Saturday Selection: Breathless (PBS Drama)

This may be one of those “I’m biased” Saturday Selections, but what can I say, I love the British television shows PBS allows us Yanks to see*. The latest of the bunch is Breathless and I’m eagerly awaiting tomorrow evening to see the third episode of this tantalizing show.

About the Show

The premise of Breathless sounds terribly dull:

“A TV series set in early 1960s England centered around the doctors and nurses in a gynecology ward.”

I mean, really? How could gynecology be anything but eBreathless (2013) Posterither boring or icky?

By throwing in plenty of personal drama into the mix.

In truth, very little of Breathless revolves around the gynecology ward. Instead, Mr. Otto Powell (played by the dashing Jack Davenport, aka Commander Norrington of Pirates of the Caribbean) is a superb gynecological surgeon who helps women end unwanted pregnancies despite stringent laws against abortion. Helping him are the anesthesiologist Dr. Enderberry and a nurse.

At the beginning of the first episode, Nurse Jean is relinquishing her role as Otto’s assistant because she’s gotten knocked up by Mr. Richard Truscott, another gynecological surgeon who has a horrendous bedside manner. Jean and Richard plan to marry (a marriage that goes sour pretty much on Day One) and married women were not employed as nurses, so she passes on the reins to Angie Wilson.

Angie is Jean’s sister, but no one is supposed to know that because the sisters are hiding the fact that 1) Angie is married and 2) their father has mental troubles that they are trying to keep under wraps. Add to all this a police inspector with a dark secret from Otto’s past with which the inspector is blackmailing Otto’s wife, and Otto’s near misses with the police and you’ve got an attention-stealing show.

What’s So Great About It?

First off, it’s well acted and well written. There’s no bits where the show feels contrived, events seem too convenient, or characters behave out of character. The multiple layers of story lines that all weave into one another also create a fabulous mix of medical drama, crime drama, romance, and even some comedy.

As Breathless is set in the early 1960s, it’s also a thrill to see all the old cars, the gorgeous clothes and wonderful sets. And you can’t help but love the cringe-worthy moments of doctors and patients smoking in hospital, women being told they need medication because they’re angry over their husbands having affairs, and the flippant attitude of male doctors toward women’s health. Great politically incorrect fun!

The show does make a case for safe and legal abortions, so if you’re an unwavering pro-lifer, this is not going to be the program for you.

Where to See It

Tomorrow evening (9pm, I believe) PBS will be airing the third episode of Season One. To catch up before that, you can watch episodes one and two for free on the PBS app (which is also free). You can also watch the episodes on the PBS website.

About that Asterisk in the First Paragraph

*I love all the PBS Brit shows except for Downton Abbey (insert eye roll). How could a show that started off so good have turned into such a soap opera?

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2 thoughts on “Saturday Selection: Breathless (PBS Drama)

  1. P. S. Hoffman says:

    Is it similar at all to any American medical dramas?

    And I love that PBS isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty with a little bit of ‘political incorrectness’. I hate when shows white-wash a reality.

    Good review!


    • painterwrite says:

      I don’t watch much tv so I may not be the best source for comparisons. I can say I’ve never seen a show like this…especially the nitty gritty (and refreshing) non-PC stuff.


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