Posts Tagged ‘William and Mary’

Without getting too graphic I think we can safely assume that the manner in which babies are conceived is exactly the same on either side of the pond.  Unless of course, you’re having sex in the TARDIS…

Much more accurate than peeing on a stick.

If you are time traveling during intercourse, then you will be a likely candidate for that program where none of the women knew they were pregnant until they make an urgent trip to the bathroom and find they’ve delivered a full-term infant into the toilet. But that is only a very small percentage of us so let’s crack on.

In general, conception can be categorized as a human process not dictated by cultural differences. Once an embryo has been established, the British and the Americans again differ very little in regards to the order in which pregnancy progresses: mother-to-be throws up a lot, gets fat, buys baby name books, shows her ultrasound scans around, and of course every man’s favorite, the hormone induced mood swings which baffle and quite frankly frighten the father-to-be.  In addition, if you are a resident of tv land, it is required that the child be born in some unusual locale like a pub (Louisa and Doc Martin’s son) or at your father-in-law’s CBE party (Howard and Mel’s daughter on Worst Week of My Life).

Of course one can’t forget the classic frenzied rush to the hospital…

It would appear that teen pregnancy is also an Anglo-American phenomenon. As the cautionary tale, Pramface shows us, one night of drunken partying mixed with teen-age hormones can detour your life in the blink of an eye.

Clever and at times heartwarming as it can be, Pramface takes on the issues faced by teenage parents, their families and friends.  Yes, Laura is a spoiled college-bound girl looking forward to escaping her embattled, unhappy parents and Jamie is a sweet, but directionless 16-year-old boy, but together they lurch their way towards accepting their responsibilities and become friends in the process.  It may not be “reality”, but I’d take Pramface over this any day.

So if pregnancy is a fairly universal condition, what about the childbirth experience?  Here is where the two countries start to diverge. There’s still the pushing and screaming and crying, but on British television shows at least, the woman in labor is far more likely to be attended by a midwife than mothers in the US might be.

Of course I’ve done all this so I could have a reason to mention Call the Midwife. I’d heard about this show at Christmas time and was chomping at the bit wondering when we’d have the chance to see it here. (Yes, this truly is my life.) Well, those wonderful people with such good taste at PBS got it to us in less than a year from its UK broadcast date and I’m very happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed the first episode on Sunday night.

All midwives are issued a medical bag and, you guessed it, a bike.

Set in East London in 1957, it follows new midwife, Jenny Lee through her first on-the-job experiences. She learns not only how to put her training to use but, while living and working with an order of midwife nuns, Jenny is quickly exposed to a world very different from her sheltered, more privileged upbringing.  The only thing that disappointed me about the first episode was the absence of Miranda Hart, but I’ve since seen that she will make her rather awkard entrance in next week’s episode.

Their equipment may be antiquated and perhaps a little scary, but the midwives of Nonnatus House do what women have been doing for all of human history – assisting other women in delivering their babies.  While the popularity of midwifery in the US is slowly on the rise, it’s still considered a slightly hippy-dippy, alternative medicine sort of thing.  In the UK, it appears it never went out of fashion.  British midwives deliver babies in home settings, but they also play a prominent role in hospital births, taking on the lower risk deliveries while the obstetricians concentrate on the more complex cases.  Midwives may actually visit you at home for your antenatal (prenatal, to us Yanks) care.  Most are employed by the National Health Service and there is a critical shortage of practicing midwives at the present time.  My readers in the UK, feel free to correct me if my internet research has led me astray.

I first became aware of the role of modern-day midwives by watching William and Mary.  Mary (Julie Graham) worked not only as an NHS midwife but, after butting heads with her superiors, also tried her hand at private independent midwifery as well.  I’ve found no short clips of Mary doing her thing but if you’re interested, whole episodes exist on YouTube. It’s a series worth watching, also starring Martin Clunes as an undertaker.  Did you catch the symmetry there?

