Gerry’s Xmas Costume Drama round up (just the highlights)

vastra-investigatesGerry’s Xmas TV costume drama round up: the terse version

Call the Midwife.
Love this because my Mum was a district midwife. This means I grew up answering the phone to desperate men yelling at me because their wives were in labour and Mum wasn’t at home. A deeply formative experience- it taught me that women do the work while men shout (smiley face with wink to indicate I’m joking…probably..).

I also appear to be one of few women educated by nuns whose experience was for the most part very positive. In fact, the first two times I ever got tipsy was on ‘medicinal whiskey’ supplied by nuns (should I make a joke about bad habits or just let it go?)

However, I do think this Xmas special got a little too wholesome and holy. The midwives I knew as a child tended to have a raucous, distinctly earthy and at times grisly sense of humour. The nun farting was getting there but take away her complicated love life from the earlier series and the central character becomes a bit too saintly, especially in conjunction with jolly hockey sticks ‘Chummy’.

Downtown Abbey
On what basis is Matthew convinced that despite her ruthless and horrible behaviour to him and to everybody else, Lady Mary is a nice person? In this episode he says it’s because he’s held her naked. In my experience this is not a very reliable method of judging character.

This sort of blindness to the facts perhaps explains why in a fit of joy at becoming a Dad he crashed the car in a scene very reminiscent of Meg Ryan’s equally unconvincing fatal bicycle accident in City of Angels (1998). At least she had the excuse of wearing headphones. Perhaps he didn’t hear the noisy engine of the van he hit on an empty road on a bright sunny day because the music playing on the sound track was too loud?

In the meantime, Tom the ex-chauffeur is still being bossed about by all and sundry and weeping. I know he’s upset that Lady Sybil died – we all are- but why did this produce such a personality change from a fiercely independent, political radical and journalist to a nobs lickspittle?

And what was so all time amazing about Anna learning a Scottish reel? We did this at primary school, which might indicate that it’s not exactly a major physical or intellectual challenge.

Personally I’ve think I might have had enough of Downtown. Just give Maggie Smith her own show- I say.

Dr Who
Lovely, feisty and highly intelligent new ‘companion’ Clara, not content ( as he remarks) to be pulled along behind the Dr. Clearly, this show is trying hard with its female role models and there is also Lady Vastra, the Lizard Lady and her very attractive wife. This scenario implies the show is also supporting the battle for gay marriage but not so sure many lesbians would be happy to be represented by a Lady Lizard. Also fairly sure someone at the time might have noticed that Sherlock Holmes was female (if not a lizard) especially since Vastra appears to be a top femme.

In her grief for Matthew’s death, Lady Mary from Downtown is transported to the 1970s to bring up her son on her own and her mum is transformed into Charlotte Rampling, who turns out to be Russian who lived in France and became a British spy in the 1940s, played by Hayley Atwell, who fell in love with a man who said ‘trust no one including me’, who turns out to be a double agent, who deliberately sets her up to get killed- several times.

She is trained as a spy, surely she must have realised the old ‘trust no one, including me’ line is always an attempt at reverse psychology? And men with pencil moustaches are always cads.

Nevertheless, until the plot went a bit off at the end I enjoyed this drama  because Atwell’s performance was wonderful and she even looked like a proper 1940s woman; that is she had real hips and was forced to negotiate the entire war in the same ugly hat (or versions of).

I have an affection for William Boyd’s novels, as relatively easy but intelligent reading and liked the book on which this drama was based. I don’t seem to remember the last chapters being quite so Stephen Poliakoffish (about surfaces). This might be something to do with Lady Mary (Michelle Doherty) who needs to extend her range of expressions vocally and facially, indeed she looks severely botoxed -although she is far too young for this to be the case? The still lovely and still compelling Charlotte Rampling has definitely not gone down the botox route but even so remained mysterious and inscrutable (having been a spy and all that) so once Rufus Sewell and Atwell were no longer around everything went a bit abrupt and two dimensional.

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