that she is useless, spends a lot of money on taxis to see her nephew, much to the chagrin of Sister Julienne, recovers from angina, escapes a holiday with Sister Evangelina to Chichester, judges a baby show, and pays for a child's funeral. Sister Monica Joan is very close to, and gets on well with, Jenny and Jane. Her real name is revealed to be "Antonia Keville".
- Helen George as Nurse Beatrix "Trixie" Franklin
Nurse Beatrix Franklin, otherwise known as Trixie, is a bright, bubbly, glamorous girl in her mid-twenties who is already living and working at Nonnatus House when Jenny arrives. All fully fashioned nylons and lush red lipstick with platinum-blonde hair, Trixie loves jazz and dancing, smokes Sobranie cigarettes and is a bit of a flirt. She has a much more outgoing disposition than Jenny, but the two share the sense of adventure in their work and become firm friends. Trixie loves nothing more than gossiping with her fellow colleagues and is quite nosy when it comes to other people's business. She occasionally comes across as a bit rude, but she means no harm by it. When it comes to her friends, she takes great pleasure in teasing them about what is going on in their lives. She is caring but no-nonsense to her patients, and is encouraging at hopeless times. She is light and carefree, jokes a lot, tries to set her colleagues up with boys, and is generally a little boy-mad. Nevertheless, it is clear that, at least for now, Trixie's work is first in her life.
- Bryony Hannah as Nurse Cynthia Miller
Nurse Cynthia Miller, like Trixie, is also a resident at Nonnatus House when Jenny appears. Caring, stoical, and intelligent, she finds her midwifery work both challenging and rewarding, a highly desirable alternative to the dull domesticity that would otherwise be her only option. Quiet, gentle, timid and sensitive, and also in her early twenties, Cynthia becomes Jenny's confidante and lifelong friend. Cynthia is the most sensitive of the young midwives and takes some of her patients' stories quite personally, and gets very emotionally involved. In Series 2, when a child she delivers dies, the people of Poplar suspect her of making a mistake that cost the baby its life. Cynthia begins to doubt her abilities, which takes a heavy toll on her work and health. Cynthia starts crying and suffers a breakdown, but recovers with the help of Sister Julienne and an autopsy report that confirms that the baby's death was due to lungs that never fully inflated.
- Laura Main as Sister Bernadette, later Shelagh Turner
Sister Bernadette is in her early 30s – the closest in age to Jenny and the other lay midwives. She is the most educated of the nuns and tutors the other nurses whilst providing administrative assistance to Sister Julienne, sometimes covering as her deputy. A consummate professional, she has a fresh, uncomplicated approach to her work that means she connects well with Jenny and her other colleagues. In one episode, she is shown to remove her veil, take her hair down, and take her glasses off, expressing her hidden desire to be free. In series 2, it becomes clear that Sister Bernadette is lonely and unhappy, questioning whether the convent is her calling, and wishes to do what the other young midwives of her age are doing: going out to the cinema, dancing, etc. One scene shows Sister Bernadette looking in on the midwives' room while they are drinking and gossiping, but then the door closes; it is a life that cannot be opened to her while she remains a nun. In another, Sister Monica Joan points out that she spends most of her time praying for forgiveness. Sister Bernadette eventually breaks down and turns to Sister Julienne for help, confessing that what she really wants is a family and children of her own. As of the 2012 Christmas Special and from Series 2 onward, it becomes clear that Sister Bernadette has fallen in love with the local physician, Dr Turner. After recovering from a short bout of tuberculosis, Sister Bernadette leaves the convent and reverts to her birth name of Shelagh. She becomes engaged to Dr Turner, who has also fallen in love with her. They marry in the 2013 Christmas Special and she becomes stepmother to his 11 year old son Timothy/ They later adopt a baby girl called Angela.
