Childrens Hospital is the bastard brain-child that I never knew Rob Corddry had hidden away in his skull. Although I've appreciated his work on the Daily Show and in numerous films since then, I never recognized the whip smart satirist lurking just beneath the skin. Working with David Wain and Jonathan Stern, this show is the perfect vehicle for his brand of meta-comedy. What really takes it over the top is the fact that there isn't a single weak or unfunny performance to be found in the entire cast.
The show is set in a Brazilian hospital that was founded by the late, great Arthur Childrens. Don't let the name fool you though. This is not a hospital where kids go to feel better. Frankly, I'm not sure it even qualifies as a hospital based on who is working the counter. The 'doctors' are largely self-obsessed attention whores who can't stop sleeping with each other long enough to actually cure anyone. They squabble, focus on inane minutiae, have sex, ignore the sick and dying and finally cap off the day with more sex (sometimes with the sick and dying). In other words, this is Grey's Anatomy with a ton more laughs.
The ridiculous premise is sold by a supremely talented cast comprised of sketch comedy luminaries and all-around funny people. Corddry sets the tone as Blake Downs, a doctor who exclusively believes in the healing power of laughter. Unfortunately for his patients, this means that life-saving medical procedures are cast aside in favor of silly sight gags performed by a grown man wearing clownish face paint. Clearly he doesn't have quite the track record of Patch Adams.
Ken Marino (of The State) plays Glenn Richie, a doctor who may have found the cure for cancer in butterfly goop while Rob Huebel (of Human Giant) is Owen Maestro, an oblivious and arrogant blowhard who is also quite the lady killer. Speaking of the ladies, Lake Bell and Erinn Hayes appear as Cat Black and Lola Spratt respectively. After a brief flirtation with each other, they get their own meaty storylines. Cat's arc involves her forbidden love with a boy suffering from advanced aging disease which leaves him looking like Nick Kroll. Lola takes a proactive approach to managing her email inbox by faking her own death only to be mistaken for a ghost upon her return to the hospital.
The second season gives us Malin Akerman as Valerie Flame, a replacement for the irreplaceable Cat Black. Megan Mullally shines in her appearances as the Chief who happens to be crippled in every imaginable way while Henry Winkler steps up to the plate in season 2 as a hospital administrator who may be the closest thing to a caring soul that Childrens Hospital has ever seen. While this covers the central cast of the show, rest assured that there is also a steady stream of guest stars appearing in the hallways of this establishment. Ed Helms, Nick Offerman, Jason Sudeikis, John Cho, Kurtwood Smith, Paul Scheer, David Wain, Lizzy Caplan and many more stop by for a gag or two. I wouldn't even dream of spoiling a cameo from the second season finale that had me rolling. Also, try spotting Michael Cera's many appearances on the show. Keeping your eyes peeled won't be enough.
I know I've said a great deal about the cast of the show but that shouldn't be taken as a slight against the rest of the production. This is a funny and irreverent take on the hospital drama that knows how to alternately wield sledgehammers and scalpels in the name of comedy. Broad bits of slapstick and brilliant stupidity are closely followed by observations of sharp satire. Mawkish dialogue is always funnier when it is delivered with crushing seriousness, which is something that the writers and cast know all too well. They milk common dramatic tropes like pregnant pauses, demonstrative voiceovers and illogical cliffhangers for all they are worth.
My only complaint with this show is that I wanted more. The 2 seasons presented here didn't do enough to quench my thirst for Childrens (I know how that sounds). Perhaps that's because, the first season consists of only 10 webisodes that are each roughly 5 minutes long. That's just long enough to get in, set up a few quick gags and get out. In comparison, the second season is almost epic with 12 episodes that are each 11 minutes long. This shift in format is thanks to the show's inclusion in the Adult Swim lineup.
Ultimately, this is about a group of funny people doing what they do best: being funny together. If you are a fan of anyone in the cast or can envision the comedic possibilities offered by the premise, I urge you to seek this show out.
The show was presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. I found the image to be fairly clear and free of any obvious defects. The color palette was a bit dull but that may have been intentional to replicate the drab interiors of a real hospital.
The audio was presented in English Dolby Surround Stereo. While the stereo mix was more than adequate for a dialogue intensive television show, I did notice a few uneven spots during the first season when the vocals were mixed a bit low. English, French and Spanish subtitles were available.
The extras, spread out across both discs of the release, are numerous but short. We start with 5 Adult Swim Wraparounds (5:53). Intended to give some structure to the webisodes from the first season, all 5 segments feature Corddry goofing off. Some of it is inspired (like the dark story with his daughter in a waiting room) while some is just plain silly (the highlight reel that only contains his scenes). The next extra is split into 2 parts for some reason but it features Rob Huebel in character as Dr. Owen Maestro Answers Questions From Kids (1:48, 2:09). I had high expectations from this bit since I thoroughly appreciated Huebel and the comic persona that he cultivated for this show. He delivers by being a cocky buffoon while answering questions from a bunch of smart-alecky kids.
The second disc gives us Rob Corddry and Cutter Spindell: The Man Inside The Man Behind Childrens Hospital (7:27). Although framed as an interview, this is a fine bit of meta-comedy delivered by Corddry. He appears as himself (the creator of the show) and as Cutter Spindell, the actor who plays the part of Blake Downs in the show. This setup allows Corddry to go for broad laughs and for some incisive commentary about the roles that writers and actors occupy in the world of television. This is followed by the I Killed Cancer Music Video (1:52) which was featured in an episode of the show. It's an amusingly choreographed video that has all the members of the central cast breakin' it down like it's done on the streets. Come on. You know you want to see Henry Winkler bust a move.
The longest extra comes in the form of Outtakes and Deleted Scenes (15:03). Largely consisting of short alternate takes, the gags that didn't make it into the show were just as funny as the ones that did. Watch as Huebel turns groping into an art form. Be amazed as Winkler gets racist with clowns. Wince as Corddry gets repeatedly punched in the chest. Finally, we close things out with a Gag Reel (0:55) that happens to take itself quite literally. Use your imagination.
Pretend that Childrens Hospital is a thought sandwich. Now pick up the sandwich with your eye hands and shove it into your brain mouth. Consuming the show too quickly in this manner will almost assuredly lead to some laugh farts but this is quite normal. Also, it may cause rashes, bloating and / or death...but mostly just the laugh farts. Highly Recommended.