Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Jon Hamm, Rosie Cavaliero, Adam Godley, Vicki Pepperoine
With "A Young Doctor's Notebook, " BBC America has sent another TV production into the race, this time lining up Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe and Mad Men's Jon Hamm. How could we pass up the opportunity to take a look at this? Well, clearly, we could not.
Deep in the Russian tundra, in a place so remote that it is forgotten by the rest of the world, a young doctor (Daniel Radcliffe) is taking over a small local hospital in 1917. Fresh off the university with perfect grades, he has absolutely no hands-on experience and fears what may lie ahead of him. The small staff at the hospital adds to his unease, reminding him at every step that he is no match for his predecessor, the late Leopold Leopoldovich. But while continuously conversing in his mind with his older self (Jon Hamm), the young doctor slowly begins to build confidence. Whether it is delivering a baby in the snow, amputating a little girl's leg or treating the syphilis that is spreading among the villagers, he is slowly managing what is expected of him. If only he weren't so bored in between. If only there were something else to do than to watch the snowflakes drop from the ever-leaden skies. Drugs, perhaps? Well, morphine may do or some diversion…
"A Young Doctor's Notebook" is a brilliantly dark comedy with plenty of moments that will have you laugh out loud. Sometimes it is the doctor's ineptness as he reacts to a situation he does not know how to handle, sometimes it is the dry response of his fellow cast members to the situation, occasionally it is the absurdity of a given situation itself, and oftentimes it is the over-the-top hilarity of what is happening on the screen. In the end, the show has not a boring moment and moves ahead briskly from one set piece to the next.
Consisting of only four episodes for this first season, unfortunately there isn't enough of the show for my taste. Seriously, it leaves me wanting more. A lot more! The four 25-minute episodes feel like a teaser of the real show, really, getting you excited and pumped up about the show, and then letting you dangle, just when you got in the groove and got to know the characters better.
The show is presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio on this DVD, in an anamorphic transfer. The image is clean and free of defects or blemishes, rendering the muted colors palette with bravado. Whether its the gloomy indoor shots or the night time sequences, the show always has a look and feel that instantly reminds us of old-time Russia. Perfectly capturing the landscape and the surroundings the way we have come to imagine them to be, the show puts the finger on familiar territory right away and dives straight into the events surrounding the doctor. Black levels are solid, helping to give the picture depth and adding to the overall contrast of the transfer.
The DVD features a stereo audio track that perfectly suffices the show. With a subtle ambiance, the focus of the track is on the dialogues, obviously, and the DVD does a great job reproducing it with clarity and without harshness.
"A Young Doctor's Notebook" was a bit of a surprise. With its pitch black humor it instantly hit the right note with me and I thoroughly enjoyed this show. As I mentioned before, the only detriment is that it is just way too short, so let's hope BBC has the second season lined up for DVD release already.