So in conclusion, reproduction is universal,  pregnancy is similar in most consumer cultures, teenagers the world over can’t resist the forbidden fruit, and the professional who’s there to catch the baby at the other end of the bed may have something to do with the way you pronounce the word “aluminum”.  As a reward for reading this entire post, please enjoy this fact filled clip from the people at the UK documentary series, One Born Every Minute, another reality series we nicked from the Brits.


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If I had to form an opinion about race relations in the UK just based on what I see on recent tv programs, I would be inclined to believe that they don’t have the same racial divisions and hang ups that America still seems to have. Interracial couples abound on British television from Skins‘ Jal and Chris to Being Human‘s Annie (bi-racial and a ghost) and Mitchell (Irish and a vampire). Granted both of those relationships ended tragically, but not because of racial differences. A former relationship between Mary Gilcrist (William and Mary) and Reuben, the father of Mary’s bi-racial sons draws little notice while Cold Feet featured at least two interracial liaisons – Rachel and her estranged husband, Kris and David and his affair with fellow community committee member, Jessica.  Doctor Who consistently features couples of different ethnic groups, notably Rose Tyler and Mickey and, of course, Martha Jones’ big crush on the Doctor himself – although what makes him most different from Martha is debatable because he’s white and he’s an alien.   Also in the crush category are the many white female staffers on Green Wing who swoon over their black IT manager, Lyndon.  The point of all these examples is that these couples never discuss their differences. And why should they? They get no nasty looks from strangers, their families don’t seem to disapprove; therefore one would assume race is a non-issue.

However go back to the late sixties and you will find active racism depicted on British television.  Til Death Us Do Part features Alf Garnett, a conservative, working class, racist who is having problems dealing with the quickly changing world and his liberal son-in-law.  (If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s the program that All in the Family was based on).  A few years later, a show called Love Thy Neighbour debuted about two couples, one white and one black, living next door to each other.  The stories were set around the fact that the white husband was a racist often calling the black couple “Sambos” and “nig-nogs”.  Deservedly, this character was portrayed as a stupid bigot while the black husband volleyed the ignorant  jabs and the wives mostly just stayed out of it.  It’s hard to imagine this show was ever considered funny but it may have reflected what the country was coming to terms with at the time.

Despite all the recent examples I offered earlier, racism can still rear its ugly head albeit as an object of small mindedness and ridicule.  In Little Britain‘s university office sketches, secretary Linda is required to describe students to the department head over the phone and does so with a laundry list of stereotypes right in front of the people she’s describing.  David Brent (The Office) continually seems to be putting his foot in his mouth when it comes to racial issues, even though he paints himself as a tolerant boss.

So are the BBC and other media outlets in the UK depicting accurate attitudes or the world as they would like it to be?  Probably a little of both.  While Britain doesn’t have the same history with slavery and segregation as the US, they did participate in providing their colonies with inhumane sources of labor.  In WWII Jamaican soldiers were tolerated when they were fighting for the mother country, but not when they tried to start new lives there after the war.  This summer’s rioting is further proof that all has not been resolved.  Until then it’s admirable to put forth an image of racial harmony to which we can aspire – as long as we are also reminded that there’s still work to be done to get there.

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I started watching Coupling this week and it gave me the idea for this post (and I don’t just mean, “Wow, this reminds me of Friends”). This show about six attractive, single, professional types strayed from something I have always liked about British television – and that is not everyone is drop dead gorgeous.  This sentiment was echoed by a comment on an earlier post by kymlucas:

“I also love the fact that gorgeous in England doesn’t necessarily equate to perfect teeth and features. Richard Armitage (be still my beating heart) has kind of a pointy nose and Sean Bean (pitter-pat, pitter-pat) isn’t really handsome just extremely masculine. Sigh. Let me sit here and dream a moment.”

In many of the programs I have watched, characters who are seen as beautiful or hot do not meet the Hollywood standard for obvious attractiveness at first glance.  But upon closer inspection, they actually are. 

In William and Mary, William Shawcross (Martin Clunes) chooses Mary Gilcrest (Julie Graham) out of all others he sees at a video dating service and falls head over heels.  He sees a sexy, good-looking woman – she even has a tattoo!  Hold on – she’s also a mother of two teens with a noticeable gap between her teeth and, let’s face it, a few years on her.  But she owns it and is strong, intelligent and attractive.  And the fact that Martin Clunes has starred in at least three different series would certainly fly in the face of the traditional standard for leading men on American television. 

