Friday, October 28, 2016

The Doctor and Todd Margaret

Things are bad, and they don't get better.

There's a comfort in humor from this perspective, don't you think?
"Ah, I thought as much, I may as well relax and laugh." 

I appreciate things like the "It Gets Better" series of heartfelt video exhortations to LGBTQ youth to hang in there, life improves.
But in truth, sometimes it doesn't, and we need fortification for that too.
What better than Russian humor?

I just discovered the black comedy series, A Young Doctor's Notebook, (link to NYT review; 2012–2013, six episodes). I'd never heard of it though it stars Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe (Don Draper and Harry Potter). Maybe not surprisingly. It's based on autobiographical sketches from the 1920s by Russian Mikhail Bulgakov (author of The Master and Margarita).

And is it ever stereotypically Russian: an idealistic young doctor goes to his first post, in Siberia, and everything is gloomy and terrible. [Warning: they show it all, too---I kept having to look away... even as I laughed out loud.]
I haven't finished all the episodes, but I gather it doesn't get better. (Bulgakov's life didn't.)
So I wasn't too surprised to see it's made by the same crew who put together the also hilarious-and-terrible Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret (2010, also 6 episodes; NYT review).
(Jon Hamm had a tiny role in that too--who is this guy? He's good. But one episode of Mad Men was enough for me.)

I recommend both, if you're in the mood for such "buck-up, it gets worse" cheer.

It makes me want to rewatch Mel Gibson's The Twelve Chairs, (1970, from the Russian 1928 novel by Ilf and Petrov) for a much lighter but related gloomy Russian view:
"Hope for the best, expect the worst."

Starring Dom DeLuise, Mel Brooks, Ron Moody v and a very young & beautiful Frank Langella.

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