This series had me hooked from the first episode. I’ve always hated shows like Grey’s Anatomy: the kind of dramas where there is inevitably a concluding voiceover and/or a montage, and everything is wrapped up nicely. Throw together an upbeat pop song with just the right chord progression and a young doctor strolling through a hospital and you have an ending. The protagonist learned something about love. It was something surprising, and yet obvious all along. I think it’s the perfectness of the people on these shows, pretending not to be perfect, that makes me dislike them so much. It’s the way everything works out so conveniently. And the endless, endless romances.
But now there is Childrens Hospital, created by Rob Corddry, a show that parodies with gusto all the things I hate about medical (and other) primetime dramas.
Childrens Hospital started out as a web series in 2008, but was picked up by Adult Swim (an American cable channel associated with Cartoon Network) in 2010. Each eleven minute episode focuses on the paediatric centre Childrens Hospital, named after its owner Dr Arthur Childrens. Although clearly filmed in the U.S., characters on the show often make a point of saying that the hospital is in Brazil. There is little explanation for most of what happens on Childrens Hospital: doctors form romantic relationships and abandon them willy-nilly; people are killed off and then come back to life; the entire hospital staff is transferred to an army base in Japan…
A very large part of what makes Childrens Hospital so great is its cast. Creator Rob Corddry also stars as Dr Blake Downs, a surgeon convinced he can cure children with the “healing power of laughter”. Downs is never seen without frightening clown makeup and bloody handprints on the chest of his scrubs. Ken Marino (from the series Party Down) is Dr Glenn Richie, and Megan Mulally (also from Party Down, but perhaps more well known for her roles in Parks and Recreation and Will and Grace) plays the physically disabled character known only as Chief. Henry Winkler joined the series in season two to play hospital administrator Sy Mittleman, and Nick Offerman (Ron from Parks and Recreation and Axe Cop from Axe Cop) recurs as Officer Chance Briggs. Each character in the show has an alter ego in the form of the ‘actor’ playing them, and some episodes go ‘behind the scenes’. Dr Blake Downs is ‘played by’ Cutter Spindell, Dr Glenn Richie is an intense character actor named Just Falcon, and Dr Valerie Flame is Ingrid Hagerstown.
Childrens Hospital is a comedy that is at once silly and smart. It satirises with style the kind of TV that make us lazy, stupid, and boring. So many moments on Childrens Hospital perfectly capture and lampoon formulaic, primetime dramas: the way the episode teaser voiceovers work, the editing of scenes for maximum suspense, the complicated romantic relationships and bed hopping. And with episodes that are only eleven minutes long, Childrens Hospital is addictive. Once you start, it’s difficult to stop. Happy viewing!
Childrens Hospital is currently in its fifth season, and airs on Adult Swim at midnight, Thursdays. Watch Childrens Hospital at adultswim.com.