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

Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project