07/12/2012 14:56 | By Dan Owen, contributor, MSN TV

A Young Doctor's Notebook review: Hamm and Radcliffe shine

Reviewed: A Young Doctor's Notebook is one of Sky Arts' premier dramas starring Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe.

Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe in A Young Doctor's Notebook (© Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe in A Young Doctor's Notebook Image. Sky)


A Young Doctor's Notebook stars Jon Hamm as Moscow doctor Vladimir Bomgard. Over four episodes, he reminisces about his early career in the far-flung village of Muryovo, with his younger self played by Daniel Radcliffe.

This Sky Arts comedy-drama from their Playhouse Presents... strand is adapted from the autobiographical short stories of Russian playwright Mikhail Bulgakov.


The most unforgettable sequence found the Young Bomgard trying to extract a tooth from a hapless patient, resulting in a startling eruption of cavity blood.


No conspicuously poor moments worth mentioning. However, the joke with The Feldsher (Adam Godley) boring Young Bomgard to distraction (by testing the capacity of his large trunk in the middle of the night) was awkwardly handled using a time-passing fade out.

Full review

I wasn't enthusiastic about the prospect of a four-part adaptation of a Russian playwright's work, airing on a niche channel like Sky Arts.

However, the best surprise of A Young Doctor's Notebook is how engaging, comical and unpretentious it is.

"Mad Men's Jon Hamm has a smaller, less showier role"

Much of that's down to the performance of Daniel Radcliffe as the naïve young physician sent to a remote village on the eve of the Russian Revolution in 1917; he acquits himself remarkably well.

The Harry Potter star isn't best known for comedy, but he has a natural sense of rhythm and awkwardness. It pefectly suits this innocent character who's stepped into the shoes of distinguished surgeon Leopold Leopoldovich; an older gent with a shaggy beard, whose standing in the community simply can't be surpassed.

Mad Men's Jon Hamm has a smaller, less showier role (at least in the first episode), as he's essentially the bookend to Radcliffe-starring extended flashbacks.

It's an intriguing creative choice to have the Older Bomgard interact with himself for particular scenes - like a ghost from the future, advising the Younger Bomgard.

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A Young Doctor's Notebook lights up Sky Arts

Hamm's very good in the more understated role, which admittedly isn't a massive stretch from the disposition of Don Draper in Mad Men (he's even introduced sat behind an office desk having a cigarette), and the moments when he's counselling Radcliffe's character are some of the best.

A Young Doctor's Notebook certainly isn't a deep or complex medical drama, but it's an enjoyable half-hour mix of amusement with some fine performances.

The budget clearly isn't huge, but it's more than adequate for what's required on-screen, and sells the sense of time and place very well.

It's just a pity nobody even attempts a Russian accent (everyone's playing their characters as English), but perhaps that's a blessing in disguise.

More importantly, it's great to see Sky Arts doing something that will definitely attract a larger audience thanks to the popularity of its headlining actors.

The show itself is good enough to draw you back for the remaining three instalments.

An enjoyable "stage play for television", broken into four parts; appreciably jokey in tone and style, with two winning performances from Radcliffe and Hamm.

  • Verdict: Sky Arts strikes gold with a nicely paced drama starring two huge names.

    Star grade

What other reviews say

The Independent - "Daniel Radcliffe is innocent and Jon Hamm is knowing in this hamfisted show."

The Telegraph - "The action was a peculiar mix of silliness and gore, but there were some good lines."

What people on Twitter said

‏@rkNaveen - "Daniel Radcliffe staring TV series 'A Young Doctor's Notebook' Pilot is quite good."

@vickipepperdine - "very much enjoying a young doctor's notebook :)"

The views in this article are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft

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