Call the Midwife

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 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, Jack Ashton, Linda Bassett, Charlotte Ritchie, Kate Lamb, Jennifer Kirby, Annabelle Apsion and Leonie Elliott. 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 United Kingdom on 15 January 2012.

Call the Midwife
Series titles over a docklands terrace street
GenrePeriod drama
Created byHeidi Thomas
Based onMemoirs of Jennifer Worth
Starring
Narrated byVanessa Redgrave
Composers
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series10
No. of episodes86 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
  • Pippa Harris
  • Heidi Thomas
ProducerAnnie Tricklebank
Production locationsPoplar, London
CinematographyChris Seager
Running time60–90 minutes
Production companyNeal Street Productions
DistributorAll3Media
Release
Original networkBBC One (United Kingdom)
PBS (United States)
Picture format16:9 1080i
Audio formatStereo
Original release15 January 2012 (2012-01-15) –
present
External links
Website

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 show has extended beyond the memoirs 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.

Call the Midwife achieved high ratings in its first series, making it the most successful new drama series on BBC One since 2001.[2] Nine more series of eight episodes each have aired subsequently 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 network, with the first series starting on 30 September 2012.[3]

Critical reception has been mostly positive, and the series has won numerous awards and nominations.[4] It has been praised for tackling topical subjects and contemporary social, cultural and economic issues, including nationalised healthcare, barrenness, teen pregnancy, adoption, the importance of local community, miscarriage and stillbirths, abortion and unwanted pregnancies, birth defects, poverty, common illnesses, epidemic disease, prostitution, incest, religion and faith, racism and prejudice, same-sex attraction and female genital mutilation. Some aspects of love—maternal, paternal, filial, fraternal, sisterly, romantic, or the love of friends—are explored in every episode.

PlotEdit

The plot follows newly qualified midwife Jenny Lee, as well as 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.

The first series, set in early 1957, tackles the "Baby Boom", issues of poverty in the East End and post-war immigration. The second series set in 1958 depicts the introduction of gas and air as a form of pain relief, unexploded ordnance, an outbreak of tuberculosis, a baby born with spina bifida and ends with the condemning of the Nonnatus House building. The third series, set in 1959, depicts cystic fibrosis, polio, caring for the terminally ill and midwifery in a prison context. The Child Migrants Programme, the threat of nuclear warfare (including emergency response guidelines issued by local Civil Defence Corps), LGBT rights and syphilis among sex workers are depicted in 1960 set fourth series, with a patient with typhoid, the effects of thalidomide, the introduction of the contraceptive pill and impact of stroke in the fifth set in 1961. The sixth series, set in 1962, touches upon domestic violence, an explosion at the local docks, interracial marriage, female genital mutilation, mental health and introduces Reggie, a recurring character who has Down syndrome. The seventh series, set in 1963, introduces the first major character of colour, Nurse Lucille Anderson with Dementia, racial abuse, leprosy and meningitis featuring in storylines. The eighth series, set in 1964, covers the topic of abortion (which was not legalised until 1967), sickle cell disease, babies born with cleft lip and cleft palate and intersex people. Set in 1965, the ninth series deals with diphtheria, a blind expectant mother and the continued role and relevance of Nonnatus house in the community. The tenth series, set in 1966, compares the practice at Nonnatus House with the private Lady Emily Clinic in Mayfair, PKU, diabetes and the controversy of abortion on the eve of legalisation. Christmas special episodes also explore the conditions in a mission in South Africa, the Outer Hebrides and the order orphanage.

Cast and charactersEdit

Call the Midwife is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, featuring narration – and an on-screen appearance in the 2014 Christmas Special – by Vanessa Redgrave as an older Jenny.

  • Jessica Raine as Nursing Sister Jennifer "Jenny" Lee (series 1–3)
  • Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne
  • Pam Ferris as Sister Evangelina (series 1–5)
  • Judy Parfitt as Sister Monica Joan
  • Helen George as Nurse Beatrix "Trixie" Franklin
  • Bryony Hannah as Nurse Cynthia Miller (later Sister Mary Cynthia) (series 1–6)
  • Miranda Hart as Matron Camilla "Chummy" Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne (later Noakes) (series 1–4)
  • Laura Main as Sister Bernadette (later Nursing Sister Shelagh Turner)
  • Stephen McGann as Dr Patrick Turner
  • Cliff Parisi as Frederick "Fred" Buckle
  • Ben Caplan as Police Constable (later Sergeant) Peter Noakes (series 1–6)
  • Max Macmillan as Timothy Turner (series 3–; recurring series 2)
  • Dorothy Atkinson as Auxiliary Nurse Jane Sutton (series 2)
  • Emerald Fennell as Nurse Patience "Patsy" Mount (series 3–6; guest series 2)
  • Victoria Yeates as Sister Winifred (series 3–8)
  • Jack Ashton as the Revd Tom Hereward (series 4–7; recurring series 3)
  • Charlotte Ritchie as Nurse Barbara Gilbert (later Hereward) (series 4–7)
  • Linda Bassett as Nurse Phyllis Crane (series 4–present)
  • Kate Lamb as Nurse Delia Busby (series 5–6; recurring series 4)
  • Jennifer Kirby as Nurse Valerie Dyer (series 6–9)
  • Annabelle Apsion as Violet Buckle (series 7-; recurring series 4–6)
  • Jack Hawkins as Christopher Dockerill (series 6–7)
  • Leonie Elliott as Nurse Lucille Anderson (series 7–present)
  • Fenella Woolgar as Sister Hilda (series 8–present)
  • Ella Bruccoleri as Sister Frances (series 8–present)
  • Daniel Laurie as Reggie Buckle (series 10–; recurring series 6–9)
  • Georgie Glen as Miss Millicent Higgins (series 10–; recurring series 8–9)
  • Zephryn Taitte as Cyril Robinson (series 10–; recurring series 8–9)

