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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CHILDRENS HOSPITAL "Going" Away Again

Article first published as CHILDRENS HOSPITAL "Going" Away Again on TheTVKing.

Cartoon Network's Adult Swim's Childrens Hospital brings their fifth season to a close this week with "Coming and Going." Feelings are in the air. Or rather, lack of feelings, as the cast splits into twosomes to deal with their issues. Owen (Rob Huebel) has never had an orgasm and has the urge to feel what that's like, so Lola (Erinn Hayes) reluctantly agrees to help. Glenn can't experience emotional feeling at all, so Blake (Rob Corddry) makes it his mission to fix Glenn. And Sy (Henry Winkler) tricks Chief (Megan Mullally) into going out with him in the hopes of sparking some romantic feelings from her, meaning they miss the war zone at the hospital, but their opera provides a beautiful soundtrack for the disaster.

Each episode of Childrens Hospital completely stands on its own, with almost no continuity from each week to the next, except in the vaguest of terms. For instance, in the fourth main plot this week, the one that doesn't fit into the theme mentioned above, Cat (Lake Bell) helps Valerie (Malin Akerman) give birth, even though we've never seen Valerie pregnant until now, and it's been well established in multiple installments that Valerie is actually Derrick Childrens (Jon Hamm), a man in disguise. Doesn't quite add up, does it?

Yet, that has never stopped the show from being funny. Instead of worring about continuity, it frees up the characters and writers to do whatever they find amusing in the moment. This has led to a lot of strange, stand-alone episodes, like the Shakespeare-esque entry a couple of weeks ago, yet never a shortage of laughs. Each episode is like a mini play or sketch put on by an extremely talented group. The ensemble is excellent across the board, and they only let in the best guest stars, which this week included Jack McBrayer and one of the show's writer/producers David Wain, who plays Rabbi Jewy McJewJew.

There are some connecting threads through most (not all) of the episodes. Season five finds the cast shipped off to Japan to work a hospital on an army base. This has been a recurring setting, and so informs the stories. It has made this season a little different overall from the first four, in terms that there have been new things that didn't necessarily lend themselves to the old set, but quality and tone have been maintained.

"Coming and Going" fully takes advantage of the place in a big way when, due to a series of unfortunate mishaps, the base is attacked by the American military. Yes, the base is made up of American military already, but somehow those outside of the base think that terrorists have taken over. It's kind of a loose premise, not at all believable, but one that works for the bits.

This means that each of the four main plots unfold as bombs explode around them. Maybe giving birth or having sex near a battle isn't completely unheard of for a TV drama, but who dares use such set ups for a comedy? Even as men go down, there isn't anything serious about the proceedings, with raising a flag being the way to stop the fighting, as bizarre as anything else.

It's also the small touches that make the episode. From Owen later admitting that he has had orgasms before, and was just confused by what the term 'orgasm' meant, to Glenn being killed, only to find out it was the hospital's previously never-seen "other Jewish doctor" who dies, despite it being obvious that Marino is the one going down, there are quirky, weird, unexpected touches all over the place. Valerie asks a little girl to deliver her baby, whom Cat immediately accepts as "Doctor Littlegirl." It's all as bizarre and wonderful as that.

What's impressive about this episode, over the rest of the fantastic weekly episodes, is, given a double-length running time of half an hour, there is not only time to run more stories simultaneously, but also they are all expertly interwoven. Normally, several of the cast sit out for many episodes per year so that a cohesive plot can emerge in less than fifteen minutes. Here, that is not the case, all of the principals present, and their stories are connected by synchronized occurrences and a great soundtrack.

In all, "Coming and Going" is an awesome example of a top-notch series. Childrens Hospital is gone for now, but hopefully a sixth season won't be too far away.

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