The battle of the period dramas

Downton Abbey

By Ellissa Chilley

Period costume and Christmas, almost inseparable, and once again ITV are bidding for the festive hearts of the nation with another two hour Downton Abbey Christmas Special.

Unlike the snow filled special of last year, this year’s episode sees Lord Grantham and the family head north for a spot of deer stalking at the Scottish estate of Dowager Countess’s great niece Lady Rose and her parents. In place of the usual upstairs/downstairs divide, this episode will see most of the family and the staff separated instead by country and “while the cat’s away, the mice will play,” Executive Producer Gareth Neame promises. In the family’s absence trouble brews back at the Abbey as Mr Carson is left to try, against all distractions, to keep the staff focused on the daily routines.

Possible romance and certain upset is rife in the Highlands with the controversial presence of the married journalist Michael Gregson, and meanwhile O’Brien finds a scheming partner in lady’s maid Wilkins – all of which will of course come to a head at the much anticipated Gillies’ Ball.

Writer Julian Fellowes, however, has promised that this special will revolve a lot more around the staff than usual. Back home the excitement of the Thirsk Country Fair is proving a disruptive influence on the staff, love may even be in the air for cook Mrs Patmore, and arrival of new housemaid, Edna (played by MyAnna Buring) also causes upset.

Laura Mackie, ITV Director of Drama warns that: “As ever, Downton will take its audience through a whole range of emotions. All of life’s experiences will feature in this episode – best have the tissues ready …” In short, prepare yourself: 9pm ITV1 on Christmas Day.

Call the Midwife

By Romy Higgins

Call the Midwife is a gentle, entertaining but often poignant drama based on the memoirs of nurse Jennifer Worth. Every Sunday night, upwards of 9 million viewers were reminded of simpler times, when children played out in the street and men wore hats that they tipped at women.

Although this drama did have the tendency to gloss over the squalor and poverty of post-war London, with period interiors and spotless cobbled streets, it still managed to provide a fascinating history lesson for younger viewers and a trip down memory lane for the older ones.

Forget Casaulty and the modern day hospital dramas, Call the Midwife’s characters grab you on your first viewing and guide you through a rollercoaster of emotions. With references to the only just established NHS and the difficulties women had at the time you may even leave with a new found appreciation for modern day midwifery; long gone are the days when a midwife popped on her bicycle to do the delivering rounds.

With the introduction of the hilarious Miranda Hart as the posh but eager-to-learn Chummy, the show appealed to an even wider selection of viewers who know her as the awkwardly entertaining protagonist of Miranda.

Last Christmas, Downton Abbey was the most watched Christmas show outside of the soaps, so Call the Midwife certainly has a challenge on its hands to win the title back to the BBC. Its diverse cast of well known British favourites, such as Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris and Jessica Raine, who plays the protagonist Jenny Lee, all took to their roles with ease to create a refreshing main cast of strong female characters to support a fascinatingly different mix of supporting cast each week. Tune in to BBC on Christmas Day to watch the latest baby drama unfold.


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May 2022
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