'Call the Midwife' seemed to win the war for Christmas viewing hearts over the over-trumpeted 'Downton', but this was a crucial return to the screen with its second series - would it throw away the advantage or build on it?
As per the first series, this debut episode was built round a handful of cases, including that of the weary Molly Brignall, an expectant mum with a brooding husband and bruises explained away - and the writers didn't shy away from the dilemma of how best to help a woman under domestic threat.
More lightly, there was Bella, the group's very first, very grateful gas guinea-pig, signalling that we'd arrived at 1958. These stories were brought together neatly with the line, "Courage - wish we could bottle it like gas and air."
Back on their backs for Series 2 of 'Call the Midwife'
Men didn't come off very well in this first episode. When they weren't beating their pregnant wives or threatening the in-laws, they were queueing up to have their way with the captain's daughter on board a ship in the East End docks. I'm not sure pert Trixie's telling-off of the Swedish captain would have undone all the years of endorsed chauvinism at the root here - after all "men don't fight when there's a woman on board" - but she got to wear trousers, just to ring that metaphor bell a bit more loudly in case we missed it.
Of course, the programme's charm continues to lie in the colours, the music and the chemistry between the midwives - "friendships that would last me all my days" - from the gentle admonishments of the more senior brigade, worrying about "doctor, now he's got no one to sew his buttons on", to the mischievous but well-meaning efforts of the younger girls... and then there's Chummy.
I'm in the minority of the nation, a group of people who don't laugh out loud at Miranda's self-titled sitcom, but I concede she fits perfectly here, with her armoury of 'top hole' epithets, and even her banana-skin routine of demonstrating the new pain-relieving gas to euphoric effect.
Apparently, recruitment for midwifery saw a massive spike during the first season's successful run - judging from the simple satisfaction on display here, their personnel should be ready to person the phones once again.
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