There’s a lot of TV out there, and some of it is British.
This week’s show is A Young Doctor’s Notebook.
What’s the premise?
Based off the autobiographical plays of Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, the series depicts an older doctor remembering his youth as a newly licensed doctor assigned to work in a hospital in the middle of nowhere of Siberia. The older doctor holds conversations with his younger self.
What’s the appeal?
It’s actually a comedy. A very, very dark comedy. Plus, the doctor is played by Daniel Radcliffe as a young man and Jon Hamm as an older man. So, if you ever thought Harry Potter could grow up to become Don Draper, this may be the show for you.
Anything stand out?
I’ve only watched the first season on Netflix, and it’s quite well done. The series opens with the police investigating the older doctor (he’s not really named until season two when we learn his name is Dr. Vladimir Bomgard) for…something. Given the setting of 1938 Moscow, the viewer might assume it is for political reasons, but later episodes show quite clearly that the doctor is being investigated for a legitimately serious crime I won’t go into. In point of fact, he attempts to keep his younger self from doing things that will lead to his arrest later. Of course, the younger doctor is living in the past and there’s no changing that. This isn’t that kind of show.
The show then flashes back to his youth in 1917 on the way to a hospital in the middle of Siberia. The year and the setting play a bit of a role as the doctor realizes he missed the whole Russian Revolution since he was, as noted many times, stuck in the middle of Siberia.
The show does have a very “Russian” feel to it. Owing to its source material, that makes sense, but if you know anything about some Russian literature, it does tend to come across as rather fatalistic and melancholy, even the comedies. I blame the weather.
Also, if you ever wanted to see Harry Potter have awkward sex with what looks like a rather bored midwife and drop the F-bomb, this show is for you.
Considering Radcliffe is obviously shorter than Hamm, did the doctor hit a growth spurt at some point? The height thing is even used for a comedic moment of “keep away” in one episode. I would say not to think about that too hard.
But the biggest concern may be the fact that the comedy here may not be for everyone. It’s rather gruesome in places. Episode two has an especially excruciating scene where the doctor must amputate a young girl’s lower leg. The girl is mercifully asleep the whole time, but the amputation saw is dull and it…takes a long time to get through the bone. It’s very hard to watch. The closest I can say I’ve come to seeing something like that is when James Franco finally hacks his arm off as everyone knows he is going to do at the end of 127 Hours. On the one hand, I can recognize this scene is being played for laughs. On the other hand…GAH!