Call the Midwife

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This article is about the TV adaptation. For the book, see Call the Midwife (book).
Call the Midwife
Series titles over a docklands terrace street
Created by Heidi Thomas
Based on Memoirs of Jennifer Worth
Starring
Narrated by Vanessa Redgrave
(voice of mature Jenny)
Composer(s)

Peter Salem

Maurizio Malagnini
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 5 (+ 4 specials)
No. of episodes 42 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Pippa Harris
Heidi Thomas
Producer(s) Hugh Warren
Cinematography Chris Seager
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) Neal Street Productions
Release
Original network BBC One
BBC One HD
Picture format 16:9 1080i
Audio format Stereo
Original release 15 January 2012 (2012-01-15) – present
External links
Website

Call the Midwife is a BBC period drama series about a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London in the late 1950s and early 1960s. 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, Victoria Yeates, Linda Bassett and Charlotte Ritchie. 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. The first series, set in 1957, premiered in the UK on 15 January 2012.

The series was created by Heidi Thomas, originally based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth who worked with the Community of St. John the Divine, an Anglican religious order, at their convent in the East End in London. The order was founded as a nursing order in 1849. The memoirs have since been expanded to include new, historically sourced material.[1] For the most part it depicts the day-to-day lives of the midwives and those in their local neighbourhood of Poplar, with certain historical events of the era having a direct or indirect effect on the characters and storylines. Such events include: the knock-on effects of the post-World War II baby boom, post-war immigration and the 1948 founding of the NHS in the first series and beyond; the introduction of gas and air as a form of pain relief and unexploded ordnance in the second series; the Child Migrants Programme and the threat of nuclear warfare (including emergency response guidelines issued by local Civil Defence Corps) in the fourth series; and the thalidomide scandal and the introduction of the contraceptive pill in the fifth series.

Call the Midwife achieved very high ratings in its first series, making it the most successful new drama series on BBC One since 2001.[2] Since then four more series of eight episodes each have aired year-on-year, along with an annual Christmas special broadcast every Christmas Day since 2012. It is also broadcast in the United States on the PBS channel, with the first series starting on September 30, 2012.[3] In December 2015, BBC director general Tony Hall announced the show had already been commissioned for a 2016 Christmas special and a sixth series of another eight episodes to be broadcast in early 2017, taking the characters and plot into 1962.[4] In November 2016, Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content, announced that the drama had been commissioned for a further three seasons of eight episodes and three more Christmas specials - taking the total number of seasons up to nine and the story into 1965.[5]

Critical reception for the show (in both the UK and the US) has been mostly positive, and the series has won numerous awards and nominations since its original broadcast.[6] The show has also been praised for tackling a variety of topical subjects and contemporary social, cultural and economic issues, including local community, miscarriage and stillbirths, abortion and unwanted pregnancies, birth defects, poverty, illness and disease epidemics, prostitution, incest, religion and faith, racism and prejudice, alcoholism, (illegal) homosexuality, and maternal, paternal and romantic love.

Plot[edit]

The plot follows newly qualified midwife Jenny Lee, and the work of midwives and the nuns of Nonnatus House, a nursing convent, and 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[edit]

For a detailed outline of each character, see List of Call the Midwife characters.

Call the Midwife is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, and the cast was therefore originally led by the author's character Jenny Lee, portrayed by Jessica Raine (as well as featuring narration - and a single one-off appearance in the 2014 Christmas Special - by Vanessa Redgrave as an older Jenny). Since Raine's departure at the end of series three, however, the show has become more of an ensemble piece, with characters featuring more or less prominently depending on the episodes and concurrent storylines. The following table outlines some of the major characters (and actors who played them) who have appeared over the course of the entire series, and in what capacity.

Actor Character Series
1 2 3 4 5
Jessica Raine Jennifer "Jenny" Lee
Main
Jenny Agutter Sister Julienne
Main
Pam Ferris Sister Evangelina
Main
Recurring
Judy Parfitt Sister Monica Joan
Main
Helen George Beatrix "Trixie" Franklin
Main
Bryony Hannah Cynthia Miller (later Sister Mary Cynthia)
Main
Recurring
Main
Miranda Hart Camilla "Chummy" Browne (later Noakes)
Main
Recurring
Main
Recurring
Laura Main Sister Bernadette (later Shelagh Turner)
Main
Stephen McGann Dr. Patrick Turner
Main
Cliff Parisi Frederick "Fred" Buckle
Main
Ben Caplan Police Constable Peter Noakes
Main
Recurring
Main
Recurring
Max Macmillan Timothy Turner
Recurring
Main
George Rainsford James "Jimmy" Wilson
Recurring
Cheryl Campbell Lady Browne
Recurring
Guest
Dorothy Atkinson Jane Sutton
Recurring
Leo Staar Alec Jesmond
Recurring
Emerald Fennell Patience "Patsy" Mount
Recurring
Main
Victoria Yeates Sister Winifred
Main
Jack Ashton Rev. Tom Hereward
Recurring
Main
Charlotte Ritchie Barbara Gilbert
Main
Linda Bassett Nurse Phyllis Crane
Main
Annabelle Apsion Violet Buckle (née Gee)
Recurring
Kate Lamb Delia Busby
Recurring
Main
Maxine Evans Mrs. Busby
Guest