- Cliff Parisi as Fred Buckle
Fred is the handyman at Nonnatus house. He is friends with all of the midwives and often gives them help and advice. He's always got a new money-making scheme under his belt, but none of them are ever much good. Fred is the father of at least two daughters, one of them being Dolly, who has two children, Anthony and Samantha, making him a grandfather. Before becoming the handyman at Nonnatus he was in the army during which time his wife was killed leaving his daughters to be shuffled around between several of his family members which cause him great pain and with thoughts of deserting the army.
- Stephen McGann as Dr. Patrick Turner
Dr Turner is Poplar's local physician. He works closely with the midwives, helping at clinics, deliveries and at the birthing hospital, and is incredibly dedicated to his patients and to his work, including fighting bureaucratic red tape to save lives with a tuberculosis x-ray screening van. He is a widower and father to Timothy, and does his best to juggle the demands of being a single parent with his responsibilities as a doctor. In Series 2, it becomes apparent that he has fallen in love with Sister Bernadette, but her vows stand between them. After her diagnosis with tuberculosis forces her to examine what she truly wants, he makes it quietly clear to her that while the decision is hers, he is in love with her and wishes to share his life with her. She leaves the convent and chooses a different path, accepting his proposal of marriage after she has overcome her tuberculosis.
- Ben Caplan as Police Constable Peter Noakes
Peter is a Police Constable in Poplar. He is first introduced in Series 1, when he is forcibly run over by Chummy on her bicycle and takes an immediate shine to her. Throughout series 1, they go on a string of dates, eventually marrying in the series' final episode. In series 2, he follows Chummy to Sierra Leone while she fulfills her desire to be a missionary. In the final episode of that series, he and Chummy have a baby, whom they name Fred.
- Victoria Yeates as Sister Winifred (Series 3–)
Sister Winifred arrives at Nonnatus House at the beginning of Series 3. Sister Winifred is the same age as Jenny, Trixie and Cynthia. She finds midwifery hard. She tries twice to make a harvest loaf for the Harvest Festival, stating 'my mother made it look so easy.' She eventually succeeds on the second attempt. She seems to be close to new nurse Patsy.
- Emerald Fennell as Nurse Patsy Mount (Series 3–)
Patsy is mid twenties, tall, elegant and favours slightly tailored clothes. She joins Nonnatus House to help cover the work load in Jenny's absence. Patsy has boundless energy, and is prodigiously strong, never blinking in the face of hard work or physical privation. Her robust common sense and frank manner prove rather a tonic at a time when Nonnatus House is feeling overworked. Patsy and Trixie become room mates and enjoy many a late night drink and a cigarette. However, despite her no-nonsense approach she is slightly more guarded than she first appears, and is not entirely easy to get to know; it is eventually revealed that as a 9-year in Singapore she was, her mother and sister were placed in a Japanese internment camp, where they experienced torture and starvation. Only Patsy survived.
- George Rainsford as James "Jimmy" Wilson
Jimmy is an old friend of Jenny's. In Series 1, Jimmy is madly in love with Jenny, even though she is in love with somebody else. Jimmy soon realizes this and stops pursuing her. In Series 2, the tables are turned, when Jimmy returns, having secured a job on the council. Jenny's head is instantly turned, but unfortunately she discovers that Jimmy is engaged to Francine, whom Jenny met at the prenatal clinic. Jimmy and Francine then marry and have a baby, Caroline.
- Max Macmillan as Timothy Turner
Timothy is the son of Dr Patrick Turner. He is a bright, inquisitive young boy who always manages to get himself into a bit of trouble. His mother died when he was young, so he desperately craves the attention of his father. Nevertheless, he is quite independent and can look after himself, and never hesitates to make good-natured fun of his father's foibles. He develops a close relationship with Sister Bernadette, who later becomes engaged to his father. In the 2013 Christmas Special, Timothy develops polio from which he recovered although he does have supports when walking.
