Plenty of British shows air in the States at this point. Downton Abbey and Doctor Who are among the most prominent, but the BBC series Call the Midwife, which airs in the US on PBS, has quietly become one of the best British imports on TV. On Monday, word came down the pipeline that Call the Midwife has been renewed for a fifth season.

In a press release, the BBC announced today that Call the Midwife has been renewed for a fifth season just as Season 4 has wrapped up production. The show is one of the most-watched dramas in the UK, and it has also garnered a niche fanbase on PBS. A Christmas special is expected to premiere on PBS on December 25, and Season 4 will hit the schedule on March 29, 2015. Which means the Season 5 renewal has come very, very early.

Season 5 of Call the Midwife has nabbed an 8-episode order that will hit the schedule in 2016. The hour-long series will also get a holiday special next year, which will air in December of 2015. While the startlingly early renewal might seem a bit odd, the news does show the BBC’s confidence in its childbirth-related drama, which lost lead actress Jessica Raine at the end of Season 3. At the time, it felt like a disaster for the series. Raine was indisputably the star of the show, and her character, Jenny Lee, was based on Jennifer Worth, a real midwife who lived and worked in the East End in London in the 1950s.

It’s always tough for a show to lose a lead, but Call the Midwife’s problem was compounded by the fact that Vanessa Redgrave voices an older version of Jenny Lee on the show, who also happens to narrate the events in the series. It seemed like there would need to be some major shakeup before the show returned. For Season 4, the show has added new cast members in Linda Bassett as Nurse and Charlotte Ritchie, who will play Phyllis Crane and Nurse Barbara Gilbert, respectively, presumably to make up for the loss of Raine. In addition to the new actresses, Redgrave is staying on in order to narrate the show in the same fashion viewers are used to.

Obviously, there is a bit of a logic problem with keeping Redgrave on after Raine has exited, but I’m still stoked to see the BBC and PBS, in extension, are confident in the series’ new lineup in Season 4. A show always changes at least a little bit with the exit of one of its leads, but if the new Call the Midwife lineup is even half as good as it has been over the last several seasons, viewers will have compelling episodes to look forward to. Sans that holiday special, we just have to wait until March to catch them.

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