Frankie Series 1 Episode 1 (BBC) Review

BBC4’s Getting On (which will soon be remade for the US by HBO) and the ever-popular Call the Midwife have already made the lives of nurses a very viable topic for successful telly, and this new mid-brow drama, Frankie chooses to focus on one in particular. Eve Myles fills the titular role as a thirtysomething district nurse so committed to her job that her personal life all too often takes a back seat.

What we see across this first hour might not be the experience of most district nurses over the last couple of years – Frankie is seen to have all the time in the world for those in need – but I’m not entirely sure the point of this drama is to comment on the state of the NHS. Cuts and dwindling resources are mentioned, but never truly get in the way of what has to be done. As the title suggests, this is solely about one woman’s experience in a demanding job, and what job that is doesn’t really matter. This is a good thing, since by far the strongest part of the show is Eve Myles’ heroine.

An automatic feminist role model, Myles carries charm and a steely core over from Torchwood’s Gwen Cooper, and emerges just as relatable, assured and vulnerable all at once. Some might find her perkiness slightly disingenuous, but I found that it matched the strangely cheerful tone of the show. When you’re dealing with cases of an old man with dementia, a carer stretched to breaking point and the sick young family of a soldier, cheerful might not be what to expect, but there’s a sense of skimming over these issues so as not to get too bogged down. If you’re after deep political commentary, then you’re in the wrong place.

As stressful as her work life is, Frankie also has to deal with a whiny live-in boyfriend who, despite his frustrations over her workaholic lifestyle, is about to propose at her 36th birthday party. While it was relatively easy to watch Frankie rush around to her various patients’ homes, the soap opera element is one we’ve seen far too many times before. When will a female character in a demanding job – Frankie’s central point – be able to enjoy a functioning relationship at the same time? Apparently, in this world, helping a patient above the call of duty translates into a missed engagement and a cheating partner.

What did you think of the episode? Will you be watching next week? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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