Breathless (TV Mini-Series 2013)

TV Mini-Series   |  Drama

Episode Guide
Breathless (2013) Poster

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




  • Catherine Steadman in Breathless (2013)
  • Catherine Steadman in Breathless (2013)
  • Jack Davenport and Natasha Little in Breathless (2013)
  • Ronny Jhutti in Breathless (2013)
  • Shaun Dingwall and Joanna Page in Breathless (2013)
  • Zoe Boyle in Breathless (2013)

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Peter Grimsdale (creator), Paul Unwin (creator)

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5 October 2014 | blanche-2
| a '60s doctor show
Recently caught this on PBS and enjoyed it, although I was miffed that ITV canceled it, so we were left with many loose ends.

Probably inspired by Mad Men, this 2013 series takes place in '60s London, pre-Carnaby Street, and concerns two sisters, Angela (Catherine Steadman) and Jean (Zoe Boyle), both nurses, their family, husbands, lovers, and their lives at the New London Hospital.

The women work in the hospital along with the elegant highly respected surgeon, Dr. Powell (Jack Davenport), his close associate Charlie (Shaun Dingwell), and a young, ambitious surgeon, Richard Truscott (Oliver Chris).

The striking Jean is engaged to Truscott. She's pregnant, which he knows, but she tries to keep other elements of her lower middle-class life quiet. After all, what did nurses want in those days but to marry a doctor. One of the things she keeps quiet about is her demented father. Angela is married to Joe, whom the service has declared missing, and she's attracted the interest of the married Dr. Powell. Powell has a wife (Natasha Little) and a son. Because they're both married, Angela doesn't want to get involved with him.

Powell's wife starts hearing from a sinister police Inspector Mulligan (Iain Glen), and we find out that something happened long ago that has impacted the lives of Elizabeth, her husband, and Charlie. Mulligan clearly wants to blackmail her about it.

This is a prime time soap opera, so you have to like that genre. The series shows the male-dominated medical field, the fact that the wife was expected to quit her job once she got married, and that most women were husband-hunting. It also deals with illegal abortions, which Drs. Powell and Dingwell conduct so that women won't die from bad procedures. One woman in the story found out her husband was having an affair and went off the deep end. Her husband took her to a doctor, and she was given a lot of medication for menopause, including Librium. Jean goes on the pill. So there are a lot of women's issues covered.

After Jean gets married, she stays home. She's shown attempting to cook. It just seemed like such a huge buildup to a wedding and then she's alone all day in an apartment doing work she really doesn't want to do. One night she goes out to help with an illegal abortion and lies to her husband, saying she went to the theatre. He isn't happy because it's so late when she arrives home. It's one thing if you have a child or children, and/or being a homemaker is something you enjoy and wanted to do. But Jean lied about what she really wanted so that she could marry a doctor. She misses her job and her friends.

I read some comments about the '60s clothes - I don't really remember much about the early '60s. I do remember when the Cleopatra big eye makeup came in. I thought for the most part the women looked appropriate. Angela sported a flip hairdo, and Zoe sometimes wore her hair up. There was teased hair. Zoe attends a funeral at the end wearing an Audrey Hepburn get-up. Everybody smoked.

The acting is very good from everyone. Not mentioned yet is Charlie's wife (Joanna Page), a somewhat dowdy looking woman who wants a baby. She was excellent in the role of a woman who puts a brave face on unhappiness and seems on the silly side. On the other hand, that's the "role" she plays in her life.

I would definitely have watched another season; sorry it was canceled.

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