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This mini-series (four episodes) was based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s experiences as a doctor, which he wrote about in his book ‘A Country Doctor’s Notebook’, and was part of the Sky Arts Playhouse Presents series.

Daniel Radcliffe plays a young, newly graduated doctor from Moscow in 1917, who is sent to a remote village where there is very little to do (even the nearest shop is half a day’s travel away).  It snows constantly, and the only companions he has are his two nurses, his assistant doctor, and his patients, who invariably don’t want the help that he offers.  John Hamm plays the same doctor 17 years later, and the two interact with each other (although the young doctor is the only one who can see the older version of himself).

The first  two episodes were filled with dark humour (and some gory moments), but things took an altogether more sinister turn in the third and fourth episodes, when it becomes apparent that the older doctor is addicted to morphine, and faces legal trouble for falsifying prescriptions.  The older doctor wants to stop his younger self from repeating the same mistakes.

I won’t give away the ending, but it was oddly unexpected and inevitable, both at the same time.  I understand that there aren’t any more episodes planned, but the ending means that there could be more, so I live in hope!

As for the cast – Hamm was excellent as the older, world-weary doctor, and the excellent supporting cast included Rosie Cavaliero as Pelageya, a nurse and sometime sexual partner of the young doctor; Adam Godley as his assistant, and who provided some of the more humorous lines; and Vicky Pepperdine as another nurse.  Daniel Radcliffe was fine as the younger doctor, and was not as unbelievable as you might think, playing a younger version of  John Hamm!

Overall, well worth a watch – plenty of laughs and a few ‘cover your eyes’ moments.  I’d like to see a second series please!

Year of release: 2012

Director: Alex Hardcastle

Producers: Kenton Allen, Dan Cheesebrough, John Hamm, Matthew Justice, Lucy Lumsdem, Saskia Schuster, Yvonne Sellins, Clelia Mountford

Writers: Mikhail Bulgakov (book ‘A Country Doctor’s Notebook’), Mark Chappell, Alan Connor, Shaun Pye

Main cast: Daniel Radcliffe, John Hamm, Rosie Cavaliero, Adam Godley, Vicki Pepperdine

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This review relates to the mini-series made in 1992, chronicling the life of Frank Sinatra. The Executive Producer of the series was none other than Tina Sinatra, Frank’s youngest child. The story starts when Frank is 10, and is singing in bars to entertain the customers, and it finishes in 1974.

Frank is played by Philip Casnoff, a Broadway and tv/film actor. It must have been formidable to take on such a role (Casnoff met Sinatra on set), but Casnoff did a fine job. He looked enough like Ol’ Blue Eyes, to be believable, and rather than trying to do a straightforward imitation, it seemed more as though he was trying to capture the essence of Sinatra. He was excellent in the role, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.

Other stand-out cast members were Gina Gershon as Frank’s long-suffering first wife Nancy (Tina’s mother), and Olympia Dukakis as Dolly, Frank’s formidable mother. Marcia Gay Harden also does a great job as Frank’s second wife, Ava Gardner.

Considering that Tina Sinatra was at the helm, this series is a surprisingly warts-and-all look at Sinatra’s life. It captures the pain suffered by Nancy at her husband’s distance and specifically his penchant for other women, and also portrayed the tempestuous relationship between Frank and Ava.

However, I would say that this is best enjoyed if you already have some knowledge of Sinatra’s life. This is because while the series lays out the early days of his career, and how he built his way to the top, the later years are covered much quicker (his marriage to Mia Farrow is shown from first meeting to divorce in a total of about 10 minutes). There is also little shown of his friendship with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, although the series does show the breakdown of the friendship between Frank and Peter Lawford, after John F Kennedy – for whom Frank had campaigned vigorously – rejected an offer to stay at Frank’s house, for which Peter, who was married to JFK’s sister, got the blame.

Needless to say, the music is excellent, and the atmosphere and excitement that this exciting new singer caused, is well shown.

Overall, I would strongly recommend this series to any fans of Sinatra, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.

Year of release: 1992

Director: James Steven Sadwith

Producers: Tina Sinatra, Stanley Neufeld, Richard M. Rosenbloom

Writers: William Mastrosimone, Abby Mann

Main cast: Philip Casnoff, Gina Gershon, Marcia Gay Harden, Olympia Dukakis, Bob Gunton

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Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books of all time.  So it’s no surprise that I approached this adaptation with some trepidation.  However, I needn’t have worried – this mini series captured the mood of the book perfectly.

A brief recap on the story for anyone who isn’t familiar with it: In the 19th century, Jane Eyre is an orphan raised by an unfeeling aunt, who sends her away to boarding school.  After finishing school, Jane becomes a governess to a young French girl, Adele, at Thornfield Hall, the home of the mysterious Mr Rochester.

Rochester is abrupt and has difficulty relating to people, but Jane finds herself drawn to him.  But dark secrets from the past threaten her happiness, and unexpected twists and turns in her life may throw Jane from her chosen path…

This is more than just a love story – it is a story of a woman who insists on staying true to herself and her values.  Who displays integrity and strength of character, even when it hurts her unbearably to do so.

Ruth Wilson plays Jane Eyre, and she is perfect for the part.  She is an incredibly skilful actress, and captures Jane’s combination of strength and vulnerability perfectly; she can convey so much with just an expression on her face or a small gesture.  I thought that this was an inspired piece of casting.

Rochester (my favourite romantic hero from any novel – because he is a flawed man who struggles with his inner demons, but he is ultimately a very decent person) is played by Toby Stephens.  Other reviewers have suggested that Stephens is possibly too handsome to play the dour hero – and it’s true that he is absolutely gorgeous here (long flowing locks and a brooding intensity) – but he too perfectly inhabits the character.  There was real chemistry between the two leads, and it was lovely to see how their feelings developed.

Strong support was provided by Pam Ferris as Grace Pool – a mysterious woman who works at Thornfield – and Lorraine Ashbourne as Mrs Fairfax, housekeeper at Thornfield.

With some beautiful scenery and music, this adaptation is well worth watching.  The only thing I would mention is that less time is spent on Jane’s childhood than was given to it in the book – however, that did not spoil my enjoyment at all.

I would definitely recommend this series – both to fans of the novel, and people who have never read the story.

Year of release: 2006

Director: Susanna White

Writers: Charlotte Bronte (book), Sandy Welch

Main cast: Ruth Wilson, Toby Stephens, Lorraine Ashbourne

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Click here for my review of the 1944 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 1996 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 1997 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the novel.

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