April 15, 2014

April 15, 2014


The spring TV shuffle this year is not just about Mad Men, Cosmos, and Game of Thrones. It’s also about Call the Midwife, Mr. Selfridge, and The Bletchley Circle. That’s right, baby: I’m talkin’ ‘bout some PBS. It’s not just Mr. Rogers and Downton Abbey. (I love Mr. Rogers and Downton Abbey. Please, no letters.)

Let me start with my favorite of the three: The Bletchley Circle. As you may or may not know, Bletchley Park was home to Britain’s codebreakers during World War II. Some of that nation’s greatest minds dedicated their time to man’s greatest achievement: kicking Nazi butt. Fast forward a few years. Four former BP lady codebreakers, who’ve maintained various degrees of contact, come together to solve a mystery. They’re uniquely suited for it; one’s good with maps, another has a photographic memory, etc. Last season involved some of the tensest scenes I’ve seen this side of Sherlock S2. The show also highlights the difference between postwar America (barbecues and lawn flamingos for everybody!) and postwar Britain (tea, tweed, and weariness).

Mr. Selfridge is about the American (!) who moved to Britain (!!) to start one of the very first department stores. Selfridge’s still operates today, though I’m not sure how it compares to the opulence of its 1910s heyday. Because shopping was GLAM back then, people. The guys on the loading dock dressed better than I do. Mr. Selfridge falls rather on the soapy side, though, so I give it a moderate recommend. Jeremy Piven plays the title role, though I can't speak to any similarities between this character and whoever he played on Entourage (Ari?).

You know Call the Midwife is good if someone as opposed to children—both in theory and in practice—can enjoy it. Granted, there are a lot of graphic childbirth scenes. I mean, a LOT. I guess having a baby is hard enough even in modern times. In the East End tenements of 1950s London, it was unbearable. The nuns and midwives of St. Nonnatus house did what they could, though, and the show includes the ups and the downs of that life. One of my aunts is a nun, so I like seeing what convent life is like. It’s also interesting to see how the midwives live; they’re in sort of a dorm setup. And, of course, the patients. Oy, the patients. The patients who range from happy-but-poor to down-and-out. Some make the best of what they’ve got, and others wallow in their misfortune. I was so intrigued by these Eastenders that I read the trilogy of books on which Call the Midwife is based. (Not necessarily the best idea, because the graphic childbirth scenes are even more so in print.)

You may not have the time or ability to watch these shows live. But they’re also put on the PBS website, which is on the very same internet as this blog. You can do this. You have the technology.

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