This week, the BBC drama Call the Midwife, finished its third season. Set in 1950s East End London and based on Jennifer Worth’s memoirs, Call the Midwife shares the lives of four young midwives of Nonnatus House and the sisterhood of nuns there with whom they both live and work. The struggles (and joys) of living with one’s co-workers, the travails of midwifery, and the realities of poverty are common themes of the show. This ensemble drama stars Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine), Beatrix “Trixie” Franklin (Helen George), Camilla “Chummy” Fortescue-Cholmondeley-Browne (Miranda Hart), and Cynthia Miller (Bryony Hannah) delivering babies and sipping Babycham out of view of the nuns.
The latest season is set at the very end of the 1950s—a world on the brink of immense social change. While nuns pedal about Poplar on their motorbikes, carrying packs of enemas and “gas and air” for the deliveries, the other women, including Nurse Trixie, begin to wear pants in public. Scientific and medical developments were occurring at a rapid pace, transforming the lives and livelihoods of everyone, but not all were quick to embrace it, especially not in the convent.
Don’t just watch the show for the witty repartee, beautiful dresses, and charming soundtrack. Watch it for the heart-warming births, gut-wrenching deaths, belly laughs, and soulful tears. The show puts great efforts into realistic and medically accurate birth scenes (which might make you think twice about home birth), and no matter your views on the subject, you will come away with a greater respect for the midwives and the valiant mothers they serve.
Fans of Call the Midwife may also enjoy Monarch of the Glen, another offering from across the pond. The series is loosely based on Sir Compton Mackenzie’s Highland Novels and filmed in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. The show focuses on Archie MacDonald, who has been called from his city life to restore and run his childhood home, the Glenbogle Estate. Think Downton Abbey meets the nineties' hit show Northern Exposure, thanks to its quirky and lovable cast. Downton Abbey fans may recognize the creator, Julian Fellowes, in the role of Lord Kilwillie, and Doctor Who fans will recognize Tom Baker, the fourth doctor. The series premiered in February 2000 and ran until October 2005 but, thanks to Netflix, is available anytime for your viewing pleasure.
If you’re looking for more uniquely British shows on Netflix, don’t miss Land Girls. The series looks at the women who volunteered to serve king and country with the Women’s Land Army of World War II. Set in the English countryside, the show centers around four women who work at Pasture Farm—the highs of finding love and independence and the lows that come with the tragedies of war. The show is more daytime soap opera than primetime drama, but it's well done and keeps viewers wanting more.
The glamour and excitement of London’s first department store in the 1870s is beautifully captured in The Paradise. If you love costume dramas, romance, scandal, and mysteries, don’t miss this show. The first season is available on Netflix. No word yet on when season two, which has aired already in the UK, will find its way to the States.