EpisodesEdit

SeriesEpisodesOriginally airedAve. UK viewers
(millions)
First airedLast aired
1615 January 2012 (2012-01-15)19 February 2012 (2012-02-19)10.61
28 (+1)25 December 2012 (special)
20 January 2013 (2013-01-20)
10 March 2013 (2013-03-10)10.47
38 (+1)25 December 2013 (special)
19 January 2014 (2014-01-19)
9 March 2014 (2014-03-09)10.54
48 (+1)25 December 2014 (special)
18 January 2015 (2015-01-18)
8 March 2015 (2015-03-08)10.41
58 (+1)25 December 2015 (special)
17 January 2016 (2016-01-17)
6 March 2016 (2016-03-06)9.95
68 (+1)25 December 2016 (special)
22 January 2017 (2017-01-22)
12 March 2017 (2017-03-12)10.33
78 (+1)25 December 2017 (special)
21 January 2018 (2018-01-21)
11 March 2018 (2018-03-11)9.26
88 (+1)25 December 2018 (special)
13 January 2019 (2019-01-13)
3 March 2019 (2019-03-03)9.04
98 (+1)25 December 2019 (special)
5 January 2020 (2020-01-05)
23 February 2020 (2020-02-23)8.34
107 (+1)25 December 2020 (special)
18 April 2021 (2021-04-18)
30 May 2021 (2021-05-30)8.14

ProductionEdit

LocationsEdit

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.[5][6]

Many of the exterior scenes are shot at The Historic Dockyard Chatham standing in for East London streets and buildings.[7] In the first two seasons, Nonnatus House was filmed at St. Joseph's Missionary College in Mill Hill, North London until the building was converted to luxury flats at which point a new Nonnatus House set was created at Longcross Studios in Surrey where sets were built for the new Nonnatus and interior sets.[8] HMS Cavalier (R73) is used for scenes on ships during the series and the order's mother house is filmed in West Wittering.[8]

CommissioningEdit

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 be broadcast in 2014.[9] The fourth series aired in the US in 2015, finishing its eight-episode run on 17 May.[10] A Christmas special also aired in 2015.

A fifth series was commissioned for 2016, shortly after series four filming was completed.[11] A sixth series was commissioned, which included a 2016 Christmas episode set in South Africa.[12] On 23 November 2016, the BBC announced a three-year deal with Neal Street Productions, commissioning a seventh, eighth, and ninth series, each with a Christmas special.[13] On 4 March 2019, the BBC announced it had commissioned two further series and Christmas specials, through to an eleventh series in 2022, moving the plot into the late-sixties.[14][15]

On 13 April 2021 – five days before series 10 was due to start broadcasting on BBC One and with the 11th series about to begin filming – the BBC announced that two more series had been commissioned, keeping the show on air until 2024. Series 12 and 13 will each comprise eight one-hour episodes as well as a Christmas special.[16]

SoundtrackEdit

For the first three series of the programme the score and the title theme used was composed by Peter Salem and since series four the music has been composed by Maurizio Malagnini. The orchestral score, mainly comprising strings and piano accompanies the emotional moments of the series, with Malagnini calling it a diary of the emotions of the series, while more upbeat moments are often accompanied by music appropriate to the setting year. The score was performed by the London Chamber Orchestra.[17][18]

There have been two albums released with music from the series: a 2012 released Call the Midwife: The Album consisting of period appropriate songs and score tracks from the first series by Salem and a second Call the Midwife: Original Soundtrack Album released in 2018 featuring highlights from Malagnini's score from series 4-7.[17][19]

ReleaseEdit

BroadcastEdit

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.[20] BBC Worldwide has also sold the programme to SVT (Sweden); NRK (Norway); RÚV (Iceland); Yle (Finland); AXN White (Spain; Portugal); ERT (Greece);[21][22] 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 global 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 was sold to PBS for transmission from 31 March 2013[23] and to SVT (Sweden) for transmission from 19 May 2013.[24] In February 2013, BBC Worldwide reported that Call the Midwife had been sold in over one hundred global territories,[25] with global sales contributing to the UK's position as the second largest TV exporter behind the United States.[26] In February 2017, it was reported that the BBC had exported Call the Midwife to 237 global territories.[27]

