It opened with an audience of almost 10 million and ended its first run with more than 11 million, yet when it was first brought to them Call the Midwife failed to convince BBC commissioners.
“It was a hard sell initially,” admitted executive producer Pippa Harris of the 1950s-set medical drama series. “The BBC were, I think it’s fair to say, quite slow to actually green-light the show.”
But Harris said a change of BBC controller, from Jay Hunt to current post holder Danny Cohen, saw a sudden switch in attitude about the show.
“[Creator] Heidi [Thomas] had written such a strong script and there was a change of controller at BBC1,” Harris explained, during a session chaired by Kirsty Young at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
“The controller of drama said [to Danny Cohen] ‘This is one of he things I really care about, you’ve got to read it,’ and [Cohen] read it and within about three weeks of him coming to the job it got the green light.”
Fans of Call the Midwife – known for its warm characters and unflinching portrayal of childbirth during the post-war era – will be pleased to hear that Thomas is about to finish writing the second series and that a Christmas special is set to air this year.