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.”
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Engineer pictured fixing plane's engine with 'duct tape' by concerned EasyJet passenger
- 2 Two-year-old says goodbye to bin man best friend
- 3 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Bob Dylan: How the Isle of Wight festival managed to steal the voice of a generation from Woodstock
Big Brother 2015 new housemates: Simon Gross returns as stripper Marc O'Neill, model Harry Amelia Martin and X Factor reject Sam Kay join
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'