Warner Bros. // 2011 // 155 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // August 12th, 2012
Side effects may include sex.
Joke for joke, minute for minute, there may be no funnier show on TV right now than Children's Hospital. Maybe it's because the episodes are so short, but there are more laughs in any 10-minute episode of this show than in an entire season of Whitney.
Children's Hospital: Season Three, now on DVD, continues the trend established in the first two seasons: a collection of doctors save lives and swap romantic partners, with virtually no consideration for continuity from episode to episode. There's Lola (Erinn Hayes, The Watch), the show's lead and narrator; Blake (Rob Corddry, Hot Tub Time Machine), the clown doctor who practices the healing power of laughter; Glenn (Ken Marino, Wanderlust, the ladies' man; Cat Black (Lake Bell, No Strings Attached) and Valerie (Malin Akerman, Watchmen), who may or may not be romantically involved with each other; Chief (Megan Mullally, Monkeybone), Sy (Henry Winkler, The Waterboy) and Dr. Maestro (Rob Huebel, The Descendants). It's an incredible cast, made even more incredible by the lineup of guest stars including Sarah Silverman, Paul Scheer and more. Every single person that appears on the show is funny, and even those cast members not necessarily known primarily for their comedy backgrounds (Lake Bell and Malin Akerman) are very, very funny.
Though on its face, the show is a (spot-on) parody of medical soaps like Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, that's really just the premise of the show. It's an excuse to string together a non-stop barrage of absurdist jokes and non-sequiter humor. Those who like their comedy firmly rooted in reality will have no patience for the show, but anyone who agrees that Wet Hot American Summer is the funniest movie of the last 10-15 years will be totally on board with what the show has to offer.
It's the disconnect from reality that gives Children's Hospital free reign to do whatever it wants; though it's live action, it might as well be The Simpsons for as much as it follows "the rules" of real life. There's one episode that takes place entirely in the 1970s, mostly just so that every character can make clunky topical references and be as un-PC as possible. Another episode -- one of my favorites of the season -- recontextualizes the series as a kind of community theater production. Watching all of the actors calibrate their performances so they seem more like amateur actors is, frankly, incredible, and just adds another layer of humor to an already funny episode. In fact, Children's Hospital is one of the only shows on TV that actually has to be watched more than once just to pick up all the jokes; it both necessitates and rewards repeat viewings.
All 14 episodes that make up Children's Hospital: Season Three are presented on a single disc, and can be viewed individually or via a "Play All" function (the entire season runs about two and a half hours watched consecutively). The episodes are presented in an anamorphic widescreen ratio of 1.78:1, and look very good: bright, colorful and clean. It's amazing how the directors (which include The State alum David Wain and Michael Patrick Jann, as well as Roger Dodger director Dylan Kidd) successfully approximate the look of network medical dramas -- if one of the actors wasn't always wearing clown makeup, it would hard to tell the difference. The stereo audio track gets the job done by keeping the dialogue clear, but doesn't do much beyond that.
If you're a fan of the humor on Children's Hospital, there's a lot to like in the supplemental section, too. A series of web promos are as silly and experimental as the show can be, while a collection of deleted scenes just contains more gags -- many of which are as funny as the show itself -- that couldn't be included for time. There's a decent blooper reel (proving once again that these things are only funny if they focus on funny people) and some Rob Heubel outtakes in which he sings a little song each time a take is blown. Rounding out the bonus features are some unused gags of Ken Marino consoling the mother of a patient (you'll recognize the running joke from the "Next time on Children's Hospital" bumper that ends each episode).
Children's Hospital is now entering its fourth season on Adult Swim, but the structure of the show (in that there really isn't one) is such that it's never too late to get onboard. The biggest problem with the show is that it just isn't long enough -- every episode ends before we're ready for it to be over. That's smart, though. The show never overstays its welcome and always leaves us wanting more. More network comedies could stand to learn this lesson.
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 155 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Unaired Scenes
* Web Promos
* Official Site