In the casting of The Office, it was said that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant wanted lesser known actors with average looks to make their mockumentary seem even more realistic.  Yet behind the limp hair, drab wardrobe and imperfect complexions, Tim (Martin Freeman) and Dawn (Lucy Davis) are intriguing and attractive as an almost-couple.

On Shameless, Fiona Gallagher (Anne-Marie Duff) is overworked, overwhelmed and looks it, but when Steve (James McAvoy) sees her dancing at a nightclub, he thinks she’s the most beguiling woman he’s ever seen.  Suddenly, her skinny awkwardness is seen in a more graceful light…of love.  Corny as it sounds, it’s the love (or at least the haze of infatution) that allows these characters to see the objects of their affection as handsome or beautiful and we see it right along with them.

Sure, it’s easy to fantasize about your McDreamys or Gossip Girls.  I, for one, am glad for British televisions’ willingness to showcase all types of beauty because it makes our viewing experience far more interesting and exposes us to many talented actors who might not have gotten a second look in Hollywood.

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I know that I am definitely going to be out of my depth on this topic so right up front I invite those of you who are more knowledgable about the UK healthcare system to chime right in.  But as the title of my blog suggests, I am going to discuss what I have gleaned by watching British television, so here goes.

First of all, there is the concept of the village GP, one doctor responsible for the entire population of a small town.  The physician sees people in his/her surgery (office) and can make house calls or emergency visits when required.  Hospitals in the larger towns nearby serve these villages and ambulances always seem to be about a half hour’s trip away.  (Having a volunteer fire department located in my own town makes me a little nervous!)

Ballykissangel has kind, discrete and reliable Dr. Michael Ryan.  Hamish Macbeth‘s Lochdubh has philosophical, serene Doc Brown, a healer of all creatures, even the occasional West Highland Terrier.  It makes you wonder what’s in that ubiquitous pipe of his.  Then there’s Doc Martin of Portwenn.  Formerly a surgeon from London, Dr. Martin Ellingham has developed a blood phobia which has driven him from the operating room to a friendly, quirky village in Cornwall.  His rude, socially inept manner doesn’t serve him well with conscious patients, but he does know his stuff and quite often saves the day as he rushes, rather awkwardly, from one incident to another.  In series two, he is visited by a Physician’s Friend, an official from the National Health Service who is investigating patient complaints about Doc Martin’s bedside manner, or lack thereof, and threatens to remove him from his post. 

In the bigger cities, of course, medical personnel and facilities aren’t spread so thin.  In the Irish program, The Clinic, this Dublin practice consists of two GPs, the Drs. Costello, plus  a counselor, a physiotherapist, a homeopath, a nurse and a plastic surgeon who rents a consulting room.  I like this holistic approach, but I don’t know if you often find this variety of medical practitioners in one real clinic.  The premise, however, offers many paths for storylines to develop.  With an office staff of three, this practice is abuzz every moment.  Patients with appointments, people showing up unannounced; everyone eventually gets squeezed into the schedule and treated.  Plus there’s sex, drugs and plenty of drinking in the pub.

While still considered more alternative in America, William and Mary‘s Mary Gilcrest is a midwife. Based out of a London hospital, she attends home and hospital births and works with expectant mothers to make their birthing experiences as positive as possible.  Mary does encounter administrative reprimands for her methods at times and therefore considers going into private practice with some other midwives.  Whether midwives and homeopaths are considered mainstream in the UK or they just make compelling television characters, I don’t know, but the dedication of these characters is certainly universal.

Nationalized healthcare is a very emotional topic in this country at the moment.  Meanwhile the UK has recently celebrated the 60th year of the National Health Service.  I don’t begin to pretend to understand all the intricacies of a government-run healthcare system.  But I do like the intention behind it; the belief that health of each individual citizen contributes to the good of society.  Britain’s NHS might not be perfect but I applaud the effort.

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