Sky's been on a bit of a role in terms of comedy commissions. While most of the notable ones have been on Sky1 and Sky Atlantic, other channels have been making their own shows, with this one coming from Sky Arts 1.
A Young Doctor's Notebook is based on a collection of short stories made by the Soviet novelist Mikhail Bulgakov, most famous for his book The Master and Margarita. The story's told via extracts from an old doctor in 1930s Moscow (played by Mad Men star Jon Hamm), about his experiences working in tiny village hospital in the middle of nowhere just after his graduation in 1917 (his younger self being played by Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame).
The opening story see the young doctor arrive at his new practice and dealing with his much more experience staff: Anna (Vicki Pepperdine), a midwife who is obsessed with the doctor's late predecessor Leopold Leopoldovich; fellow midwife Pelageya (Rosie Cavaliero) and the boring feldsher (Adam Godley). As the story goes on, the young doctor finds himself mysteriously in conflict with his older self, who keeps telling him what to do.
This opening episode was highly enjoyable. I've read some of Bulgakov's work before (i.e. Heart of a Dog) so I know a bit about his life and the book's in some ways based on his own experiences as a doctor in the Russian countryside. It does make you wonder exactly how much of it's based on stuff which occurred to him as there's quite a lot of gore. One of the most horrific yet funny scenes involves the young doctor trying to extract a tooth from a patient, which first leads him to drag the patient around the floor, before doing something I don't think it would be wise to mention now.
It's not just the slapstick which is good, but the characters too, especially the staff the doctor has to work with. The feldsher for example makes a study of how many things you can possibly fit into the young doctor's luggage (he counts socks individually).
Many people will be watching A Young Doctor's Notebook just to see the high-profile leads, but there's much more to this programme than just the cast.Ian Wolf, Giggle Beats, 10th December 2012
The stories have been made more comic and less grimly stark than the originals, Radcliffe playing the young doctor as an innocent out of his depth and keen to conceal the fact from the knowing nurses and medical orderly he notionally outranks. And, setting aside uncertainties, it's been very nicely done, with Vicki Pepperdine as an older nurse who fiercely protects the memory of the predecessor in the post, Leopold Leopoldovich, and Adam Godley as the hospital orderly, a man with a personality more numbing than chloroform.Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent, 7th December 2012
Playhouse Presents returns with a curiously unengaging story based on A Country Doctor's Notebook by the Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov. The four-parter concerns a young doctor (Daniel Radcliffe) who in 1917 arrives, newly graduated from Moscow, at a remote backwoods hospital. Out of his depth, he struggles with his patients' ailments and the lack of confidence shown in him by his colleague, the feldsher (a sort of medical jack of all trades, played by Adam Godley). Flash forward 17 years and we see an older version of the doctor (Mad Men's Jon Hamm) reading a diary recalling those naive adventures and conversing with his former self. A shame the uninteresting script doesn't match the talent on show.Simon Horsford, The Telegraph, 5th December 2012