The extensive commercial success of two well-made popular television drama serials screened in the UK at prime time on Sunday evenings during the winter of 2011-12, Downton Abbey (ITV, 2010-) and Call the Midwife (BBC, 2012-), has appeared to consolidate the recent resurgence of the period drama during the 1990s and 2000s, as well as reassembling something like a mass audience for woman-centred realist narratives at a time when the fracturing and disassembling of such audiences seemed axiomatic. While ostensibly different in content, style and focus, the two programmes share a number of distinctive features, including a range of mature female characters who are sufficiently well drawn and socially diverse as to offer a profoundly pleasurable experience for the female viewer seeking representations of aging femininity that go beyond the sexualised body of the 'successful ager'. Equally importantly, these two programmes present compelling examples of the 'conjunctural text', which appears at a moment of intense political polarisation, marking struggles over consent to a contemporary political position by re-presenting the past. Because both programmes foreground older women as crucial figures in their respective communities, but offer very different versions of the social role and ideological positioning that this entails, the underlying politics of such nostalgia becomes apparent. A critical analysis of these two versions of Britain's past thus highlights the ideological investments involved in period drama and the extent to which this 'cosy' genre may legitimate or challenge contemporary political claims. © Journal of British Cinema and Television.
Tincknell, E. (2013). Dowagers, debs, nuns and babies: The politics of Nostalgia and the older woman in the British sunday night television serial. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 10(4), 769-784. https://doi.org/10.3366/jbctv.2013.0174