Tag Archives: Jon Hamm

Hamm, Radcliffe shine in a noteworthy ‘Young Doctor’s Notebook’

Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe star in 'A Young Doctor's Notebook.'

Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm share the same role in the decidedly unconventional Ovation comedy ‘A Young Doctor’s Notebook.’

I didn’t want to let the weekend pass without at least mentioning A Young Doctor’s Notebook, the weird but hilarious British miniseries currently airing in heavy rotation on the Ovation cable channel. Set during the Russian Revolution and adapted from a series of short stories by Russian doctor and writer Mikhail Bulgakov, the dramedy stars Jon Hamm (Mad Men) as a physician whose discovery of a diary he kept as a young man prompts him to reflect on his challenging days as a recent medical school graduate (Daniel Radcliffe) struggling to cope with life in the snowy and remote village of Muryevo, where he has been dispatched.
This Younger Doctor (neither Hamm’s nor Radcliffe’s characters are giving proper names) has an excellent academic record behind him, but his lack of professional experience leaves him racked by insecurity, especially with the surreal added pressure of having the Older Doctor peering over his shoulder and second-guessing everything he does. How are these two alter egos interacting and occupying the same space and time? Maybe it’s all happening in the imagination of Hamm’s character, or perhaps these are hallucinations brought on by the Younger Doctor’s increasing addiction to morphine, which he has begun taking to endure a stress-induced peptic ulcer. Or maybe it doesn’t really matter, because no matter how you rationalize it, Hamm and Radcliffe make for a truly splendid comedy duo.
And, much as M*A*S*H mined big laughs against the backdrop of Korean War horrors, A Young Doctor’s Notebook is, for the most part, unabashedly comic, which only intensifies the impact of moments like the one in which the Older Doctor tries in vain to stop his younger self from taking that first shot of dope. This duality of tone makes A Young Doctor’s Notebook an ideal vehicle for Hamm, since it gives him a chance to show off both his formidable comedy chops and the undercurrent of deep melancholy that is so much a part of his performance as Don Draper on Mad Men.
Radcliffe, however, is just as good as the Younger Doctor. You have to give it to this young actor: He easily could have coasted, or even just comfortably retired, following his phenomenal commercial success in the Harry Potter movie series, yet he seems to be working overtime to prove his range as an actor, even if that means toiling in decidedly unconventional projects like A Young Doctor’s Notebook for a British satellite channel and, now, an American cable network with a less-than-stunning subscriber reach.
Sky Arts, the British satellite outlet that originally aired these four episodes of A Young Doctor’s Notebook, already has ordered four more that are due to air in the UK this December, with Hamm and Radcliffe reprising their roles – role – whatever. I hope those episodes eventually make their way to this side of the pond, because trust me, A Young Doctor’s Notebook is a risky and rewarding breath of creative fresh air. For more on the series, visit www.ovationtv.com.

The ensemble of 'A Young Doctor's Notebook' on Ovation.

Rosie Cavaliero, Adam Godley, Daniel Radcliffe, Vicki Pepperdine and Jon Hamm (from left) star in ‘A Young Doctor’s Notebook’ on Ovation.

David’s HBO movie won’t make comedy ‘History’

clearhistory01-jpg_221741
From left, Jon Hamm and Larry David
The previews for Clear History, the Larry David movie comedy premiering Saturday on HBO, look promising, if only for the cast. In addition to David, who knows funny, supporting players include Jon Hamm, current Emmy nominee/Saturday Night Live veteran Bill Hader, Michael Keaton and Danny McBride.
Despite a promising set-up, however, this TV movie likely will please only hardcore fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm, David’s cult sitcom hit for the same premium channel, because Clear History – which, like Curb, is improvised by the actors based on a story line devised by David and longtime writing colleagues Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer – plays like a feature-length episode of the sitcom.
Let me just say right up front, this is not a good thing in my book. I’ll give David his props for coming up with some of the most brilliant comedy in TV history with some of his scripts for Seinfeld, but I’ve never warmed to Curb Your Enthusiasm, which revolves around a central character (played by David) who is, quite frankly, a self-absorbed jerk who is barely tolerable in a half-hour dose.
In Clear History, we spend most of the 90-plus-minute running time with David’s alter-ego Nathan Flomm, a selfish, grating dolt who spends the entire movie seething over misfortune that is entirely of his own making.
I had high hopes during the opening scenes which flash back 10 years, introducing the hippie-ish Nathan as the marketing executive at Electron Motors, a start-up electric car company run by lifelong friend Will Haney (Hamm), who is preparing to launch a new electric car prototype called the Howard, after Will’s young son. OK, that’s pretty funny, because the Howard is a ridiculous name for a car, and Nathan tells Will it will be impossible to market a car with such an idiotic name (“It’s like naming a restaurant Hepatitis!” he screams). Unfortunately, as with many of David’s characters, Nathan takes his argument way past a civil debate with his boss, throwing a tantrum and walking away from his job, which includes a 10 percent share in the company.
Against all odds, however, the Howard is a phenomenal success, earning the company billions of dollars. Soon, news of Nathan’s ill-advised resignation becomes public knowledge, turning him into a pop culture laughing stock.
Zipping forward to the present, Nathan has given himself a style makeover and moved to Martha’s Vineyard, where he is quietly living under the name Rolly DaVore. His contented life is disrupted, however, when Will and his wife (Kate Hudson) move to the Vineyard and begin building an ostentatious new home that only rubs salt in Nathan’s wounds. It’s not long before Nathan begins hatching a revenge scheme.
You’re probably ahead of me in spotting the basic flaw here. Nathan is seeking revenge for something that Nathan did to himself and, just as much to the point, he wants payback from someone who, we learn, is actually a very decent guy. How and why are we supposed to pull for Nathan?
An even bigger problem is the improvised nature of the film. Comedy is all about the timing, and while David, Hader and McBride are pros at improvisation, many other cast members are not, so we get a lot of exchanges that sound like this:
“I have no idea what to do.”
“You have no idea what to do?”
“Yeah, no, no idea at all.”
“You mean, like, absolutely no idea at all?”
As a result, instead of building up steady momentum that carries us to the climax, Clear History meanders, strolls, shuffles and, mostly, stumbles in its storytelling. It’s significant that one of the few moments that really made me laugh out loud, a visual joke involving a swing set, was something that was NOT improvised.
For what it’s worth, the cast seems to be having a good time, and if you’re wondering why Liev Schreiber, who has a fairly substantial supporting role, doesn’t appear anywhere in the credits, David recently told a gathering of TV critics in Los Angeles that it was because Schreiber currently stars in Ray Donovan on HBO’s rival, Showtime. That seems a little silly to me, but in any case, it works out well for Schreiber, because I can’t think many of these actors will want to include this limp, disappointing TV movie on their credits.
clearhistory08-jpg_221744
From left, Kate Hudson, Larry David, Jon Hamm