Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Here to Maternity: Rachel Cooke Finds a Surfeit of Baby Dramas Leaves Her Feeling Underwhelmed

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Here to Maternity: Rachel Cooke Finds a Surfeit of Baby Dramas Leaves Her Feeling Underwhelmed

Article excerpt

Call the Midwife/A Dad is Born

BB[C.sub.2]

I don't even remotely understand the appeal of Call The Midwife (BB[C.sub.2], Sundays, 8pm), a show watched by more than eight million people every week. Are we really so afraid of the future that we must retreat into this version - cosy, safe, irredeemably mawkish - of the past?

In episode five, Jenny (Jessica Raine) discovered that her patient Frank, suffering from cancer, shared his bed with his sister, Peggy: they lived as man and wife. For a moment, she was discomfited. We knew this because she smoothed her uniform with the palms of her hands. But then Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) pointed out that Frank and Peggy had survived the workhouse as children, and Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) said something about how a person must find comfort where he can, and suddenly it was OK: even incest had become yet another preachy life lesson. Meanwhile, Chummy (Miranda Hart, who seems to grow taller by the week, rationing or not) helped to deliver a piglet in the cloister garden, a task that ruined her frock but revealed to the world vet again what a thoroughly decent gal she is.

Whatever its ratings, so far I have turned up only one person who will admit to loving Call the Midwife: my hairdresser (who is, by the way, a father of two). Unfortunately, under close questioning, he revealed that he also enjoyed All Creatures Great and Small and Heartbeat On a Sunday, he likes cosy, and that's that. It is, however, worth noting that the schedules are noisy with the sound of pattering feet on other nights, too (see how feebly I'm edging my way towards a theory!).

Viewers who found the baby-count on Call the Midwife too low - episode five featured only one human birth: a picturesque but textbook delivery in a Thames-side smokehouse -could turn instead either to the new series of One Born Every Minute (Channel 4, Wednesdays, 9pm; does what it says on the tin), or to A Dad is Born: a Wonderland Film (BB[C.sub.2], Thursday, 9pm), in which the director, Kira Phillips, followed three Londoners in the weeks before and after the birth of their new babies.

1 went with Wonderland, which was a mistake, for it was hard to know which of the men I liked least. …

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