The best medicine: Quick episodes, even quicker humor make ‘Children’s Hospital’ bright spot on late-night TV

No one sets out to watch a show on Adult Swim. It always just kind of happens.

That late at night, when the network comes to life, nothing else is ever on and the things on Adult Swim are always weird enough for a double take. A number of shows still cling to this idea, being little more than very weird, scatological cartoons like “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” or “Superjail.”

However, the network has its bright spots, and “Children’s Hospital” is by far its brightest.

“Children’s Hospital” is, at its core, a hospital-drama parody, and anyone familiar with even a few episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” is going to be in on the joke. The very idea that all these insane and implausible medical cases are being taken so seriously is inherently comedic. One character, Dr. Blake Downs, wears clown makeup and strictly adheres to the healing power of laughter instead of medicine. An extreme take for sure, but not beyond the ridiculous moral systems of oddball doctors like House, M.D.

But the show, now in its fourth season, has been around long enough that it occasionally gets bored with the medical dare and routinely spoofs other genres. In the past two episodes alone, both the legal drama and the gangster movie were targeted to great effect.

But even for those unfamiliar with the source material, “Children’s” is always funny. The episode’s plots are loose. The show is more concerned with doing extended bits and jokes, sometimes coming out of nowhere.

One of my favorite jokes in the series happens during an episode where there is an amnesia outbreak at the hospital. When curing it, one of the doctors finally comes to the epiphany that if he could make the disease forget it was amnesia, the problem would be solved.

He then “gives the amnesia, amnesia” by drawing a syringe from a test tube and then putting it back in the same test tube. Another bit, extended to most episodes, is a set of constant references that the “show” is filmed in Brazil, even though it is so clearly set in Los Angeles. Flags are Brazilian everywhere, and the show even flew two cast members down to Rio for a single shot in their “home country.” This is comedic commitment on steroids, and it works in just about every episode.

The cast is equally fantastic, full of comedy all stars like Rob Corddry, Megan Mullally, Ken Marino, Henry Winkler, Nick Kroll, Nick Offerman and Michael Cera’s voice. He’s the hospital’s P.A. announcer. And that list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all the guest stars that come through the show.

Because of the show’s quick production schedule, people like Jon Hamm and Adam Scott can always find time to drop by for one or two jokes. Even actors considered more “dramatic” in their fair, like Lake Bell and Malin Akerman, consistently deliver some very sharp jokes. It’s a nice way to bring variety to the show, and because of the show’s absurdist nature, they always fit into the new plot. Once, a character played by Rob Riggle was introduced and killed off, all during the “previously on” segment that opens the show.

At 15 minutes an episode, “Children’s” is packed with good material. There are at least three jokes every minute, so if you miss one, there’s always another one ready to deliver right away. It can sometimes feel overly silly, but the short run time never overstays its welcome. And as an added bonus, 15 minutes means having no commercial breaks to interrupt viewing, either.

So in whatever state you happen to stumble upon “Children’s Hospital,” I can virtually guarantee 15 minutes of solid comedy. Some full-length half-hour shows would be lucky to be as hilarious.


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