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.”
Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boymusic
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Britain First 'acting like Ukip henchmen' by invading meeting of activists in revenge for pub protest against Nigel Farage
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival streaming service criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
- 4 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 5 A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Zayn Malik releases first solo song 'I Won't Mind' in 'Zaughty' collaboration with Naughty Boy
Tidal launch: The most pretentious lines from Alicia Keys' valedictory speech
Poldark review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival streaming service criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans