So Help Me God, I Will Make You Love Call The Midwife

Photo: Courtesy of PBS.
My number one recommendation for anyone who's looking for a new show to binge is always Call the Midwife. I even wrote a long piece about it last year, encouraging everyone with and without a vagina to drop everything and head to Netflix, where the first four seasons are currently available. So far, I have only gotten exactly one person to watch.
Maybe that's because, "Oh my god, you'll LOVE this show about these cute midwives and nuns who help women give birth in early 1960s London," isn't the best pitch. Or maybe my friends just don't trust my TV recs. Either way, I am here to preach the Call The Midwife gospel.
Season 6, which premiered April 2 on PBS, perfectly embodies why I love this show. It balances solemn issues (mental health, female circumcision, and domestic abuse are just a few of the themes appearing over eight episodes) with heartfelt story lines, and gives each character room to feel complex emotions. Yes, it sometimes veers into the melodramatic (Hot Dr. Turner and his wife — formerly Sister Bernadette, now known as Shelagh — are almost insufferably happy and upbeat about everything), but it's charming. Most importantly, despite its retro setting, it's more relevant than ever.
We live in a world where women's reproductive rights are precarious, to say the least. With all the talk of defunding Planned Parenthood and replacing the Affordable Care Act, it's refreshing to escape to a world where women's health care is not just a priority, but the priority.
But if all that doesn't convince you, I've made a list of reasons why you should tune in:
1. The Nuns
Okay, I know, I know. They're probably the reason you haven't already watched. But these aren't your average women of the cloth. They dance in front of the TV! They giggle! They take driver's ed! They deliver freakin' babies! Think Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act, but more British and with less singing.
2. The Incredibly Sexy Dentist
Guys, I'm not kidding. A new addition to this season's cast, Christopher Dockerill (Jack Hawkins), is who you hope to get every time you make an appointment for a filling. I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say one of the nurses is going to have really great teeth.
3. Helpful Pregnancy Info
I have never been pregnant. Nor have I ever seen anyone give birth in real life. But after watching six seasons of this show, I do feel like I have some idea of what's coming. If I had been invited to Downton Abbey for dinner, I totally could have diagnosed Lady Sybil with preeclampsia.
4. Girl Power
There are a lot of great lady friendships on TV, but the bond between nurses Trixie, Delia, Patsy, Barbara, and Phyllis is hard to beat. It transcends age, and sexual orientation (Patsy and Delia are not-so-secretly in love), without beating viewers over the head with how inclusive everyone is in this version of 1960s London. They drink Grasshopper cocktails in pajamas at the end of long workdays, they gossip about stolen kisses, they discuss manicure tips, and they support each other through hard deliveries and personal crises. Not quite Broad City, but not everyone can be Abby and Ilana.
5. Honesty
Ultimately, this is a show about progress. The series has done a deft job of tracking the evolution of women's health care from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. But with progress inevitably comes mistakes, and the show is brutally honest about those, too. One episode this season features a mother, who, unable to cope with the idea of more children, secretly asks her doctor to prescribe the newly available birth control pill. She doesn't need her husband's permission (something, which astoundingly enough, she has to ask), and is finally able to take control of her own body. But the early days of the pill weren't so rosy, and neither is her story: without the proper information, she is unable to self-diagnose the blood clot that eventually causes her death. The same thing goes for last season's coming to terms with the effects of thalidomide, the drug initially prescribed to help mothers with morning sickness, which turned out to cause horrible birth defects in their children.
6. Check Your Privilege
Because the action takes place in London's poorest and most diverse neighborhoods, the midwives are often confronted with situations in which they need to reassess their perspectives. Past seasons have highlighted the discrimination faced by women of color shunned by their mostly white neighbors, but nothing hit quite so hard as this season, when a pregnant Somali woman presents for her check up and gets lectured because she is unaware that the female circumcision she was forced into having as a child isn't the norm in her new country. What's more, when her birth doesn't quite go as planned, she is told that she's now "repaired," because the male doctor has set the damage right. No man will ever cut her again. Now, let's be clear — I'm not endorsing forced female circumcision. But what could have been a problematic episode is turned on its head, when that very same woman replies that in her country, women keep their name and are proud of who they are. The person who performed the ritual was a woman, not a man. Her customs are her own, even if they have caused her unspeakable pain.
7. Prestige TV Isn't Everything
Vulture recently published a list of criteria for shows to be considered "prestige TV." It highlights the vaguely obnoxious trend of TV shows propping themselves up with depressing characters and serious story lines disguised as "interesting." After slogging through hours and hours of deep, dark anti-heroes, what's wrong with checking in with some bright, vibrant women?
Call The Midwife is not a guilty pleasure — that's a phrase to often associated with women-centric shows. It's just a pleasure. Now go, enjoy.

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