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The fifth season of Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital ended last week with a bang – several, actually – as the military base in which the characters took up residence came under attack.
The double-length episode featured a spectacular climax, with an opera playing out in one storyline, and bombs striking home as the music reached a crescendo. Dr. Blake Downs raced in slow motion to raise the American flag, its stars and stripes mirroring his signature clown makeup, above a battlefield littered with the bodies of the dead and dying. A 4-year-old girl delivered a baby, and through it all, Lola and Owen made sweet, awkward love.
The show’s absurd and occasionally surreal sense of humor is as sharp as ever, but this is not where fans might have predicted Childrens Hospital would go when the comedy premiered in 2008.
“Part of why we did this episode was actually because we were excited to do something with the Daniels [Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert], which are the directing team, and a big part of the inspiration for that war episode was just thinking of something that would be fun for them to do and use their talents,” David Wain, the show’s writer, executive producer and occasional director, told Spinoff Online after the episode’s premiere at the Vista Theater in Los Angeles.
“It’s really fun to write for these people, and everyone’s so funny, and we’ve kind of just created this playground where we can do anything we feel like,” he continued.
Childrens Hospital began as a web series before landing Adult Swim’s broadcast schedule. “To go on to being on TV, which none of us — I mean, Rob [Corddry] said he never wanted to do it,” explained Erinn Hayes, who plays Dr. Lola Spratt. “And then he did it, and I’m so glad that he did.”
Hayes revealed they “scrapped the whole script” for the epic finale practically the night before it was shot, rewriting it overnight. You wouldn’t know it from the way it came out, though, as the pieces fit together perfectly. “[The writers and crew] are good,” she said. “They know what works at this point, and the directors were so willing to go with the flow.”
Her character spends most of the finale locked in copulation with Owen (Rob Huebel), but the action remains firmly rooted in absurdity and avoids becoming obscene.
“I first looked at it, I was like, ‘So I’m just fucking for, like, 15 pages? What the fuck? Like, you guys, no! I’m not taking my clothes off,’” Hayes recalled. “And they were like, ‘No, no, no. No. We don’t want you to take off any clothes. We want you to actually have all your clothes on.’”
“[Adult Swim] has their own set of rules, so you can’t show thrusting,” she continued. “So we had to come up with some shoulder shimmies and, like, we had to find movements to look like we’re doing something without actually looking like we’re doing something.”
The appeal of Childrens Hospital is in its poignant parody, not plot or character development. There hasn’t been a season-long build-up to Lola and Owen’s getting it on; unlike in a real medical procedurals, the payoff is purely comedic.
“We sort of brazenly have rejected the notion of character development for so long and we, you know — a lot of the characterization of each of the people in the show is determined by the plot needs of that particular episode,” Wain said.
“I still like those kind of shows,” Hayes said, referring to the Grey’s Anatomy-style medical drama regularly spoofed by Childrens Hospital. “I mean, I like everything. I like TV. I can watch that for what it is, and I can also have a running commentary in my head of like, ‘How many god damn times have these peoples’ lives been in danger?'”
Childrens Hospital began as a relatively straightforward parody of shows like Grey’s and even Scrubs, but this season it more closely resembled M*A*S*H, with the characters taking up duties on a military base. The finale went full-on Saving Private Ryan, but Wain and Hayes revealed the show will switch gears again next season.
“That’s done. Next season, who knows?” Wain said. “Maybe we’ll be in Hawaii, at a resort.”
“I just feel like I look better tanned, you know?” Hayes agreed. “I feel like Huebel could use a tan. Yeah.”