Daniel Radcliffe, Jon Hamm share same role in bleak comedy

Life & Arts Editor

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Jon Hamm’s most recognizable television role is as the dapper Don Draper in AMC’s “Mad Men,” but for two seasons he has acted alongside Daniel Radcliffe in the British dark comedy “A Young Doctor’s Notebook.”

Hamm and Radcliffe both star as Dr. Bomgard, with Hamm portraying the titular doctor in 1935 and Radcliffe in 1917-18. Based on the autobiographical writings of Russian playwright Mikhail Bulgakov, the series examines Bomgard’s days as a young doctor in a tiny hospital located in the wintry outskirts of Muryevo, Russia.

Just like the first season, season two bounces back and forth between Hamm in 1935 and Radcliffe in 1918, but fans of these actors need not worry, because the two share plenty of screen time together. Hamm and Radcliffe often interact with each other in 1918 Russia, which does not make a whole lot of narrative sense, but these scenes are a large source of both the show’s humor and emotion.

While season one focused mainly on Radcliffe’s descent into morphine addiction and the consequences Hamm is paying for it, the show’s fantastic second season picks up a year later for Radcliffe and post-rehab for Hamm.

This creates a whole new dynamic for the two when they interact with each other. It is quite pathetic seeing the lengths Radcliffe’s younger version of Bomgard will go through in order to feed his addiction, often neglecting his patients as well as the feelings of his few colleagues at the hospital. This makes it all the more heartbreaking when the rehabilitated version of Bomgard shows up and witnesses the actions of his younger self, chastising Radcliffe for what he is doing. One of the show’s saddest moments comes when Radcliffe rushes out of the room where a dead patient lies, but Hamm stays back and mutters to himself, “I could’ve sworn I stayed here for hours.”

But despite these more depressing moments, “A Young Doctor’s Notebook” is also full of darkly comic scenes. Taking place in 1918, the Bolshevik revolution is in full swing, and the small hospital staff must tend to both Bolsheviks and the White Guard, flip-flopping between their loyalties depending on who they are currently treating.

There is also a lot of amusement to be found in Radcliffe’s feeble attempts to win the heart of beautiful aristocrat Natasha (Margaret Clunie), who is traveling with the White Guards while she awaits the return of her fiancé. This leads to many hilarious scenes, such as Bomgard’s awful attempt at poetry and short snippets of an opera involving Radcliffe wearing a goofy clown suit. Still, the most entertaining scene in the season is Hamm teaching Radcliffe how to waltz, if not solely for the sight of these two famous actors doing something so ridiculous together.

“A Young Doctor’s Notebook” is a very funny series with an original, interesting cast and premise. It was originally only shown in Britain, but you can now catch season one streaming on Netflix. With only four episodes per season, it is a short watch that is worth your time.