Sunday: the best night on TV

Call the Midwife, Sherlock and Downton Abbey guarantee bums on seats, says Alison Graham


In my dotage, as I sit knitting tank tops for terriers, tabards for cats or whatever madness I fall into, I will still think of Sunday nights as Mum doing the ironing and Dad polishing our shoes for school the next day to the soundtrack of the maudlin horrors of Sing Something Simple on the radio. 


Oh god, Sing Something Simple! Can I ever escape your bony grasp? Will there come a time when I can cast off the memories, will those words Sing Something Simple ever stop from creeping into my head, unbidden? Will the theme tune (“Sing something simple, as cares go by, sing something simple, just you and I”) ever wither and die somewhere in a shrivelled synapse? 

No, of course not. If Sing Something Simple had been on the radio on, say, a Wednesday, then it would have slipped down the rockface of my memory and starved to death in the bracken. But it’s the fact that it was on Sundays that has locked it into the recesses of my brain where the filing cabinets are kept. 

Because there’s something about Sunday nights, at whatever stage of your life. What you watched or listened to on Sundays (Dr Finlay’s Casebook! Shoestring!) stays put. It’s a night unlike any other, the eve of a new working/school week that’s consequently shot through with singular emotions, the sense of a breath being taken as real life begins again after the weekend, whether you want it to or not. 

It’s why people are so possessive about their Sunday-night comfort viewing. Just remember the fuss last year when Lark Rise to Candleford was cancelled. A nation rose as one to ask, “But what will we watch on Sunday nights now?” 

Over on ITV1, Sunday staple Heartbeat went and so did The Royal, but Downton Abbey brought the life back to Sundays, making them talked-about TV nights again. And this year so far brought us Sherlock, which galvanised the viewing public and prompted an avalanche of speculation as to how he’d faked his own death at the end. 

I love it when TV programmes are so gleefully picked over in this way in a uniting force of pedantry. 

Call the Midwife, which you’ll know I cannot bear thanks to its endless washing lines and mawkish stories, came out of nowhere to become BBC1’s biggest new drama launch on record with 9.8 million viewers. (I have never cared about being out of step. Really, I haven’t.) 

Birdsong triumphed, despite infuriatingly indistinct dialogue (ACTORS! ENUNCIATE!) and its longueurs of longing, was another hit. Of course, it was only two episodes long and Sherlock was three. 


The second series of Call the Midwife will have eight episodes, though I’m sure before too long it will do a Lark Rise and move up to 12, such will be the public demand. So Sunday nights are alive again with the sounds of a babbling, grateful TV viewing public. It’s just a shame they have to be content with such short runs of their favourites.