Judging by the press and promotion over the last few weeks, it seems I wasn’t the only person surprised to hear the announcement of this small mini-series. When you have two of the biggest stars of Film & Television of the last decade, starring in an adaptation of a well beloved Russian writer, how can’t you be intrigued? I was and very eager to tune in. Over time, Sky Arts has been building its repertoire of programming in many respective genres, which has featured the likes of talent such as David Tennant, Emma Thompson and even Sir Tom Jones with its anthology program Playhouse Presents earlier this year. So, can A Young Doctor’s Notebook keep the standard up for Sky Arts?
To explain the series in a brief, both Radcliffe & Hamm play the character of Dr. Vladimir Bomgard, but in different points in his life. Radcliffe plays him as a young unprepared student sent to a remote village soon after graduating. Whilst Hamm – portraying the older version of Bomgard – is flashing back to his youthful period, with deep thought and ponder. But to add a twist in the tale, both versions interact with each other in Radcliffe’s practice. Surprisingly, despite cynicism from critics, the humour works and the comedy between Radcliffe & Hamm is very well executed, especially by Radcliffe, who very rarely in his career gets to showcase his comedic side. The only time he really had a chance, was in the sixth Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince back in 2009. In this however, he is more witty and slapstick, and adds more enthusiasm and expression than he has previously.
But the problem so far with this miniseries is just how uneventful it is. You have a pretty intriguing premise, but the production fails to do anything exciting with it and so the ball drops pretty quickly and potentially loses audience interest. Its no surprise that this mini-series has gained the title of the highest rated programme on Sky Arts (306,000 viewers is nothing to boast about if you think about it), but viewer ship can easily tumble and its ever so more vulnerable that its on a lesser known digital channel, that is still developing and finding its feet. Plus with critics giving mixed reviews, the show can forget its chances at Awards next year.
But: do watch it. Its only in four parts with thirty minutes per pasrt, so even if its not your thing, you won’t lose too much valuable time. It showcases Radcliffe in a new exciting way and exposes you to a new channel with plenty to offer, young or old. So even if this isn’t received well, it will pay off in the long run for Sky Arts as well as for both Radcliffe & Hamm.