Mary McNamara

'Call the Midwife's' Christmas special can warm up the deepest freeze

'Call the Midwife's' Christmas special can warm up the deepest freeze

For much of its early life, “Call the Midwife” lived in the period-drama shadow of its more glamorous PBS cousin “Downton Abbey.” How could a group of young, shirtwaisted midwives bicycling through London’s East End in the early days of the National Health Service ever hope to compete with the bejeweled and Georgian splendor of the Crawley family and its fabled manse?

By outliving it, of course, including and especially during this most festive time of year.

Where once the “Downton Abbey” Christmas special enthralled audiences on either side of the Atlantic, now “Call the Midwife” tops many “best holiday specials” lists (along with the venerable and inevitable “Doctor Who”),...

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