Prime Video’s The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy Is an Intergalactic Adult Animation That Will Heal Your Funny Bone

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Prime Video’s The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy Is an Intergalactic Adult Animation That Will Heal Your Funny Bone

The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy, the new Prime Video animated sci-fi comedy created by Russian Doll and Big Mouth writer Cirocco Dunlap, immediately stands out from other shows in its genre in that there are no human characters. Futurama can always use Philip J. Fry as a sounding board for exposition regarding the wackier parts of its future, and Rick and Morty juxtaposes the out-there multiverse adventures with a familiar dysfunctional family sitcom set-up. In contrast, Second Best Hospital throws the viewer straight into its alien world without telling you the rules.

Doctors Klak (Keke Palmer) and Sleech (Stephanie Hsu) know their stuff when it comes to treating all sorts of species, designed with an underground cartoonist charm by Robin Eisenberg. Keeping up with all the barrage of creative and comedic medical emergencies the show throws their way is part of the fun. And when Klak and Sleech find themselves in a situation where they don’t know what they’re doing? Well, that’s where it gets really fun.

As different as these aliens’ physiologies are, their psychologies aren’t much different from our own. This is another adult cartoon centered heavily around mental health issues, reminiscent of the likes of BoJack Horseman and Tuca & Bertie. Would it shock you to learn that the writer of BoJack’s “The Face of Depression” episode wrote an episode of Second Best Hospital focusing on Klak being treated as “The Face of Anxiety?” This isn’t groundbreaking material at this point, but it’s meaningful nonetheless, and without any new Raphael Bob-Waksberg shows on the immediate horizon, Second Best Hospital fills a worthwhile niche with smart writing and compelling stories.

While each episode has its own unique medical cases for Klak and Sleech to solve, the show builds an ongoing plot around the discovery of a deadly parasite that feeds off of anxiety. For Klak, who’s been put through seemingly every treatment to no avail while her writer/talk show host mother (Tracee Ellis Ross) profited from publicizing her struggles, experimenting on this parasite to find a safe “cure” for anxiety is a tempting opportunity. But is such a cure even possible—and if it is, would it even be a good idea to use it?

Where Klak’s dealing with anxiety and family issues, Sleech is obsessive in her focus on advancing her career as a surgeon above all else. Lacking much understanding of emotions, Sleech gets into a lot of relationship drama. She has the hots for the go-with-the-flow himbo Matt (Andrew Dismukes), but is embarrassed to end up in a relationship with Plowp (Kieran Culkin), a bird-like doctor experiencing multiple middle-aged “puberties,” whose ever-shifting empathic abilities make for an unlikely contrast to Sleech. She is also not shy about voicing her attraction to Klak’s brother (Jay Ellis), and her distaste for Klak’s on-again-off-again lover Azel (Sam Smith, surprisingly good as a first-time voice actor).

Plowp is my favorite of the show’s supporting cast, the character who strikes the strongest balance between the series’ extraterrestrial inventiveness and its emotional resonance. Also, he bounces! Between Succession, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, the incredible Sundance movie A Real Pain, and now this role, it feels like Kieran Culkin can do no wrong these days (his brothers guest star in one episode as Plowp’s absurdly close family). I also enjoyed Vlam (Maya Rudolph), a functionally-immortal robot who’s lived several different lives and is now giving her all as a go-getting intern, and wanted to see more of her story. Nurse Tup (Natasha Lyonne) is basically just Natasha Lyonne as a lizard creature, but who doesn’t want to watch Natasha Lyonne as a lizard creature?

Like an awful lot of shows produced by Amazon’s Prime Video, there’s a major plot thread within Second Best Hospital about how Amazon is bad. The show’s evil megacorp “UniYum” isn’t the most in your face of the various Amazon-alikes in sci-fi, but the jokes about their fast shipping get the connections across clear enough. The dark history behind UniYum’s teleportation technology is the subject of the show’s “St. Cthonk’s Day” holiday episode, which evokes the “Hans Sprungfeld” episode of The Simpsons while featuring John Waters as a guest star. The season finale indicts UniYum for further crimes against the galaxy, hinting that this subplot could very well become one of the main thrusts of future seasons. Are all these anti-Amazon Amazon-shows a case of satire biting the hand that feeds, or of capital absorbing all critiques into itself? Debate away.

Over the course of its 8-episode first season, The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy does a solid job balancing inventive one-off stories (“The Curse of Orlosh,” about an STD that turns people into the last person they had sex with, is a highlight) with developing the ongoing plotlines. And yet, I suspect a longer season order could have made this good show even better; comedies benefit from getting to spend more time with their characters, and with the wild potential of the setting and the sometimes underexplored depths of the themes, it’s not like the show would be in danger of running out of material any time soon. Fortunately, a second season has already been greenlit, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here. It’s nowhere near as emotionally powerful as BoJack Horseman could be and hasn’t hit the comedic heights of the best Rick and Morty episodes, but fans of those cartoons will be right at home here.

The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy premieres Friday, February 23rd on Prime Video. 

Reuben Baron is the author of the webcomic Con Job: Revenge of the SamurAlchemist, a member of the neurodiverse theatre troupe EPIC Players, and a contributor to Looper and Anime News Network, among other websites. You can follow him on Bluesky at @andalusiandoge.bsky.social.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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