Childrens Hospital has now aired long enough to have a whole meta backstory about its existence that’s really rather complicated. While the actual show’s plot is a silly thing to be ignored, changing willy-nilly from week to week to our delight, the show within a show has a strict, ever-expanding mythology that “Behind The Scenes” just added to.
Written by David Wain and filmed in moody black and white, “Behind The Scenes” lacked the utter ridiculousness of the past “Newsreaders” episodes that gave us a VH1-spoofing look at the crazy personalities behind America’s favorite hospital show. Blake isn’t played by Rob Corddry; he’s played by Cutter Spindell, who may be on the autistic spectrum and would probably have to kill himself if he wasn’t on the show. Ken Marino doesn’t play Glenn, that’s Just Falcon, a whacked-out movie star with a Joaquin Phoenix beard.
“Behind The Scenes” was, unfortunately, tied to a fairly uninteresting plot—the romantic rivalry between the actresses playing Cat and Lola, the former now married to director David Wain, whom the latter has divorced. I love it whenever the show utilizes Wain, and this was a perfect way to do it, mixing the nutty fake world of the show within a show with reality.
But there weren’t quite as many laughs to be mined out of the love triangle. The joy of these episodes is just how ridiculous the writers can make the alter-egos, and this petty love rivalry was perhaps a bit too ordinary. There was much funnier stuff going on in the B-plots, however. The actor playing Owen (I think the name is Glarion Rudge?) is a southern dandy and a lush trying to hide his “broken kidney” from the studio, so he concocts a Star Wars homage to pose his dialysis machine as R2D2. Wain rejects it, saying, “It looks like that Artoo unit has a bad motivator!”
I also enjoyed Megan Mullally doing a horrible My Fair Lady accent as the British Dame playing the Chief, babbling on with increasingly bizarre across-the-pond stereotypes and later driving a Mini Cooper through the set. (“I always forget you colonists don’t drive indoors!”) And the running joke about the actress playing Lola needing her eyebrows constantly plucked and dressing like a blind newsie was the right mix of ridiculous and subtle.
Some of the other meta gags fell a little flat, though. Our two guest stars were Jennifer Westfeldt as a stupid studio exec and Timothy Busfield as Owen’s doctor/some sort of magical psychic man. It was nice to see both of those actors, but they didn’t do anything we haven’t seen a million times before on far less subversive comedies. The device of having Cutter’s nerdy nephew on set didn’t really go anywhere.
But, like any Childrens Hospital episode, there was more than enough fun in the details to forgive some boring sections. The removal of Just Falcon’s beard through advanced makeup, for example. Or the Jamaican PAs who mistake Lola and Cat’s declarations of “game on” for them talking about a “gay man.” But this didn’t quite hit the level of insane brilliance that the Newsreaders episodes did in the last two seasons.
- “I also put in Chinese Santa Claus, because what does that even mean!?”
- Owen needs a massage. “Mind the tubes, boy. That dialysis machine is cleaning my rotten blood. You tweet that, and I’ll kill you.”
- “I have a robo-call from Verizon. I have to take this.”
- Apparently, Cutter Spindell has 10 days to live.