The Occasional TV Review
No. I am not a binge viewer, nor will I ever be, I fear. I just can’t take that much of anything for that long. So when faced with a TV series that has but one season so far that consists of just four twenty-three minute episodes, you’d think I could have polished that off in one sitting.
Nope. It took two.
As you can see on that DVD cover, A Young Doctor’s Notebook is a “darkly humorous” adaptation of a Russian writer’s autobiographical account of being a doctor in a small isolated village somewhere probably in Siberia.
Dr. Bomgard (Daniel Radcliffe) has been assigned to take over for a deceased doctor in a hospital in the middle of nowhere in 1917. He’s fresh out of school, having excelled at his certification exams, but doing well in school clearly has not prepared him for what he’s about to discover in the real world.
Isolated from society, surrounded by an odd collection of nurses and assistants, and left basically on his own, Bomgard is overwhelmed by the task–faced with patients with syphilis, breach babies, mangled limbs, and the like. And he is reminded of this as an older version of himself (Jon Hamm) appears in hallucinations…Or it could be the other way around as the older, morphine-addicted doctor is being investigated for writing prescriptions for the drug for himself and he is going back through his notebook from that time in his life.
While the younger doctor is struggling with his job, he becomes afflicted with a strangulated hernia, which begins his reliance on morphine–a descent that the older doctor tries to talk him out of.
It’s a funny show–really, it is, in spite of the truly dark material. And this is actually aided by the quick pace and short episodes. But four episodes per season is just too few to make it really impactful.
Both Hamm and Radcliffe play the doctor wonderfully, and the hallucinations are handled very well and often comically. And the supporting cast, small as it is, is very good too.
I’d recommend it, especially since through binge-watching, you could clear the first season pretty quickly. There is a second that has aired in Britain last November, but that hasn’t come here yet, so look forward to that.
Four out of five stars.
See you tomorrow.