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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Childrens' Hospital returns for a third hilarious season

Childrens Hospital: Complete First & Second Seasons     Cartoon Network's Childrens' Hospital began its third season this week with "Run, Dr. Lola Sprat, Run." At the Brazilian-set hospital, though clearly the show is filmed in Los Angeles at the same place where Scrubs was shot, with no attempt to make anyone or anything seem South American, a boy comes in trapped in quicksand. The rescue workers managed to put part of the quicksand in a trough, and that's what they bring in. Because it is Saturday, no one is working at the hospital, so administrator Sy (Henry Winkler) must call the team in to save the boy's life. Dr. Childrens is revealed. None of the doctors can figure out what to do, until Dr. Lola Spratt (Erinn Hayes), who has been delayed, arrives. Meanwhile, Dr. Owen Maestro (Rob Huebel) and Valerie (Malin Akerman), also a doctor, attempt to figure out why Nurse Dori (Zandy Hartig) has suddenly been getting fat these past nine months.

     The opening credit sequence this week is goofy, as it has fake actor names for all of the people playing the main characters, except Rob Huebel. Why Huebel didn't get a psuedonym, too, is a mystery, but it's funny for some reason.

     Even better, we get to see what all the doctors are up to un the weekend, since they certainly wouldn't be practicing medicine. The Chief (Megan Mullally), who can barely walk with her ailments, is a super hero, flying around town, saving lives. Owen is an airplane pilot who doesn't wear pants or underwear. Glenn (Ken Marino) is dating Lisa Edelstein from House (herself) in a hilarious cameo. And Valerie is actually Dr. Childrens (Mad Men's Jon Hamm reprising the bit from last season's finale), the hospital's namesake in disguise. And those are only a few of the beginning scenes. Fantastic cameos really make this bizarre set up work, as Edelstein and Hamm commit fully to the parts.

     Which is why Childrens' Hospital works. Sure, it's just a parody of ER, Grey's Anatomy, House, etc., but it's also one that is so extremely funny because of series star, writer, and creator Rob Corddry. Who else would name the loudspeaker guy after the man who did it on M*A*S*H, and get Michael Cera to voice it?

     One sequence that works a bit slyly is Lola Spratt is taking voice over lessons as the episode begins. There are three main female doctors on the show. Dr. Cat Black (Lake Bell) narrated the first season. Because of other acting commitments, Bell dropped to part time in season two, so Valeria replaced her in both the hospital and the narration, though both work together well enough now. Perhaps season three is Lola's turn, as she is featured in this first episode, the title of which bears her name, and she can do the voice over work. That only leaves one question. Who's turn will it be for season four? Sy?

     Other gags this week include Blake (Corddry) slapping blood on his scrubs purposely before he even goes on shift, giving him the trademark red stains, as well as Glenn adjusting his yarmulke. Valerie only discovers Dori is pregnant because she reads an article in a magazine, not because Dori offhandedly mentions she likes to get high and have sex in opium dens. Of course, the magazine says nothing on if the baby might be a karate instructor, a fear shared by Dori and Glenn.

     The only thing that fell flat in this season premiere is Lola's extended encounter with an ex, who she has to behead. It drags the story down, slowing the pacing and the boyfriend is more dumb than silly.

     Childrens' Hospital works so well because not only is the humor strong, but the performers also commit fully. Despite the ridiculous things they say and do, the characters appears to take everything completely seriously. They freak out, worrying the boy might drown in quicksand, even though all it takes is Lola smashing the trough with an axe (complete with spoken sound effects). It's a show very hard to review, other than to say it will make you laugh more than virtually anything else on television, and you absolutely must watch it.

     Childrens' Hospital airs Thursday nights at midnight.

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     Please click here to buy the first two seasons of Childrens' Hospital on DVD.

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