In a time when the majority of television series seem to be slight renditions of each other (lawyer shows, cop shows, doctor shows) it’s refreshing to discover a series that sets out to satire a type of show that in a way has become a parody of itself. I’m talking about the hospital dramas. Within its brief episodes, “Childrens Hospital” manages to spoof all the things that make hospital/doctor dramas so cliché, and at this point, tired. Episodes of “Childrens Hospital” poke fun at the internal monologues, series spin-offs, character’s dating lives, dramatic music cues, and so much more.
From Rob Corddry (“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,”), “Childrens Hospital” is not something you watch for character development, but for laughs. Don’t let the short episodes deter you, as the time limit actually helps keep the series and jokes fresh. Much like other Adult Swim shows, the short stretches of comedy help the series from becoming weighed down by unnecessary plotlines or scenes that are drawn out far too long. Included in the DVD are season’s one and two. Season one was a web series and the episodes run around five minutes, whereas season two offers more than double that.
The episodes begin with a very dramatic “Previously on Childrens Hospital,.” In fact, most of the “previous” scenes are some of the funniest parts about the show. They’re quick and bizarre enough to get some big laughs. The remainder of each episode follows the over-the-top, medically incompetent cast of characters as they focus more on their relationships, way of practicing medicine, and anything really that keeps them from actually focusing on doing their job right. Of course, it’s not really about what’s happening in each episode, but the way it’s presented. The writing is original, with a unique way of spoofing hospital dramas, and the performances are great, with a keen sense of timing.
The doctors at the hospital are a hilarious group of incapable, self-indulgent staff including: Dr. Blake Downs (Rob Corddry), who walks around in clown face and believes in the healing power of laughter. Dr. Lola Spratt (Erinn Hayes) and Dr. Cat Black (Lake Bell) are the female leads who get sidetracked often, spending a lot of time flirting with and dating the other doctors. Cat provides a lot of voiceovers that ramble on in an often humorous way. And in season one, Lola is trying to convince everyone that she doesn’t have a brain tumor after pretending she did to break up with one of the doctors. Other male doctors include Dr. Glenn Richie (Ken Marino) and Dr. Owen Maestro (Rob Huebel). Leading the group is the handicapped Chief (Megan Mullally) who all the men want to be with.
Season two includes new faces. There’s administrator Sy Mittleman (Henry Winkler) who the doctors can’t stand. And then there’s Dr. Valerie Flame (Malin Akerman) who replaces Dr. Cat Black in “No One Can Replace Her.” Valerie starts her own inner monologue after replacing Cat with “We all have a story to tell. Some stories are just better than others, more interesting and prettier. Some stories are blonde with Scandinavian features.”
“Childrens Hospital” starts with laughs and never stops. When Blake tells Owen that according to an X-ray, a little girl has a broken arm, he dismisses him by saying, “Please, I don’t trust these. They’re not even in color.” One of the funniest episodes from season one is the season finale “Punch It In” where Blake operates (with laughter) on Lola’s fake brain tumor and visiting doctor Max von Sydow (John Ross Bowie) operates on Chief. The male doctors are initially upset when Chief ends up looking like Eva Longoria (played by Eva Longoria ), instead of her usual self.
Season Two offers a lot of fun as well, and with longer episodes (though still not long at around eleven minutes) there’s more time for characters to get themselves into absurd and comical situations. Lola returns, but everyone thinks she’s a ghost (or a “g-g-g-g-ghost”), Blake’s estranged clown brother, Sir Tinkle Button (Paul Scheer) makes a visit, Glenn cures cancer with butterfly goop, and in the episode “The Sultan’s Finger-LIVE” (which is a fake live broadcast) Valerie reveals she’s actual Derrick Childrens (played by John Hamm) in a reveal ala “Tootsie.”
There are some hits and misses, but what makes “Childrens Hospital” stand out are the subtle (and yes there are certainly great not-so-subtle) jokes that are easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. While this may not be for everyone, it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for a quick laugh, some memorable performances, and a funny take on the many hospital dramas out there.
VIDEO: Warner Brothers presents the series in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is broadcast-equivalent, with crisp, detailed images and little in the way of concerns. Colors are a bit subdued, apparently by intent.
SOUND: Clean, well-recorded stereo soundtrack that is understandably dialogue-driven.
“Adult Swim Wraparounds” There are five wraparounds, in which Rob Corddry addresses the audience, thanking them for watching combined episodes from the web series, and offers some extra anecdotes….
“Dr. Owen Maestro Answers Questions from Kids, Part 1” and “Dr. Owen Maestro Answers Questions from Kids, Part 2” feature kids asking Dr. Owen Maestro questions like “what kind of doctor are you anyway?” to which he answers “I’m the kind of doctor that makes a lot of money.” The questions and answers are pretty funny, and Huebel’s delivery really makes them work.
“Rob Corddry and Cutter Spindell: The Man Inside The Man Behind Childrens Hospital” - This fake, seven minute featurette interviews Cutter Spindell (played by Rob Corddry), the actor who plays Blake Downs and Rob Corddry himself. There are some funny moments here as Corddry takes on both roles and humorously addresses questions regarding the show.
Also included on the DVD are: “I Killed Cancer Music Video: Exclusive Extended Edition,” “Deleted Scenes and Outtakes” and a “Gag Reel.”
Final Thoughts: “Childrens Hospital” season one and two is a humorous take on hospital dramas series. Don’t let the short episode length be a turn-off - the series does deliver more often than not. Recommended.