The medical television show is more about melodrama than medicine, where romantic entanglements and big trouble matter as much as, or more than, any medicine. (And Jonas can speak to the innumerable factual errors on these shows.) This makes the genre ripe for parody, which the comedy show Childrens Hospital does. Over and over. In very, very broad strokes.

Set in the fictional Childrens Hospital (named for Arthur Childrens), Childrens Hospital revolves around a caricature of television and movie doctors. Dr. Blake Downs (Rob Corddry) believes in "the healing power of laughter" instead of medicine -- and always wears clown makeup. The Chief (Megan Mullally) hobbles around the hospital with a walker or crutches. Dr. Lola Spratt (Erinn Hayes) pretended to die -- "Is it really so crazy that I'd fake my own death because I had too many emails?" -- and was mistaken for a ghost when she returned. Dr. Glenn Ritchie (Ken Marino) is the macho doctor who often wears a yarmulke. Dr. Owen Maestro (Rob Huebel) is a dim-witted ex-cop turned doctor. Dr. Cat Black (Lake Bell) has dated almost everyone on the show -- one episode starts with a montage of her breaking up with over 20 people -- and had her thoughts as the voice-over narration for the show. Dr. Valerie Flame (Malim Akerman) took over the narration in season 2. Sy Mittleman (Henry Winkler) is the administrator who'd fire a doctor rather than replace the coffee machine. And there are plenty of celebrity guest appearances, from Michael Cera doing hospital announcements to Matthew Perry telling viewers where to learn more about race (and where to find hardcore lesbian porn).
Childrens Hospital is, first to last, silly. Mecidal "issues" range from a six year old with advanced aging disease having an affair with a doctor, to a doctor finding the cure to cancer, only to have it blocked by Big Pharma (and leading to a break-dancing sequence at the end). The show is happily politically incorrect, offering skewed perspectives on everything from abortion to date-rape to whether it's better to save a young jerk or an older but nicer man (who are both impaled by the same pipe) and Rabbi Jewey McJewJew. The show even mocks "special" episodes, like a fake live show, a theater episode, a flashback episode, and two behind-the-scenes specials (revealing, among other things, that one actress doesn't speak English and learns all her lines phoenetically).

The show Scrubs was a comedy, yet it worked to make the characters real and situations often became quite grimm. Childrens Hospital doesn't bother with any of that, going for the over-the-top characterizations, ridiculous situations, and bizarre sentences ("I took an oath to first do no harm, and that's what I'm going to do: No first harm!") every time. Fortunately, it has a fine comic cast, and the source material -- from e.r. to House to Grey's Anatomy -- certainly sets itself up for parody. Unfortunately, not trying to give the characters any sort of dimension or depth leaves the show shallow, as no characters are really engaging or sympathetic. Still, Childrens Hospital is composed of 12-minute episodes (as when it began as a web series), so it doesn't overstay its time.

Childrens Hospital is funny -- in small doses. Many of the lines are strangely amusing, and it doesn't hold back when it comes to potentially sensitive topics. I just wish it tried to be more than an extended bunch of one-liners about doctors.

Overall grade: B-

Reviewed by James Lynch

1 comment:

digitaldoc said...

Don't even get me started on the factual errors on these shows. They usually can't even hang the chest X-ray up correctly most of the time...