Well, this DVD kind of snuck up on me, anyway. But yeah...! Childrens Hospital. Season four. I guess this review is supposed to say more than that, though, so I'll keep going.
Don't be scared off by the "fourth" in the title up there. Sure, by the time shows like Archer and The Venture Bros. make it to season four, they revel in their sprawling character mythologies and backstories they've built over the years, rewarding fanatics but being kind of impenetrable to the uninitiated in the process. I mean, yeah, newcomers can still get something out of 'em and figure out a lot of the important stuff along the way, but those episodes aren't gonna play anything close to the way they do for frothing-at-the-mouth fans. Childrens Hospital, meanwhile, opens its doors to everyone. Especially this season, pretty much everything you need to know about its cast of borderline-psychotic doctors in a Brazilian children's hospital can be summed up in two or three words, and you'll have all of that down by the end of season starter "The Boy with the Pancakes Tattoo"...which works out since an amnesia virus in the premiere makes everyone unfamiliar with everyone else too. We're all on the same page! Kind of.
If you've yet to witness the awe and glory of Childrens Hospital before, this is the sort of thing you're in for: in the space of one episode, Tranny-Madonna visits the hospital in search of inspiration for her new single, the hunchbacked head of hospital staff writhes around on the floor waiting for the rapture and condemning all unbelievers to an eternity in hellfire, a paramedic whose ambulance ran out of gas improvises heart surgery with a broken bottle of seltzer water or something, a surgeon dupes a two-left-footed doctor into sleeping with him under the auspices of dance lessons, and the whole thing culminates in the Material
BoyGirl debuting her super-danceable new hit. This all happens in the space of...like, ten minutes and fifty-something seconds. The series moves quickly enough that if you're not feeling whatever the joke of the moment is, wait another second and a half for another one. Its sense of humor spans everything from the ladies' favorite musical time signatures to tricking a doctor into thinking he ate a missing patient. One episode revolves around Ladies' Night at the hospital. Another swaps out the entire cast with Brits because Childrens Hospital UK. Helper snake! Henry Winkler in a Bourne-style martial arts battle to the death! Extended riffs on pop culture touchstones from Goodfellas to Ghost Adventures to Law and Order to The Pink Panther. Name another show on TV that could deliver a line like "I would never have sex with my real daddy; that's Joseph Mengele." I defy you!
Because each episode is an eleven minute surgical strike, this entire season runs just over two and a half hours and demands to be devoured marathon-style. That's...I don't know, probably slightly shorter than a lot of Judd Apatow comedies, and it's a hell of a lot funnier and more inventive to boot. The central cast -- Rob Corddry, Lake Bell, Ken Marino, Rob Huebel, Megan Mullally, Erinn Hayes, Malin Akerman, and Henry Winkler -- is as brilliant as ever, and to make sure this sentence has a whole hell of a lot of commas, you also score cameos this season by Reginald VelJohnson, Jon Hamm, Michael Cera, David Krumholtz, Kevin Pollak, Philip Baker Hall, Abigail Spencer, Nick Offerman, and the dad from Even Stevens, among many, many others. And, you know, this season is really great and really smart and really funny and really crazy and you should totally buy it. Or stream it or whatever; tomato, tomahto. Highly Recommended.
I'm sure it's a way bigger deal to me than it is to you, but still, I really wish that Childrens Hospital were coming out on Blu-ray too. Whatever, though, it's sort of a thrill to have one of my most favoritest TV shows ever on a shiny five inch disc no matter what, so I guess this is one of those tomato, tomahto sorts of deals.
High definition it's not so much, no, but Childrens Hospital still looks awfully nice on DVD. The digital photography is about as sharp and detailed as I'd expect it to be in standard-def, colors are generally bright and deceptively cheery, and I didn't spot a whole lot of hiccups in the compression or anything. Actually, the only flaw that really leaps out at me is some infrequent shimmering in the fine textures of Sy Middleman's swanky suits, which...whatever. I'm happy.
Since each episode is only, like, eleven minutes long, one DVD-9 disc preeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetty much covers this entire season. With room to spare, even! Wait, though: if it's on one disc and there's room left over, why did I put that many "e"s in "pretty"? I don't even know what's going on anymore. But yeah, one disc. Anamorphic widescreen, the same as ever, too.
At first, I was all "what, Dolby Digital stereo (192kbps)?!" I know! With the parenthetical bitrate and everything. ...but then I remembered that's what it was on the season three set too, so now I'm all "tomato, tomahto; nevermind". Everything's clean, clear, and all that. I can make out all the funny jokes, and there's no hiss, distortion, crackling, pops, or dropouts -- outside of the bloop for the layer change, anyway -- so again, I don't have a whole lot to gripe about.
No subtitles or closed captions or anything this time around. If you're deaf or something, I guess you'll just have to fake it.
It's a change of the guard or something. Unlike the past couple of releases, this season of Childrens Hospital swoops onto DVD courtesy of our pals at Warner Archive, which...I know, tomato, tomahto, but that means no extras and no sexy slipcover and, seriously, no extras whatsoever.
The Final Word
If laughter really is the best medicine, then do I have a prescription for you! The fourth season of Childrens Hospital will leave you in stitches! Something something funny bone! Doctor DVD Reviewer's diagnosis: Highly Recommended!
Sorry for being so obnoxious, but if you're reading a review of a DVD set with "season 4" in the title, the smart money says you're already an established fan. You know that Childrens Hospital is one of the smartest, funniest, most inventive, and most gloriously unhinged series on television, and when I say that its fourth season delivers more of the same, I mean that in the best possible way. Definitely holds up on a second viewing too, so, yeah, I really do mean this: Highly Recommended.