Physician, Heal Thyself: Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe play the younger and older versions of a troubled Russian physician in A Young Doctor’s Notebook which has its American television premiere Oct. 2 on Ovation.
Jon Hamm is 6’2″, from America’s Corn Belt and best known as unscrupulous ad exec Don Draper on AMC’s Mad Men. Daniel Radcliffe is 5’5″ and English as Earl Grey, and became an international superstar by age 12 as the feature-film incarnation of literary kid wizard Harry Potter.
Hardly two guys you’d peg to play the same guy in shared scenes in a single production.
But as the older and younger versions of a nameless physician in A Young Doctor’s Notebook, the Sky Arts adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s semiautobiographical short stories that became the highest-rated series in the network’s history, the two are a marvel. Now Ovation brings the British four-parter to American television as Hamm and Radcliffe wrap a second series of episodes for Sky.
Radcliffe stars as Young Doctor, a newly minted graduate of the Imperial Moscow University of Medicine and Dentistry dispatched to a remote Russian hospital during the Russian Revolution to take over for deceased doc Leopold Leopoldovich. Leopoldovich is still very much present in the hospital’s dark rooms via his own imposing self-portraits — and in the hearts of his devoted staff, dour nurse Anna (Vicki Pepperdine), junior midwife Pelageya (Rosie Cavaliero) and The Feldsher (a sort of physician’s assistant, played by a hilariously deadpan Adam Godley), all of whom utter his name like a solemn oath. And are none too pleased to have this nervous tic of a young interloper take their fearless leader’s place.
Enter Hamm’s Older Doctor, Radcliffe’s middle-aged other who helps him cope with a crippling self-doubt that’s soon exacerbated by his confounded staff and provincial clientele into opiate addiction.
“Did I really used to look like that?” the weary-looking elder muses as he watches his younger self wrestle a steamer trunk of belongings.
With that audience wink out of the way, the duo begin near-seamless, deliciously wry interactions as the older doctor coaches and chides his younger self through a series of medical and personal events that he meticulously records in leather-bound journals. And viewers realize that the actors’ height difference also serves nicely as a metaphor for their current emotional state.
The series, coproduced by Hamm’s own Points West Pictures, has a transportive, Dickensian sort of rustic beauty, and every actor is terrific in his or her role. For fans of dry, Brit-wit, period-piece humor — and those of us curious to see Hamm and Radcliffe as characters very different from those that made them stars — A Young Doctor’s Notebook could be, well, just what the doctor ordered.
A Young Doctor’s Notebook airs Wednesdays at 10pm ET/7pm PT beginning Oct. 2 on Ovation.
Images/video: © 2012 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd