Midwives bicycle across the pond in Downton Abbey's wake

 

American viewers couldn't get enough of the class snobbery and grandeur of Downton Abbey. But will the misery of the East End's post-war slums prove quite as appealing when Call The Midwife becomes the latest British drama to cross the Atlantic?

The series, about a group of midwives in 1950s London, became BBC1's most popular new drama for more than a decade. It has now been snapped up for a Sunday night prime-time slot by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which scored record ratings when it broadcast Downton Abbey.

American executives believe that the themes of nursing and childbirth, set against a gritty period backdrop, will translate to US viewers despite the lack of glamorous gowns and high-born scheming which has made Downton Abbey an international hit. Adapted by Heidi Thomas from Jennifer Worth's memoirs, the series stars Jessica Raine as Jenny Lee, a young midwife who is attached to an order of nursing nuns and must navigate the teeming East End streets and a culture very different from the English countryside where she was raised.

The series, which attracted nearly 10 million viewers on BBC1, is being sold to international broadcasters by BBC Worldwide, the corporation's commercial wing.

The success of Downton Abbey has prompted renewed international enthusiasm for British period drama. When Downton Abbey aired in the US, fans held dinner parties dressed in 1930s outfits. The series-two finale in February recorded 5.4 million viewers, PBS's highest ratings for two years. PBS will pair Call The Midwife with Upstairs, Downstairs, the BBC's revived version of the Edwardian-era domestic saga, to create a Sunday night "destination" for viewers wanting the best of UK period drama.

PBS is expected to broadcast a special introduction before the midwifery drama, to explain the historical context to US viewers. The actress Laura Linney performed a similar role before Downton Abbey was shown.

Paula Kerger, PBS's president, said: "We look forward to working with our BBC partners to introduce the story and the characters that were so beloved in Britain to the American audience."

Matt Forde, the head of sales at BBC Worldwide America, said: "Call The Midwife has been a phenomenal hit in the UK and we expect that its appeal will successfully cross the pond."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

    Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

    Rebranding Christmas

    More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
    A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

    A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

    Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

    New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

    Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

    He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...