BBC 1’s Call The Midwife is like taking what you believe to be a soft centre chocolate out of a box and then biting into it and being surprised by a hard centre. Soft, fluffy and enjoyably sentimental on the outside, CTW has the excellent knack of being able to tackle a range of important stories and issues that were pretty much taboo or badly handled over half a century ago.
Be it racism, mental health, sexism, gay and lesibian matters, abortion, single-parenthood, or the Thalidomide scandal, CTW has boldly gone into these topics and reminded us that the so-called “Good Old Days” were far from that, and the delightful new character Lucille (a West Indian midwife) will show up the racist attitude of this sixties in this Sunday’s episode.
Call The Midwife is so strong and well written that it easily handles a regular turnover of cast changes and simply brings in new people that you take to straight away. It’s an excellent example of how a drama can be joyous and hard-hitting at the same time, and long may it continue.
Sky Atlantic have a launched a wonderful piece of nonsense called Brittania, as we go back the best part of two thousand years to witness some nasty Romans invading Britain, and all of the consequences that follow. This nine episode romp penned by award-winning theatre writer Jez Butterworth stars David Morrissey as the Roman general who stages the invasion, decades after Julius Caesar gave it up as a bad job.
The invaders surprisingly find little resistance due to all the warring tribes and factions in the British Isles, and there’s loads of hocus pocus with druids, Celts, and weird rituals, plus Mackenzie Crook playing a shamen! You know the routine for something like Brittania with a mixture of laughs, violence, bad language, sex, and sheer bafflement, but it worked for me. Historians will say it’s a load of old cobblers, but just sit back and enjoy something that I think will be around for a few years, based on big international sales figures secured by Sky. Incidentally, Brittania is co-produced by Neal Street Productions who are the makers of…….Call The Midwife!
If you are a regular reader of this column, you will know that I’m a big fan of American TV producer Ryan Murphy who seems to come up with new shows as fast as a hen laying eggs. His American Horror Story team have produced “911-Emergency”, and you think, so what? Surely not another procedural involving first responders? This is different, which is what you expect from Murphy, as it sends up gently some of the Dick Wolf shows based in Chicago, butis also tough and graphic at times, laced in with humour. I’ll keep it spoiler free, though it is waiting for a UK pick-up (two episodes in, Fox in the States ordered series two), but you’ll love the three experienced stars of Angela Bassett, Connie Britton, and Peter Krause, which is a recommendation in itself.
Ryan Murphy has also done it again with his second series of American Crime Story, which after the fantastic OJ Simpson tale from two years ago, brings us “The Assassination of Gianni Versace”. BBC 2 has the UK rights and will transmit this in April, and I’ll write about it more at the time, but this is a gripping tale which explores the murder of designer Gianni Versace by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. There are plenty of stars including Penelope Cruz as Versace’s sister and Ricky Martin at Versace’s partner, and once again shows why Ryan Murphy and his colleagues are the most creative in US television and given the freedom they want to do their work.