After last week’s mediocre takedown of Twilight and fan fiction culture, Childrens Hospital attempts to do the same with superhero films this week, with about the same success rate. Childrens Hospital is a show that can easily take on a different genre or style of TV and movies each week, and it seems to want to do that this season. But after this and last week’s episodes, I’m not so sure this is the path they should be heading down.
When I think of earlier seasons of Childrens Hospital and what made them great, it was that the show had one of the greatest comedic ensembles on TV, going in some insane directions. Sure, this season has already had some weird ideas, but it’s not going as nuts as it has in the past. If anything, it seems like these genre takedowns have been sort of predictable. Even more noticeable though has been the disappearing cast, who rather than being seen are often mentioned off-screen, to hide the shrinking availability of the ensemble.
“With Great Power…” gives Dr. Lola Spratt the spotlight again, this time as she discovers she can use her “superpower” pout to get what she wants. One of Spratt’s professor’s Leonard Hillman (Fred Melamed) shows up and has the own power of his imperious gaze to get what he wants.
The B-story has Dr. Blake Downs choosing to see his coworkers in embarrassing moments, like Glenn laughing so hard his penis starts bleeding (penis and Ken Marino offscreen, of course) instead of picking his son Billy up from school. Blake, Dori and Billy all go to a family mediator, who Blake immediately bonds with, but then is disappointed when the mediator (Richard Benjamin) never shows up to their planned meet-ups.
Both plots feel like episodes that could’ve had more to them, but by putting them together in one episode, it makes them feel like two half-assed ideas that weren’t fleshed out enough to make them worthwhile. Each plot has some hilarious moments though, with Hillman explaining to Spratt that he is available to avoid her superpower since he’s blind, which comes off as a surprise to Spratt, even though he’s told her this before. Blake’s story also has a great moment at the very end of the episode, when he is ditched at the Annual Bar Association’s Mediator/Son Square Dance, which happens to have David Wain as a hilarious square dance caller.
Childrens Hospital is at a weird point right now. It can still definitely be funny, but it feels like it’s not going as far as it used to go and the cast’s disappearance is starting to become a problem. When a character is mentioned nowadays, it’s almost certainly because they won’t appear in the episode. The last two episodes have been split into two separate stories that aren’t that strong due to this lack of availability, and that doesn’t allow for quite the level of cohesiveness even the more insane episodes used to sometimes accomplish. At this point, Childrens Hospital might be better to just focus on who they do have available and get a little stranger, the way things used to be.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.