“It’s good to be back in the ol’ United States of America.”
“Yeah, we’re in Brazil.”
It’s kind of hard to believe that Childrens Hosptial started as a web series on TheWB.com. It was filler content that was given the lowest of expectations and yet somehow the show, now in its sixth season, has not only become Adult Swim’s flagship (Emmy winning) show, but it has also spawned two spin-offs and contains one of the most impressive ensembles on a cable program. Whenever Childrens Hospital re-opens its doors, it’s reason to celebrate… and throw a blood fight.
After the series’ ambitious “don’t give a fuck” turn last season to send everyone to a medical base in Japan, the gang has all returned home to their roots in season six (which are Brazilian, let’s not forget). Let’s hope you weren’t getting your geisha garb re-fitted for the occasion. While it could be viewed as the show backtracking or regretting their departure last season (just look at Archer‘s “de-boot” back to spy work this year), it feels more like Childrens Hospital‘s need to never stop moving and always trying something new.
The exodus from Japan shouldn’t worry viewers about any sort of creative bankruptcy on the show’s part because Childrens Hospital has become known for doing challenging, unique episodes that shatter conventions. They’ve produced some truly unusual episodes of television, like their “Our Town” skewing love letter to theater, “Childrens Hospital: A Play in Three Acts,” their episode from the ’70s, “The ‘70s Episode,” or their perfect execution of “British Hospital” which features an entirely different cast. This institution of medicine for minors is a constantly fluid time machine that can turn into anything it wants. Sometimes it’s a legal drama. Other times it’s a gritty police procedural. As a result of the show’s short running time (something that they’ve fought to maintain over the years), the storied fictional history that they’ve created for the series, and it now six years in, there’s actually the most potential ever for the show to offer up the craziest episodes that it’s ever produced.
The premiere episode, “Five Years Later,” still manages to disrupt the show’s status quo in spite of them no longer being in Japan, but rather through the use of a jump five years forward in time. The familiar setting is spiced up as Owen Maestro (Rob Huebel) serves time for half a decade before seeing his release. Instead most people’s efforts seem to be focused on Chris Parnell’s Ron Piven, a doctor Owen met while in prison, who looks nothing like him but looks exactly like him. All of this is predicated on the pretty wonderful gag that Huebel and Parnell look far from identical to each other and the show takes no effort to create the illusion that they do.
Childrens Hospital‘s second episode, “Codename: Jennifer,” on the other hand is a centerpiece for Lola Spratt (Erinn Hayes). Lola, a master of disguise and impressions, is staffed with retrieving the President’s missing daughter. This results in these wacky doctors being positioned in a secret underground facility beneath the White House (featuring Julie Bowen as the First Lady, who gets a great brief monologue that’s a highlight here), operating exclusively for them, in what seems to be a very tense situation. It’s a refreshing turn and if it means that people like Julie Bowen and Jordan Peele (another Master of Disguise) will continue to pop up all season, then what’s the problem? It’s all a much more slapstick, quirky outing this time, that even feels reminiscent of the Marx Brothers in shtick, with it all working due to the hyperbolized nature of it all.
Both of these episodes function well together and they both have endings where the rug is pulled out from underneath you, only for it to be revealed that you weren’t actually standing on the rug at all. This isn’t a problem, but spacing these episodes out might have been a better idea. Of course, that doesn’t really seem doable if this “working for the White House” angle is where they’re going with this season, but never the less.
Both are also episodes that bank off of absurdity, whether it’s the ridiculousness that these two different people look identical, or that a simple rubber nose can create a beyond-unrecognizable disguise. It’s the mission statement of these episodes, and it’s a strong way to usher in the year. These guys are back, and regardless of whatever country they’re in–Brazil, Japan, the United States–it seems like it’ll be a bizarre, satisfying season just like all the rest.
This review is based on the first two episodes of the season.