Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim isn’t just for animated shows anymore. One of their best live action shows is Childrens Hospital. Originally a webseries doctored to deliver episodes running around 10 minutes each, The Complete Third Season, includes 14 installments from the first season created just for television.
Childrens Hospital is a unique, odd comedy. Although all the doctors and patients are white and speak English without an accent, the setting is Brazil. The story revolves around a staff of health care professionals who heal sick people and sleep with each other. But despite being as good looking as the more serious shows of the same description, these performers double as comedians. One doctor only heals through the power of laughter. Another is the owner of the facility in disguise.
Sometimes episodes build upon previous installments, and sometimes they are stand alone artistic pieces. The only constant in the Childrens Hospital universe is that viewers never know what to expect when tuning in, and no matter what it is, it will be funny.
The show’s strength comes from its extremely strong ensemble. From creator Rob Corddry (The Daily Show), to Henry Winkler (Happy Days, Royal Pains), to Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), to Malin Akerman (Watchmen), each star has serious acting chops and plenty of screen experience. Also in the cast are Lake Bell (How to Make It in America), Erinn Hayes (Worst Week), Rob Huebel (Human Giant), and Ken Marino (Party Down). These people know what they’re doing, and how to really sell their parts, rolling with whatever twists each new script throws at them.
Of course, when the playground looks as fun as Childrens Hospital, everyone else wants in on the action. Which means that the show has an unusually high number of familiar faces popping in for recurring roles and guest spots. Among those featured on this DVD are Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Tom Lennon (Reno 911!), Nick Offerman (Parks & Recreation), Sarah Silverman (The Sarah Silverman Program), Kate Walsh (Private Practice), Paul Scheer (The League), Jordan Peele (Key & Peele), as well as many other veterans of Ken Marino’s previous shows, The State and Party Down. Plus, Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad) gives voice to the hospital PA.
Honestly, the list above of people involved in Childrens Hospital is far from comprehensive. That alone should tell you what kind of quality you’re getting. But if famously talented people aren’t enough to entice, the show has great, sharp writing covered, too. Medical cases range from a boy stuck in a box of quicksand, whom only Lola (Hayes), who is not at the hospital, can save, to Blake (Corddry) needing to transplant an executed killer’s heart into a boy before he turns 18 at midnight.
Watching the characters be doctors is cool, but it’s the special episodes that really kick Childrens Hospital up a notch. Season three has several that qualify. “The 70’s Episode” is a “lost” episode from the 1970’s, still featuring the same cast “way back when.” “Childrens Hospital: A Play in Three Acts” is a piece in the style of Thornton Wilder. “Party Down” has the cast of canceled series Party Down catering a bar mitzvah. And “Newsreaders” is a “what if?” that gives almost all of the characters their own spin-offs.
I understand that a lot of this review sounds like gushing. There is a good reason for that. This show deserves great things said about it and a much bigger audience than it currently has. However, it’s also hard to break down in detail what makes it so good because each episode is so different, and the writers seem to reinvent the characters constantly. It’s an ever-shifting universe that defies pinning down. However, the overall tone and extremely high quality serve the show well.
As awesome as the episodes are, the special features on this single disc DVD set are lacking. The special features include more than 30 minutes of deleted scenes, bloopers, and gags, but they are very oddly organized. And without the context of the episode they belong in, they just aren’t as funny. The extras also include six minisode promos in which Dr. Owen Maestro (Huebel) shrinks and goes inside of a body to teach kids about medicine, but these, too, lack much of the show’s magic, likely because only one actor from the series appears.
Overall, this DVD set is definitely worth the buy, despite the lack of satisfying extras. Whether you’re a loyal fan or a newbie, this is a great batch of episodes to purchase and watch over and over again. It is clever, creative, and fresh in a way few comedies ever achieve. Childrens Hospital The Complete Third Season is available now.