Monday, June 17, 2013

"Call the midwife"

I've been watching this show (it's a British import, on PBS) off and on for a couple of months. (Off, because I am not home some nights when it's on, and also sometimes I am involved in doing something and I forget).

I like it, even as there are things about it that annoy me. (The "free contraception is a necessity" subtext of one episode, for example - the whole "here's an issue we're going to slip in and make it very palatable and appealing to people because it involves a sympathetic character." Maybe not the issue so much per se, but my feeling that my emotions are being manipulated in a certain way, that annoys me. While the "issues" aren't as heavy-handed as in some shows, they're still there). Still, I like it, partly because it's set in a time and a place (largely working-class Britain in the 1950s) that I know little about. And I enjoy this kind of show - which largely focuses on people doing their jobs, and what those jobs entail - more than shows like "Downton Abbey" that has a lot of rich-people-being-idle in it. (Some of my friends are really into Downton Abbey but I just can't get into it. Perhaps you have to have been watching it from the outset - I don't know who most of the characters are or why I should care about them).

But I do think the "doing useful work" vs. "being largely idle" distinction makes a difference for me - in the novels I read, I find the ones where people have careers they go about more interesting than the rich-idle-person novels.

I don't know if this one rises to something I want to own on dvd. (Yes, I know, many services have it available as streaming online, but I never bought a Roku box sort of thing (figuring I'd have to get a service call from the Creepy Techs at my cable company to help set it up) and my home internet connection gets slow and flakey at the end of the day, so....I'd almost rather shell out the $30 for a season's worth on dvd.)

I think part of what I like about the show is how the midwives, by and large, make the best of a bad lot - the difficulties in their lives, the challenges of living in just-shortly-postwar Britain (I think food rationing had probably ended just a couple years before the series is set, if I remember correctly). Dealing with really difficult people - the women they serve, and their husbands and other relatives, often tend to be the sort of people that Jesus talked about "loving your neighbor (even when it's bloody difficult)" about. (And some of the nuns - the midwives work out of a hospital staffed by nuns - are also rather difficult people.)

I may also find it interesting in that a number of the women I knew growing up had worked as nurses. Some of them were of the era where you were fired (! yes, forced to stop working) upon marriage; others were still working as nurses.

But I do tend to find shows like this -set in a different place and time - more interesting to me than the average sitcom or legal drama that's on the airwaves otherwise.

(I guess my viewing habits are strange: 1/3 or more cartoons, a few news and commentary shows, a few cooking shows, and then stuff like Call the Midwife.....there are whole shows on the major networks that I've never seen, and when someone mentions them, I'm like "that's a show?" Television has really changed since I was a kid and we got something like four or five different stations and cable and satellite were for "rich folks.")

1 comment:

Kate P said...

That's one I've been watching, too. Probably has the most nuns I've seen in one place since my last visit to the nuns' retirement home where my mom's friend lives. There was something really powerful for me about the community in which the nuns and the midwives lived together--and I've been to convents since I was kid because I have two nun great-aunts (one now deceased for 20+ years).

And YES to the difference in channels nowadays. I also grew up without cable--partly financial reasons but also partly my parents didn't want us kids exposed to "smut."