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TV, Comic Books
In last year’s Childrens Hospital season finale, the comedy not only killed off its most recognizable character — Blake Downs, the unsettlingly clown-faced doctor played by series creator Rob Corddry — it also did away with “Cutter Spindell,” the fake actor who plays Blake within the show’s meta-reality. It didn’t exactly stick (Blake was replaced by one of his many previously unmentioned clones), but it was a bold move, and for the fifth season finale, airing Thursday on Adult Swim, the deliberately ridiculous stakes appear to be even higher.
“One of the working titles of this episode was, ‘They All Die,’” Corddry said during a conference call with reporters. “However, we’re not necessarily going to do that. But it’s definitely something we’ve never done before. It’ll be shocking in sort of every way. I guess it embodies the spirit of the show. There are moments where you’re like, ‘Why and how are they doing this?'”
The episode, “Coming and Going,” doubles the usual 15-minute format, something that presented a challenge to the show’s already-frantic production pace.
“It was basically the same challenges that would come with making any episode, increased by 50 percent,” Corddry said. “We got cocky after last season. We won an Emmy. I was looking over notes that David [Wain, producer/writer] was rewriting for a scene that was going to be done next while I was writing a scene that was actually shooting downstairs with Erinn Hayes. It was a complete circus.”
Childrens Hospital launched in 2008 as a web series before moving to Adult Swim in 2010. Ostensibly a parody of medical-themed soap operas, the show has moved intro increasingly ambitious comedic territory, spawning spinoffs NTSF:SD:SUV:: and Newsreaders, and picking up Emmys the past two consecutive years for “Outstanding Special Class – Short-format Live-Action Entertainment Program.”
“After the first or second season, we stopped drawing from that specific genre, and just started parodying TV in general,” Corddry told reporters. “Most of the jokes are about messing with television conventions that the casual viewer will also understand, or understand by watching it.”
“I can’t watch any of that crap,” he continued, referring to the Grey’s Anatomys of the world. “And I don’t think David Wain’s ever seen an episode.”
In the current season, Childrens Hospital moved from the titular hospital — located in Brazil, because why not? — to a Japanese military base. The sudden relocation certainly fits the absurdist “spirit of the show,” as Corddry put it, but was prompted by the demolition of the former hospital that had served as the comedy’s set.
“We could have easily rented and shot in a hospital, but there was always a catch — either they were too expensive, or they’re often too far away,” he said. “If this is a show that people do every year to have fun, I don’t want to do anything consciously to take away from that, like make them travel an hour and a half in the dark every morning. And we just have the luxury of doing something like that — like setting the show on an RV based in Japan. This is the only time in our career that we’ll have the freedom to do something this stupid.”
Childrens Hospital has always been distinguished by its cast, with an eclectic mix of main players — Lake Bell, Rob Huebel, Megan Mullally, Henry Winkler, Ken Marino, Erinn Hayes, Malin Åkerman, Brian Huskey and Zandy Hartig, along with Corddry — and high-profile guest stars ranging from Jon Hamm to Adam Scott to, in this week’s season finale, Jack McBrayer.
“I think we have a good reputation for being a fun show to work on, which is the only reason we’re able to keep this all-star cast and also have the same crew for five years,” Corddry said. “No one gets paid a lot and it doesn’t take a lot of time,– proportionately. It’s just a fun place to work.
“My philosophy on life is basically, just do cool stuff with people who aren’t dicks. You end up kind of conducting your whole life that way, and not being a dick yourself.”
While the weird world of Childrens Hospital has now been branded with the legitimacy that comes with multiple Emmys, it hasn’t changed the show, according to Corddry — budgetary or otherwise.
“It changed nothing, really, in terms of money,” he said. “Maybe this happens in network TV — you get an Emmy and immediately your price tag goes up. That does not happen on a show like this. If you’re doing it for the money, you’re on the wrong show.”
Another sign of success is that Corddry and the rest of the Childrens Hospital creative team are already starting to think about next season, albeit, he clarified, “in a very general way.”
“We’re going to wait. Usually we shoot it in December or January, and we’re going to wait until the beginning of next summer or spring to start writing it,” he said. “I think if we cranked one out right now, I really think we’d be tapped. We’re going to wait a little bit and get excited to do it again, and then the ideas will really start coming. But now we just have a ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if…?’ conversation going.”
The season finale of Childrens Hospital airs Thursday at midnight ET/PT on Adult Swim.