Upstairs Downstairs and Call the Midwife writer: period drama is the new “Sunday lunch”

And Heidi Thomas denies her shows provide mere "empty escapism"

Writer Heidi Thomas, whose drama Call the Midwife has recently been crowned the most successful new series on BBC1 in over 10 years, has been discussing the popularity of period drama.


“In some ways, in our fractured and spiralling society, period drama has taken over where Sunday lunch left off,” she said. “It makes a community of us all, drawing us together in our homes, and sending us back into the world with a common talking point.”

But Thomas, 49, does not feel that nostalgia and “empty escapism” are the main reasons for the high ratings.

“I believe that the real appeal of period drama is that it deals with timeless issues. The stories I love to tell on screen may have a historic setting, but the human experience comes first, with all of its emotional baggage – love, jealousy, betrayal and labyrinthine family relationships,” she wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

However, Thomas does admit that the visual trappings of such shows as Upstairs Downstairs are central to their allure:

“You can smell the Mitsouko perfume, sense the brush of mink – it’s aspirational, uplifting, the very stuff of dreams. And I’m as seduced by this as anybody else.”


Upstairs Downstairs continues Sundays on BBC1 at 9pm, while a second series of Call the Midwife is expected to air in 2013.