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Call the Midwife

Sun Jan 20, 8.00-9.00, BBC1

Laurence Cendrowicz
Series two, episode one
This returning period drama has always been pretty good at sneaking some surprisingly dark material into its family-friendly Sunday night slot. This week, it’s sexual violence in the form of a prostitute on a cargo ship and a young, pregnant woman trapped in an abusive marriage and in danger of disappearing off the radar of the social services altogether. Ken Loach or Lars von Trier would have a field day with some of this material – inevitably, as light entertainment convention demands, these grim stories are balanced by a cheerier running gag (calling it a plotline would be pushing it) involving the miraculous properties of nitrous oxide. Still, easy and likeable viewing – we’d take this big-hearted, earnest and nicely performed drama over the cynical Sunday evening machinations of ‘Downton Abbey’ every time.