Episodes[edit]

Reception[edit]

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.[7]

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.[8]

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",[9] while The Washington Post stated that "the cast is marvelous, the gritty, post-war set pieces are meticulously recreated".[10] TV Guide called the series "a delight to watch",[11] while the San Francisco Chronicle described it as "sentimental, poignant and often heartbreaking".[12]

The second series opened with a record overnight audience of 9.3 million UK viewers,[13] going on to achieve a consolidated series average of 10.47 million viewers.[14] This was almost two million above the slot average, and by some distance the most popular UK drama in every week of transmission.[15] 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,[16] the total number of viewers per week was found to be almost 12 million.[17]

The critical reception for series two has praised the programme'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",[18] 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".[19] 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,"[20] while Caitlin Moran claimed the series encapsulated "how unbelievably terrifying, dreary and vile it was to be a working-class woman 60 years ago.".[18]

International distribution[edit]

In May 2012, BBC Worldwide and the American Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) announced that the first series of Call the Midwife would premiere in the United States on 30 September 2012.[21] BBC Worldwide has also sold the programme to SVT (Sweden); NRK (Norway); RÚV (Iceland); Yle (Finland); AXN White (Spain; Portugal); ERT (Greece);[22][23] 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 programme 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.

The second series of Call the Midwife has been sold to PBS for transmission from 31 March 2013[24] and to SVT (Sweden) for transmission from 19 May 2013.[25]

In February 2013, BBC Worldwide reported that Call the Midwife had been sold in over one hundred global territories,[26] with global sales contributing to the UK's position as the second largest TV exporter behind the United States.[27]

In February 2014, the BBC reported that international sales of Call the Midwife had increased to almost 200 territories.[28]

A second series of eight episodes aired in the UK in early 2013.[29][30] The series achieved a consolidated series average of 10.47 million viewers.[14] A third eight-part series aired in the UK from January 2014,[31] with a consolidated average of 10.53 million.[14]

On 28 February 2014, BBC confirmed that Call the Midwife had been commissioned for a 2014 Christmas special[32] and fourth series, to air in 2015.[33] On 3 November 2014, BBC announced that an eight-episode fifth series had been commissioned; it began airing on 17 January 2016; the fifth series takes the story into 1961.[34]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards and nominations for Call the Midwife
Year Award Category Recipient Result
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
2015 TV Choice Awards, UK Best Family Drama Call The Midwife Won
2016 Sandford St Martin Trust Awards Radio Times Faith Award Call The Midwife Won
TV Choice Awards, UK Best Family Drama Call The Midwife Won

Production notes[edit]

The ship in the opening titles is the Shaw, Savill & Albion Line liner QSMV Dominion Monarch in dry dock at the King George V Dock and the road is Saville Road, Silvertown, east London.[35][36]

Many of the exterior scenes are shot at the Chatham Historic Dockyard.[37]

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.[38]

The fourth series aired in the US in 2015, finishing its eight episode run on 17 May.[39] A Christmas special aired in 2015 as well.

A fifth series was commissioned for 2016, shortly after series four was done filming.[40]

A sixth series has been commissioned, which includes a 2016 Christmas episode that will take place in South Africa.[41]

On 23 November 2016, the BBC announced a three-year mega deal with Neal Street Productions, commissioning a seventh, eighth and ninth series, all with Christmas specials. The new commission will keep the series on air until at least 2020.[42]

DVD and Blu-ray[edit]

The first series was released in a Region 2, two-disc set on 12 March 2012.[43] Series 2 was scheduled for release on 1 April 2013 in the UK (region 2)[44] with a collector's edition, Call the Midwife Collection, containing series 1, 2 and the 2012 Christmas Special, released on the same date.[45]

In Australia (region 4), ABC released the DVD of series 1 on 10 October 2012, shortly after it finished airing on ABC1.

