Medical dramas really had it coming. ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘E.R.,’ ‘Private Practice,’ ‘General Hospital’ and dozens of others all brought in viewers, but were kind of variations on each other. ‘Scrubs’ was a big improvement because it was funny and didn’t always take itself too seriously. Even this quality show was occasionally prone to be maudlin and sappy. What this tired genre needed was a show that was willing to take on genre conventions and to look at the lighter side of medicine. ‘Childrens Hospital’ is that show.
Childrens Hospital (named for founder Arthur Childrens) is populated by doctors who are barely competent and oversexed. There is Dr. Cat Black (Lake Bell), Dr. Lola Spratt (Erinn Hayes), Dr. Glenn Richie (Ken Marino), Dr. Owen Maestro (Rob Huebel) and Dr. Blake Downs (Rob Corddry) a clown doctor who relies upon the healing power of laughter. They are led by The Chief (Megan Mullaly).
Along with boring old normal health issues, some of the drama in the series involves a relationship with a six your old boy who has advanced aging disease, a character faking her death from a brain tumor because she was getting too many emails, an evil organization trying to suppress the cure for cancer, clown rivalries, and a sexual merry-go-round for the ages.
This is entirely the brainchild of former Daily Show correspondent-turned Hollywood journeyman Rob Corddry. Further structuring the series are the contributions of full-time producer/sometimes writer/sometimes director/sometimes actor David Wain. There are some similarities to other series like ‘Stella,’ ‘Wainy Days,’ and even hints of ‘Strangers With Candy’ here and there. Love those shows? You should find a lot to like here.
Episodes from the first season (the first disc) are only about five minutes each because they originated on the web. Cartoon Network picked up the show for its second season (the second disc) and expanded things to ten minutes. This will not take up your whole weekend. You might enjoy this brevity, but you also might be frustrated by the inability to have much happen in each episode. This constraint goes a long way in preventing this show from achieving the same laughs that the above mentioned comedies ever achieved.
The most tragic facet of this whole set is that the series really seems to hit its stride halfway through the second season. Just as you’re on a roll with particularly strong episodes, the season finale is upon you and you’re left wanting more. When it’s on, though, the jokes are rapid-fire, raunchy and consistently find the mark.
Special features include: features where Dr. Owen Maestro answers questions from children, semi-serious interviews, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a literal gag reel.
While the humor is especially unwieldy and inconsistent early on in ‘Childrens Hospital,’ the series offers hope that the third season will continue with the strong finish of the second season. While it may or may not be worth a purchase, it’s definitely a lot cheaper than medical school.
Unrated 182 minutes 2011
‘Childrens Hospital: The Complete First and Second Seasons’ is available to rent/purchase in Allentown, the Lehigh Valley and beyond.