The Weekend's Viewing: Call the Midwife, Sun, BBC1
Sherlock, Sun, BBC1

 

I do understand why creators don't much care for critics.

You've conceived a project, borne it for months, along with the attendant nausea and blood pressure problems. And then, after the painful labour necessary to actually squeeze it out into the world... as you lie there exhausted, raw and spent... some bugger comes along, leans into the crib, and declares that your baby is ugly. Or, well, just a little homely, perhaps, as is the case with Call the Midwife, BBC1's new Sunday evening drama. It's been born with a silver spoon in its mouth, this: written by Heidi Thomas, based on a best-selling memoir by Jennifer Worth and starring Jenny Agutter, Judy Parfitt and Pam Ferris among others. But from the moment you hear the patrician creak of Vanessa Redgrave on the voiceover, you sense there might be trouble ahead. "Midwifery is the very stuff of life," she says plangently, "Every child is conceived in love or lust and born in pain followed by joy or by tragedy and anguish. Every birth is attended by a midwife. She is in the thick of it. She sees it all."

In this case, the midwife is Jenny, who arrives at the Sisters of St Raymond Nonnatus in the East End in 1957 to be tutored in the rich tapestry of life, from batty nuns with an addiction to cake, to a cheery couple with 24 children and another on the way. "I must have been mad," she says arriving on the doorstep, "I could have been an air hostess." But here she is instead to receive her education in human variety and the simple goodness of Sister Julienne, one of those sagacious Mother Superior types whose job it is to nudge sheltered young gels towards greater wisdom. And the first thing that will probably strike you about the East End in 1957 is how spotlessly clean it all was. Yes, there are women brawling in the streets in a picturesque manner (one would expect nothing less), but there isn't a bit of litter anywhere, let alone anything more noisome, and it seems that barely anyone at all smoked back then.

Pearl does, but I think that's because Pearl is the drama's token slattern. Everyone else Jenny has met so far is a salt-of-the-earth type designed to confound her middle-class prejudices, but Pearl is a much tougher case. "I've got some shocking discharge!" she says winningly, hoicking up her skirt for an examination. Jenny is visibly appalled, but after Sister Julienne steps in ("I'm afraid the lump in her vulva appears to be a syphilitic chancre"), Jenny comes to realise that there's no place here for judgemental prudishness. What Pearl needs, besides penicillin, is a good dose of love – a medicine that also proves miraculously efficacious when Conchita's 25th child is born prematurely in the middle of a London pea-souper, and which I suspect will turn out to be applicable in a lot of Jenny's future cases. As Vanessa Redgrave says when she comes back again: "Love was like midwifery... the very stuff of life, and I was learning how to fly with it through all the streets, like the river to the sea." If you feel you can withstand that kind of thing, then Miranda Hart pitches up next week to add a comic toff to the roster.

Let's be honest, the last two episodes of Sherlock have had an almost impossible task living up to Stephen Moffat's opener. But last night's episode, "The Reichenbach Fall", was pretty good even so, with Andrew Scott's Moriarty (a shade too much Graham Norton for my taste) forcing our hero into a lethal tango of plot and counter-plot. I won't say too much about the ending, except to note that Moffat and his colleagues have written themselves into a hell of a hole with regards to the next series. If they don't explain, there may be riots.

Arts and Entertainment
Emo rockers Fall Out Boy

music

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment

film

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
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.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links