Call The Midwife
(when it’s not working)
(when it is)
Keeping Up With The Kardashians
To celebrate the return of Call The Midwife… a quiz. This will test how well you know the show, now enjoying its 768th series after 409 Christmas specials, so there is little excuse for a poor score.
1. A stripper who is pregnant but does not know the father’s blood group because, as she tells Trixie: ‘I dahn’t even know ’is name’, plans to have the baby adopted once it arrives. Does she: A) stick to this plan meticulously; or B) writhe in pain during a difficult breech birth, pull through, sell her mink, buy the dancing school that we’d heard was up for sale 49 times, and opt to keep the baby as violins played? (And as you, goddamn it, welled up?)
2. An elderly Jewish woman is riddled with cancer and dying in her house, which is due to be demolished. Dr Turner and Nurse Phyllis are in attendance. Do they: A) step away as the bulldozers bulldoze; or B) see off the demolition people in a doorstep stand-off so the elderly Jewish husband at least has enough time to tell his dying wife: ‘If I never said I was grateful, I say it now. If I never said I was proud of the home you made, I say it now. If I never told you you were beautiful when you didn’t have a new blouse from one summer’s end to the next, I say it now. If I never said that I love you, I say it now.’ (As you, goddamn it, welled up?)*
New recruit Lucille (Leonie Elliott) in Call The Midwife. Given that in the current series it’s now 1962, we still have another 56 years to go if we are to reach the present day
McMafia may want to be the cleverest programme on British television – it certainly did not set out to be the dreariest – but it’s Midwife that is, in fact, the smartest. It’s easy to sneer at, which is why I so often do, but it still makes you well up, goddamn it.
The storylines are often obvious and schmaltzy, but they still make you well up, goddamn it. The clichés and stereotypes are maddening – that elderly Jewish couple had been helicoptered in from Fiddler On The Roof, surely – but what’s this? I’m welling up? The implausibilities are often mind-blowing – in the early Sixties would no one make mention of the new West Indian midwife’s colour? – and the homilies are exceedingly tiresome, but really? I’m welling up? Again?
Midwife is super-clever because, just as it’s about to lose you, it pulls you back via the most extraordinary tugs to the heartstrings. (‘If I never said I was grateful, I say it now…) Similarly, just as you’re beginning to tire of its soft-focus portrait of an East End with fake snow softly falling on the cobbles, the elderly Jewish lady will dirty herself, or the stripper who is in labour will cry: ‘I feel like I’ve been through the bacon slicer!’ which doesn’t make you well up, for once, but does offer a short, sharp shock of the kind that reminds you: this stuff did happen to people, and still does. Whether fake snow is softly falling or not.
This is why Midwife works even when it’s not working, because when it’s not working, you know it’ll work again in a few minutes. And it’s a show you are just going to have to suck up, as it’ll likely be with us for all time. Given that in the current series it’s now 1962, we still have another 56 years to go if we are to reach the present day. Although, if it moves forward a year as we move forward a year, it will, of course, always be 56 years to go. So there is never going to be any shaking it off. Get used.
I’ve dipped in and out of Keeping Up With The Kardashians over the years and this week I dipped in. In case you were worried, they are still very proud of each other. ‘I am so proud of Kourtney for thinking of herself,’ said Khloe. ‘I am so proud of Khloe for…’ said Kris, although I can’t now remember why she said she was proud of Khloe. For breathing, probably. Most satisfyingly, there is never a problem they can’t just throw money at.
In a past episode we saw them employ a ‘lifestyle counsellor’ for Rob when, in effect, they were buying him a friend. This week, Khloe thought Kris was a bit down so chained her to a mime artist for the day, as you do. Indeed, whenever you’ve been down, haven’t you always thought: I wish I had the money to hire a mime artist and chain myself to him for the day? It is, perhaps, hard to account for the attraction of shows like this, as well as similar shows (Tamara’s World, for example), except I do have a theory. Could it be that, while we recognise we are financially inferior, we imagine we wouldn’t spend money this way if we had it, so it makes us feel morally superior? I don’t know if this is true, but I’m proud of myself for thinking it up. Very.
*(Answer: Um… B?)