A second series of eight episodes aired in the UK in early 2013.[28][29] The series achieved a consolidated series average of 10.47 million viewers.[30] A third eight-part series aired in the UK from January 2014,[31] with a consolidated average of 10.53 million.[30]

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] The sixth series began airing in the UK on 22 January 2017, taking the drama into 1962.[35] Series seven, again consisting of eight episodes, began airing on Sunday, 21 January 2018, with episode one viewed by 9.87 million viewers.[36] It was the No.1 rated programme on UK TV for all weeks of its transmission, ending 11 March 2018.[36] The eighth series premiered on 13 January 2019.[37]

Home mediaEdit

The first series was released in a Region 2, two-disc set on 12 March 2012.[38] Series two was released on 1 April 2013 in the UK (region 2)[39] with a collector's edition, Call the Midwife Collection, containing series one, two, and the 2012 Christmas Special, released on the same date.[40]

In the United States, the first series was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 6 November 2012. Series two was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 18 June 2013.[41] Series three was released on Blu-ray on 20 May 2014.[42] Series four was released on Blu-ray on 19 May 2015.[43]

ReceptionEdit

Critical responseEdit

A second series was immediately commissioned after the 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 four's rating reached 10.89 million.

In the United States, the series one transmission on PBS drew an average household audience rating of 2.1, translating into three million viewers – 50 percent above PBS's primetime average for the 2011–12 series.[44] The autumn 2012 PBS broadcast of the first series 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",[45] while The Washington Post stated that "the cast is marvelous, the gritty, post-war set pieces are meticulously recreated".[46] TV Guide called the series "a delight to watch",[47] while the San Francisco Chronicle described it as "sentimental, poignant and often heartbreaking".[48]

The second series opened with a record overnight audience of 9.3 million UK viewers,[49] going on to achieve a consolidated series average of 10.47 million viewers.[30] This was almost 2 million above the slot average, and by some distance the most popular UK drama in every week of transmission.[50] 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,[51] the total number of viewers per week was found to be almost 12 million.[52]

Caitlin Moran in The Times called this "an iron hand in a velvet glove",[53] 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".[54] 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,"[55] while Caitlin Moran claimed the series encapsulated "how unbelievably terrifying, dreary and vile it was to be a working-class woman 60 years ago."[53]

After the departure of Jessica Raine as Jenny Lee at the end of the third series, Jennifer Worth's family stated that Call The Midwife no longer resembled Worth's stories.[56]

AccoladesEdit

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
2017 National Television Awards Best Period Drama Call the Midwife Won
Gracie Awards, US Television - Ensemble Cast Call the Midwife Won
BFI & Radio Times TV Festival Best 21st Century TV Drama Call the Midwife Won
TV Choice Awards, UK Best Family Drama Call the Midwife Won
2018 National Television Awards Best Drama Call the Midwife Nominated
TV and Radio Industries Club Award Drama Programme of the Year Call the Midwife Nominated
TV Choice Awards, UK Best Family Drama Call the Midwife Won
TV Choice Awards, UK Best Actress Linda Bassett Nominated
2019 National Television Awards Best Drama Call the Midwife Nominated
TV and Radio Industries Club Award Drama Programme of the Year Call the Midwife Nominated
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Screen Music Awards Top Cable Television Series Music Maurizio Malagnini - Call the Midwife Won
TV Choice Awards, UK Best Family Drama Call the Midwife Won
2020 National Television Awards Best Drama Call the Midwife Nominated
TV Choice Awards, UK Best Actor Stephen McGann Nominated
TV Choice Awards, UK Best Family Drama Call the Midwife Won

ReferencesEdit

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  2. ^ "Call the Midwife series ends on ratings high". BBC News. 20 February 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  3. ^ "Season 1 | Seasons | Call the Midwife". PBS.org. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  4. ^ "Call The Midwife - Season 1 Reviews". Metacritic. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  5. ^ Newham Recorder 1 February 2012 page 24
  6. ^ "QSMV Dominion Monarch". Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  7. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Call The Midwife Article".
  8. ^ a b "Where is Call the Midwife filmed?". Radio Times. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "Video: Season 4 – Episode 8 – Watch Call the Midwife Online – PBS Video". PBS Video. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  11. ^ Taylor, Frances (3 November 2014). "Call the Midwife recommissioned for series 5 by BBC". Digital Spy. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  12. ^ Walker-Arnott, Ellie (1 April 2016). "Call the Midwife reveals first look at 2016 Christmas special". Radio Times. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  13. ^ Mitchell, Bea. "Call the Midwife is coming back... for series seven, eight AND nine". Digitalspy.com. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
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  17. ^ a b "Call The Midwife on BBC One: Who wrote the music and can you buy or stream the soundtrack?". Classical Music - BBC Music Magazine. Immediate Media. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
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  47. ^ "Weekend TV: Homeland, Dexter, PBS' Midwife, Fringe, More". TV Guide. 29 October 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
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  54. ^ Pearson, Allison (13 March 2013). "Women's have-it-all fantasy often spells heartbreak". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
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External linksEdit