Television

CAN YOU SEPARATE your politics from your humanity? I can. Call the Midwife is a BBC production being aired in America on PBS that touches my soul despite the fact that so many aspects of it conflict with my core beliefs. However, none of that matters when I am presented with good people doing good in an ugly world.
Few can argue that London's East End in the 1950s was any ugly place. Far too many people living on low wages and crammed together in meager shelters. Little of beauty finds its way into this neighborhood. An occasional weed pushing up between the cobblestones provides a rare glimpse of green in a gray world, and it is soon crushed by humanity flooding and ebbing in its narrow streets, drawn by the alternating gravity of work and respite. The people aren't so much miserable as they are bereft of hope that their lives or their children's lives might amount to something more. Still, they produce children as though it is the only creative act permitted them.

Into this morass strides Jennie Lee, a trained nurse and midwife. She seems so out of place. Of possibly lower middle class origins, she has the look and poise that might have been assets to a model or an airline stewardess. She is a splash of color surrounded by dull brutes, their care-worn wives, and their teeming urchins.

Jennie joins a group of midwives sponsored by the Catholic Church. She and three other lay persons work alongside a small cloister of nuns, providing free health care to pregnant women.

Many will be surprised and some perplexed to learn that I watch anything on PBS. I not only refuse to contribute to it, but also refuse to endorse any politician who votes to continue supporting it with public funds. PBS served its purpose in the early days of television. It provided an outlet for quality programming that the commercial broadcasters would not air. However, in these days of narrow casting, with many hundreds of cable networks airing quality programming, PBS is no longer needed, nor can we afford it. I wouldn't object if the public treasury still overflowed with the wealth of our nation. Unfortunately, our government has stifled the creativity and enterprise of the people thus lowering tax revenue, and squandered the treasure that was handed to them by their predecessors. I am certain that if PBS were shut down today, programming like Call the Midwife would find another home tomorrow, and Big Bird would be the object of a bidding war by the purveyors of children's programming.

Produced in Britain, it is no surprise that this program extols the virtue of that nation's free public health care system. We saw evidence of that pride recently during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. Supporters of Obamacare in this country most likely will be gratified by these references. Unfortunately, for every benefit derived from free public health care in Britain, there are countless devils in its details. For example, I happened to be corresponding electronically with an acquaintance in England as the opening ceremonies were being broadcast. She complained bitterly that she hadn't been able to schedule an appointment with a doctor for months for the sole purpose of obtaining a new prescription for her pain medication. Yes, this is only an anecdote. However, it is representative of the fact that the health system in Britain works far better for the healthy than the unhealthy.

Call the Midwife is narrated by Vanessa Redgrave as the voice of an older Jennie Lee, reflecting on the life and experiences that we see unfolding on the screen. I take great care in avoiding Ms Redgrave inasmuch as I am greatly offended by her politics. I would fight to the death to defend her right to any political ideology that she chooses. However, I will not pay one cent to support her or her causes. I also am offended by those who cast her in the role of Fania Fénelon, a Jewish classical musician interred at Auschwitz during World War II, in Playing For Time. Having Ms Redgrave portray a Jew when she has vehemently attacked every Jew's most basic desire to live in peace in their own homeland is reprehensible. She has used her prominence as a respected actress to foister the lies crafted by the Arabs who want to annihilate those who live in Israel. You may agree with her. I don't. Still, I will not allow her participation in this production to cause me to turn away from it.

Despite all this, I recommend this show highly. There is no “bang-bang” action or torrid love scenes. It is simply a good story, well told. I suspect women will be more inclined to view it. However, they should encourage their men to watch it with them. Drag them kicking and screaming if need be. It will do them good.
 


Comments

10/15/2012 06:28

I cannot agree with your political views, however, I agree that Call the Midwife is a gem of a show. The endings are a teeny bit twee but enjoyable nonetheless.

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Jack Durish
10/15/2012 09:29

As I said, I can put aside most everything political when a good story is really well told. Of course, now I'm going to have to look up "twee".

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10/15/2012 07:50

I have not been watching "Midwife," but on your recommendation, I will. We love British television, both drama and comedy, and particularly the detective shows. I am watching "Upstairs, Downstairs," which comes on immediately after "Midwife," so I will tune into PBS an hour earlier.

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Jack Durish
10/15/2012 09:28

My wife likes most of the British crime dramas. The really dark characters though put her off. I like all of them. The Brits seem to have a fascination with detectives who are psychologically wounded. "Luther" was among my favorites.

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10/15/2012 23:33

I had to giggle just a bit at your recommendation in spite of disliking PBS and the narrator. I have to agree with you on the PBS. We really don't need government funded tv. I don't know anything about V Redgrave's politics though.

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