In the United States, the first series was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 6 November 2012. Series 2 was scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray on 18 June 2013.[46] Series 3 was released on Blu-ray on 20 May 2014.[47] Series 4 was released on Blu-ray on 19 May 2015.[48]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Call the Midwife creator Heidi Thomas: TV series won't suffer when source material runs out". Radio Times. 12 February 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  2. ^ "Call the Midwife series ends on ratings high". BBC News. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  3. ^ http://www.pbs.org/call-the-midwife/seasons/season-1/
  4. ^ "BBC gives Call the Midwife sixth run by BBC". The Guardian. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 
  5. ^ "BBC - BBC announces three-series deal of acclaimed drama Call The Midwife - Media Centre". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  6. ^ http://www.metacritic.com/tv/call-the-midwife
  7. ^ Gould, Lara (20 February 2012). "Midwives 1, Toffs 0: First series of Call the Midwife beats Downton as the Sunday night ratings battle turns ugly". Mail Online. London. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  8. ^ "BBC AND PBS TO BRING SECOND SEASON OF CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED DRAMA "CALL THE MIDWIFE" TO THE U.S.". Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  9. ^ "The Labor-Intensive Life". The Wall Street Journal. 29 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  10. ^ Stuever, Hank (29 October 2012). "'Call the Midwife': Keep calm and puuush". The Washington Post. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "Weekend TV: Homeland, Dexter, PBS' Midwife, Fringe, More". 29 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  12. ^ "'Call the Midwife' review: Heartwarming". The San Francisco Chronicle. 29 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  13. ^ Plunkett, John (21 January 2013). "Call the Midwife draws its biggest audience". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c "Top 30 Programmes – BARB". BARB. 21 March 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  15. ^ "Broadcast Magazine pp.2,35". 15 March 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  16. ^ "BBC Live Plus 7 metric adds iPlayer viewing to programme stats". Research. 29 November 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2013. 
  17. ^ "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. 
  18. ^ a b "Caitlin Moran on TV: Call the radical feminist". The Times. 26 January 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  19. ^ Pearson, Allison (13 March 2013). "Women's have-it-all fantasy often spells heartbreak". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  20. ^ "Call the Midwife is the torchbearer of feminism on television". Radio Times. 24 February 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  21. ^ "BBC WORLDWIDE and PBS Sign Deal to Bring Critically Acclaimed Show to the US". 15 May 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  22. ^ Πρόγραμμα Τηλεόρασης [NET program on Tuesday 16 October 2012] (in Greek). ERT online. Retrieved 2013-04-10. 
  23. ^ Επειγόντως τη μαμή [The midwife, urgently] (in Greek). ERT online. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  24. ^ "BBC AND PBS TO BRING SECOND SEASON OF CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED DRAMA "CALL THE MIDWIFE" TO THE U.S.". 6 December 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  25. ^ "TV-tablå". 19 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  26. ^ "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. 
  27. ^ "British hit drama Downton Abbey leads way in TV exports". 22 March 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  28. ^ "The BBC's bestselling shows abroad". 25 February 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  29. ^ "BBC News – Call the Midwife set to return for a second series". BBC Online. 23 January 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  30. ^ Sweney, Mark (23 January 2012). "BBC Calls the Midwife for a second series". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  31. ^ "Digital Spy UK: Call the Midwife series 3 air date announced". BBC Online. 8 January 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  32. ^ "Ariel – Call the Midwife to return for a fourth series". Ariel. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  33. ^ Ellie Walker-Arnott. "Call the Midwife series 4 commissioned by BBC1". RadioTimes. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  34. ^ "'Call The Midwife' Renewed for Series 5 by BBC; Series Airs on PBS in the US – TV By The Numbers by zap2it.com – Page 323147". TV By The Numbers by zap2it.com. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  35. ^ Newham Recorder 1 February 2012 page 24
  36. ^ "QSMV Dominion Monarch". Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  37. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Call The Midwife Article". 
  38. ^ "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. 
  39. ^ "Video: Season 4 – Episode 8 – Watch Call the Midwife Online – PBS Video". PBS Video. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  40. ^ Frances Taylor (3 November 2014). "Call the Midwife recommissioned for series 5 by BBC". Digital Spy. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  41. ^ Ellie Walker-Arnott (1 April 2016). "Call the Midwife reveals first look at 2016 Christmas special". Radio Times. Retrieved 9 November 2016. 
  42. ^ http://www.digitalspy.com/tv/call-the-midwife/news/a814936/call-the-midwife-returning-series-seven-eight-nine/
  43. ^ "Call the Midwife (DVD): Amazon.co.uk: Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Pam Ferris: Film & TV". Amazon.com. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  44. ^ "Call the Midwife Series 2(DVD)". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  45. ^ "Call the Midwife Collection – Series 1–2 + Christmas Special [DVD]". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  46. ^ "Call the Midwife: Season Two (2013)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  47. ^ "Call the Midwife: Season Three (2014)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  48. ^ "Call the Midwife: Season Four (2015)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 

External links[edit]