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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

'Children's Hospital' S4: Anatomy of Hilarity

Still of Ken Marino and Rob Corddry in Childrens Hospital

Warner Archive's DVD release of the fourth season of the modern show "Children's Hospital" is a spectacular surprise that indicates that Archive is expanding its coverage to current "unreal" shows.

One of countless things that sets this awesome and innovative webisode-length sitcom aside is that it reflects a modern viewing trend that is a topic of a  recent TV Guide article. This piece observes that people often base program choices on the amount of available viewing time.

Personal examples of fitting television viewing into available lengths include regularly watching "Supernatural" or another wonderfully quirky hour-long drama in the 45 minutes between wrapping up my day and making dinner, choosing a four-minute Disney cartoon when I want just a little more entertainment, and enjoying "Hospital" or another 10-minute show when Mr. Sandman is making his way to my front door every night.

"Hospital" is a spot-on parody of every medical drama from "Grey's Anatomy," to "ER," to "Trapper John, MD" and beyond. Virtually every minute of this hilarious live-action series from Cartoon Network's Adult Swim line-up is fraught with fall-on-the-floor funny melodrama. Further, the "heroic" male and female doctors are generally dim-witted and colossally ego-centric horn dogs.

The indescribably hilarious antics of these medical "professionals" center around Dr. Blake Downs, who is an awesomely warped version of Robin Williams' Patch Adams character. Downs constantly wears clown make-up and always dons blood-splattered scrubs. His belief in the effectiveness of laughter as medicine extends to using that technique exclusively regardless of the severity of a patient's condition.

Plotlines from the first few fourth season episodes include an air-borne pathogen that causes amnesia, the staff mistaking a very obvious drag queen for Madonna, and forcing an ambulance driver whose vehicle ran out of gas just outside the emergency room entrance to perform open-heart surgery on his passenger.

The award for most creative episode of the season goes to one that also likely played a role in the series winning the 2012 Emmy for Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment. This offering alternates between color scenes of the series itself and terrifically twisted fictitious black-and-white behind-the-scenes segments. Series star Megan "Karen" Mullally portraying an absolutely fabulous British actress who plays Mullally's character Chief on the series is one of many highlights.

On a more general level, "Hospital" awesomely succeeds because it has a dream cast of actors and behind-the-scenes folks with a perfect track record regarding truly extraordinary alternative comedy. Former "The Daily Show" Rob Corddry heads up the effort as the show's creator, producer, writer, and portrayor of  Downs.

Quirky indie comedy god Ken Marino of the similar "Party Down" and "Burning Love" series also devotes his talents as a producer, star, and actor. His studly doofus character Guy Ritchie is just as funny as his caterwaiter character Ron Donald on "Party Down."

Despite the excellent performances by Corddry and company, having Henry "The Fonz" Winkler play incredibly insecure nerdy hospital administrator Sy Mittleman and Sy's doppelganger/enforcer Jerry is an incredible treat for Gen Xers. Seeing the actor behind "Fearless Fonzarelli" cower in a panic room at the first sign of trouble allows children of the '70s to die happy. The only better thing would be seeing Sy demonstrate that liver does not scare him.

The final diagnosis is that "Hospital" S4 is prescribed for fans of quirky indie comedy, those who enjoy or abhor medical dramas, and anyone else who enjoys an exceptionally well-produced series.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Hospital" is encouraged to email me.