- Dorothy Atkinson as Jane Sutton
Jane is the medical orderly at Nonnatus house. She arrives to fill in for Chummy while Chummy is in Africa. Jane is very shy and does not talk unless it is necessary. We later find out the reason for her being shy - her parents sent her to an asylum when she was young, leaving her with no self-esteem. Throughout the series, she grows in confidence and makes friends with her fellow nurses. She also finds love with Reverend Applebee-Thornton (Jason Watkins), a local Anglican priest. She does not return for Series 3.
- Leo Staar as Alec Jesmond
A friend of Jimmy's who develops romantic feelings for Jenny and they eventually start dating. Alec admits his love for Jenny but she did not return it at the time. After an argument with Jenny, he falls through an old staircase at work. In the hospital, his foot is amputated and seems to be recovering. He later dies, thought to be because of a blood clot in his wounded leg, and his funeral is attended by a distraught Jenny, the other midwives and the nuns.
A second series of Call the Midwife was immediately commissioned after the drama's opening episode attracted an audience of nearly 10 million viewers. The second episode increased its audience to 10.47 million, while the third continued the climb to 10.66. Episode 4's rating of 10.89 million overtook 2010 ITV hit Downton Abbey as the largest first series audience for original drama on British television in recent years.
In the United States, the series 1 transmission on PBS drew an average household audience rating of 2.1, translating into 3.0 million viewers – 50 percent above PBS' primetime average for the 2011–12 season.
The second series opened with a record overnight audience of 9.3 million UK viewers, going on to achieve a consolidated series average of 10.47 million viewers. This was almost two million above the slot average, and by some distance the most popular UK drama in every week of transmission. When viewing figures from BBC's iPlayer video streaming service and a narrative repeat were included as part of the BBC Live Plus 7 metric, the total number of viewers per week was found to be almost 12 million.
The critical reception for series two has praised the program's sharp blend of prime-time period charm and hard-hitting social commentary. Caitlin Moran in The Times called this "an iron hand in a velvet glove", while Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph lauded its ability to "tickle the middle of the brow while touching the most anguished parts of the human condition". In particular, commentators have noted the attention given to female social issues in the drama's post-war, pre-pill setting. Alison Graham in the Radio Times dubbed Call the Midwife "a magnificently subversive drama" and "the torchbearer of feminism on television," while Caitlin Moran claimed the series encapsulated "how unbelievably terrifying, dreary and vile it was to be a working-class woman 60 years ago."
In May 2012, BBC Worldwide and the American Public Broadcasting Service PBS announced that the first season of Call the Midwife would premier in the United States on 30 September 2012. BBC Worldwide has also sold the series to SVT (Sweden); NRK (Norway); RÚV (Iceland); Yle (Finland); AXN White (Spain; Portugal); ERT (Greece); ABC in Australia and TVNZ in New Zealand, where its debut recorded a 35% share of the audience – 20% above average. In July 2012 BBC Worldwide announced it has sold the worldwide Video on Demand rights of the series to Netflix. According to BBC Worldwide America executive vice-president of sales and co-productions Matt Forde, BBC expects to sign another 13 to 15 deals for Call the Midwife with other international download-to-own and VoD services by the end of 2012.
In February 2013, BBC Worldwide reported that Call the Midwife had been sold in over one hundred global territories, with global sales contributing to the UK's position as the second largest TV exporter behind the United States.
In February 2014, the BBC reported that international sales of Call the Midwife had increased to almost 200 territories.
