Television review: A Young Doctor's Notebook -Daniel Radcliffe is innocent and Jon Hamm is knowing in this hamfisted show

A Young Doctor’s Notebook, Sky Arts 1; Madeley Meets the Squatters, ITV1

If you were to take a guess at what Daniel Radcliffe might look like 20 years from now, I’m not convinced you’d come up with Jon Hamm as your best shot. He’s about six inches taller, quite apart from anything else, and though age does increase some measurements, height isn’t usually one of them.

So it’s mildly startling to find them playing the same man in A Young Doctor’s Notebook, Sky Arts’ version of Mikhail Bulgakov’s autobiographical short stories about his experiences in his first medical posting after graduation, a remote country hospital 32 miles from the nearest streetlights. Hamm plays Bulgakov, first seen sitting helplessly in his Moscow apartment as unfriendly commissars search his office for evidence of counter-revolutionary subversion, and Radcliffe plays his fictional alter ego, Dr Vladimir. And even the older Bulgakov seems surprised by the changes time has wrought. “Did I really use to look like that?” he says disbelievingly as he watches his younger self fluster over his first patient.

There’s a way out of this niggle of implausibility, I guess, which is that this is an acknowledgement of psychological size. The young doctor feels the world as overwhelming, the older one is more knowing and in command. Unfortunately, though, this solution brings with it an entirely different problem, which is the odd interaction of old and young man in the same space. The older teases the younger about his uncertainty and occasionally rescues him with calming advice. But if young Bulgakov has access to the wisdom of his older self (who doesn’t yet exist anyway), how come he’s in such a fluster anyway? It proved beyond me to construct a rationale for this double act, other than as a representation of the rueful memories of the older man on recollecting his youthful inexperience. In that case, though, what on earth’s going on when they have a slapstick fight in the middle of a medical emergency?

The stories have been made more comic and less grimly stark than the originals, Radcliffe playing the young doctor as an innocent out of his depth and keen to conceal the fact from the knowing nurses and medical orderly he notionally outranks. And, setting aside uncertainties, it’s been very nicely done, with Vicki Pepperdine as an older nurse who fiercely protects the memory of the predecessor in the post, Leopold Leopoldovich, and Adam Godley as the hospital orderly, a man with a personality more numbing than chloroform. Alex Hardcastle’s direction gives it a drab, deep-shadowed beauty and there are hints at the bleaker realism of the original, as when Vladimir’s hamfisted attempt to extract a carious tooth results in the patient loosing a large chunk of jawbone as well. But I still can’t work out why it needs two stars in it rather than one.

Madeley Meets the Squatters also turned out to be a tale of wide-eyed innocence bumping up against the realities of the world, the  innocent in this case being Richard Madeley, who seemed keen to persuade us that his chief virtues as a reporter are ignorance and naivety. “I know nothing about squatting,” he announced, before adding that the idea had always filled him with revulsion. “This is the most surreal conversation I’ve ever observed,” he said later, as he presided over an encounter between a landlord and the squatter who was occupying his building (quite a claim, incidentally, from  a man who presented This Morning for 13 years). And when he was taken “skipping” (retrieving food from supermarket bins), he appeared dazed by this well-reported activity:  “I had no idea that this was going on.”

He was less revolted by squatting by the end of the film, but for most viewers the unintentional Partridgean comedy would have been the best reason for watching. “You can’t film me pissing,” he said indignantly to the camera crew when using the facilities in one squat.“You can listen.”

twitter.com/tds153

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future