Tag Archives: BBC

Call The Midwife

23 Jan

Call the MidwifeAbout six months ago, my dear friend Janet Putnam recommended the BBC series Call The Midwife, explaining that I would love it because it demonstrates really good social work.  I must confess that I was rather hesitant and was not sure I would share her interest in the show, given it is about a bunch of nuns.  My interest was piqued some because it is also about the beginning of National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. Coincidentally, this past Christmas, my friend Brad sent me the first season of Call the Midwife. It seemed I would have to cave in and watch at least one episode. Wow! My husband and I have officially become addicted to this brilliant series.  The story was taken from midwife Jennifer Worth’s memoirs and is based on her experiences working in London’s East End in the late 1950s. It truly is a documentary of the start of NHS and of splendid social work — walking alongside people, being present on their journey and offering help.  I love that the real progressive voices often come not from the “modern” nurses; instead the Anglican nuns provide  the progressive narrative. The stellar cast work together in such harmony, they compel one to continue watching.  A social justice icon, Vanessa Redgrave, narrates our story, as the mature Nurse Jenny Lee. Pam Ferris, from Rosemary and Thyme, is the feisty, stern, yet lovable Sister Evangelina.  The amazingly talented and funny Miranda Hart stars as the exceedingly endearing Chummy.  Judy Parfitt, many of you will remember from her Oscar worthy performance in Delores Claiborne as Vera Donovan, plays the lovely and absent-minded Sister Monica Joan.

Tea(r) Towel

Tea(r) Towel

This ensemble cast provide not only a narration of birth, they also give us a didactic story of health care, social work, feminism, and social justice. Each episode is like a gift — a remarkable story that is utterly compelling. I must confess that I cry so much I have to have a tear towel at my side. If you have not had a chance to watch this amazing series, I encourage you to watch at least one episode, for I know you will become addicted to this very sweet and sad story of humanity from birth to death.


A Big Boy Night: Downton Abbey

7 Jan

DowntonAbbeyAs most TSM followers know, my husband and I are somewhat nerdy and don’t watch the television much, save for the Modern Family and Chopped.  Honestly, we are usually in bed by no later than 9:00 pm, but are up by 4:00 am.  I usually like to roll my hair in my tomato cans by 8:00 and be ready for bed by 9:00 after my dental hygiene routine, which is part of the Gay Agenda. With that being said, we have become addicted to the PBS soap opera that is Downton Abbey.  So you can imagine what a “Big Boy” night it was when we had to stay up past 9:00 to watch the premiere of Downton Abbey Season III.

We actually used the machine on the tv to tape Downton Abbey, but we already watched the special feature with our Angela Lansbury, who looks absolutely stunning at 87!  While it is our Dame Maggie Smith, the Dowager Countess, who is a primary reason we are avid fans of the show, albeit I actually know a real life Dowager Countess, we are addicted to the story line.

Our biggest disappointment in Downton Abbey is the unacceptable homophobia of writer Julian Fellowes!  In his screenplay for Gosford Park, Fellowes depicts the gay characters played by Bob Balaban and Ryan Phillippe as hedonistic self-serving loathsome people.  Sadly, he has now done his worst in portraying the only gay character in Downton Abbey, Thomas, as a sociopath.  What is that about?  Has our Fellowes not ever met any good gay folk?  Is our Fellowes struggling with some demons of his own?  I’m afraid at this point, there are no redeemable traits in our Thomas, so we are left to further vilify gay folk and bear witness to the inexcusable homophobia of Fellowes.

Both Fellowes and Rob James-Collier (who plays Thomas) have promised a more complex and sympathetic portrait of the valet in Season III. We shall see. In the meantime, the season began on a high note, with the welcome addition of Shirley MacLaine.  The multiple storylines and rich characters continue to weave a tapestry of intrigue that showcases class and privilege in rapidly changing times. It’s also — as good television ought to be — great fun wrapped in touching humanity. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store!

Transatlantic Television Traumas: Too Gay?

5 May

TV's Greatest Threat to Children?

This past week has seen two more incidents that underscore the unequal standards that are applied to LGBT characters on television. To help us feel less alone here in the United States, we have a story from Texas and a story from London.

In Great Britain, Prime Minister Cameron has commissioned a study (encouraged by some of his more conservative cabinet members) on the impact of adult content on television. The focus is on programming that falls before the “watershed” (9:00 pm, roughly similar to our prime time family hour cutoff). Initial reports indicate that this study will include any displays of affection between LGBT characters as adult content; the specific example is a kiss from a 1994 British series that caused a great sensation when it aired. It’s hard to believe that the British government would use a 17-year-old example to set policy, and impossible to accept the potential double-standard in simple affection. A kiss, after all, is just a kiss. Cameron will not comment until the study is formally published, but the LGBT community in the United Kingdom is paying close attention.

Closer to home (and yet so far away), a Texas Fox affiliate aired a “news” piece about the recent anti-bullying episode of Glee. The anchor referred to the gay couples as “product placement” for the LGBT community and then hosted a ridiculous point-counterpoint between local gay activist Dan Hill and the nefarious Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. Fischer trotted out all the usual lies and distortions, including outdated statistics and misleading portions of studies, to rail against “corrupting children” with the “gay lifestyle.” Fortunately, Hill was calm and funny as he debunked Fischer at every turn. A highlight:

Look, I don’t care you hard you try to revive 1954, she ain’t comin’ back!

That test pattern looks a bit too out and proud...

While it’s great that such a well-spoken individual was able to represent the LGBT community, the whole premise of the segment was deeply flawed. Why should it even matterthat there are gay characters on the show?

As we’ve emphasized before on this blog, gay rights are human rights. Applying a double-standard to the behavior of a character or a couple based on sexual orientation is not acceptable. Viewers who aren’t interested in the full, rich spectrum of humanity can change the channel. Our lives are not lifestyles, and we will not be relegated to cable specialty channels and after-midnight viewing.

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