Awards and nominations
|2012||British Academy Television Craft Awards||Best Costume Design||Amy Roberts||Nominated|
|British Academy Television Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Miranda Hart||Nominated|
|Prix Europa||Best Episode of a TV Fiction Series or Serial||Call The Midwife||Nominated|
|TV Fiction||Call The Midwife||Nominated|
|TV Choice Awards, UK||Best Actress||Miranda Hart||Won|
|Best New Drama||Call The Midwife||Won|
|2013||National Television Awards||Drama Performance: Female||Miranda Hart||Won|
|TV and Radio Industries Club Award||Drama Programme of the Year||Call The Midwife||Won|
|Royal Television Society||Best Drama Series||Call The Midwife||Nominated|
|Christopher Award||TV and Cable Prize||Call The Midwife||Won|
|British Academy Television Craft Awards||Director - Fiction||Philippa Lowthorpe||Won|
|Make up and Hair Design||Christine Walmesley-Cotham||Won|
|British Academy Television Awards||Audience award||Call the Midwife||Nominated|
|TV Choice Awards, UK||Best Actress||Miranda Hart||Won|
|Best Drama Series||Call The Midwife||Nominated|
|2014||National Television Awards||Drama Performance: Female||Miranda Hart||Nominated|
|Best Drama||Call the Midwife||Nominated|
|Satellite Award||Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television||Judy Parfitt||Nominated|
|TV and Radio Industries Club Award||Drama Programme of the Year||Call The Midwife||Nominated|
Many of the exterior scenes are shot at the Chatham Historic Dockyard.
On 11 February 2013, Ben Stephenson, BBC Controller for Drama, announced that he had commissioned a 2013 Christmas special, and a third series of eight episodes to air in 2014.
DVD and Blu-ray
The first season was released in a Region 2, two-disc set on 12 March 2012. Season 2 was scheduled for release on 1 April 2013 in the UK (region 2) with a collector's edition, Call the Midwife Collection, containing Seasons 1, 2 and the 2012 Christmas Special, released on the same date.
In Australia (region 4), ABC released the DVD of Season 1 on 10 October 2012, shortly after it finished airing on ABC1.
In the United States, the first season was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 6 November 2012. Season 2 was scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 18 June 2013. Season 3 was released on Blu-ray on 20 May 2014.
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- Sweney, Mark (23 January 2012). "BBC Calls the Midwife for a second series". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 6 March 2012.
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- Stuever, Hank (29 October 2012). "'Call the Midwife': Keep calm and puuush". The Washington Post. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
- "Weekend TV: Homeland, Dexter, PBS' Midwife, Fringe, More". 29 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
- "'Call the Midwife' review: Heartwarming". The San Francisco Chronicle. 29 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
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- "BBC AND PBS TO BRING SECOND SEASON OF CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED DRAMA "CALL THE MIDWIFE" TO THE U.S.". Retrieved 6 December 2012.
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- "BBC Live Plus 7 metric adds iPlayer viewing to programme stats". Research. 29 November 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
- "Record number of delegates head to biggest ever BBC Worldwide Showcase in Liverpool to celebrate a significant anniversary: Notes to Editor". 12 February 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- "Caitlin Moran on TV: Call the radical feminist". The Times. 26 January 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- Pearson, Allison (13 March 2013). "Women's have-it-all fantasy often spells heartbreak". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- "Call the Midwife is the torchbearer of feminism on television". Radio Times. 24 February 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- "BBC WORLDWIDE and PBS Sign Deal to Bring Critically Acclaimed Show to the US". 15 May 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "Πρόγραμμα Τηλεόρασης" [NET program on Tuesday 16 October 2012] (in Greek). ERT online. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
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- "TV-tablå". 19 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- "Record number of delegates head to biggest ever BBC Worldwide Showcase in Liverpool to celebrate a significant anniversary". 12 February 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- "British hit drama Downton Abbey leads way in TV exports". 22 March 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- "The BBC’s bestselling shows abroad". 25 February 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Newham Recorder 1 February 2012 page 24
- "QSMV Dominion Monarch". Retrieved 6 March 2012.
- "BBC Controller of Drama, Ben Stephenson, sets out his vision for drama on the BBC and announces new commissions". 11 February 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
- "Call the Midwife (DVD): Amazon.co.uk: Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Pam Ferris: Film & TV". Amazon.com. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
- "Call the Midwife Series 2(DVD)". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- "Call the Midwife Collection - Series 1-2 + Christmas Special [DVD]". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- "Call the Midwife: Season Two (2013)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- "Call the Midwife: Season Three (2014)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
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