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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Childrens Hospital: "A Lot Of Brouhaha Over Zilch"

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I enjoy a Shakespeare homage as much as the next man, but “A Lot Of Brouhaha Over Zilch” was an especially strange attempt at a time-honored formula because it didn’t really make an effort to pay homage to a particular play. Yes, there was a staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream going on in the middle of the episode while Blake flitted around from scene to scene like a fairy controlling everyone’s actions (there was also an actual fairy, played by one of the show’s writers/Ken Marino’s wife, Erica Oyama). The title, of course, references “Much Ado About Nothing.”

But really, the episode (scripted by Rob Corddry) was just a bunch of bonkers vignettes supposedly created in some nutty butterfly effect when Blake messes with Val’s wig, reminding Owen that she is in fact Derek Childrens (Jon Hamm), the rightful heir to Childrens Hospital who parades around in drag and usually seems unaware of his very convincing disguise. It’s great that the show called back that joke (which was first made in what, the second season finale?). But it kinda sucked because it gave us the tantalizing hope of a Jon Hamm guest appearance, but aside from a couple of brief glimpses, he’s not really there (I assume scheduling him is quite difficult).

So, the premise of this episode is that Blake is an omniscient narrator this week, and well-aware of it, and he goes around making mischief for no particular reason. Plot-wise, this is a thinly-sketched 11 minutes. But it’s pretty funny. It also does well to draw on established traditions for the show—Val is a man in hiding, Owen is always self-mutilating his genitals, Glenn and Cat are in love with each other but won’t admit it. The wacky supernatural element was reminiscent of recent seasons, but everything else almost felt like a throwback to the show’s early internet days.

I wish everything had dovetailed a little better, though. The episode is so chaotic that the closing celebration can only echo that chaos, and some things, like Chet and Dori (a bonded pair this week for no real reason) and the staging of Midsummer Night’s Dream, didn’t really click into place. Unless, maybe, they did? I think I should go back to this episode and watch it again without my critic glasses on and my notepad app open. Despite the title, “A Lot Of Brouhaha Over Zilch” felt sophisticated. I’m willing to believe Corddry was going for something that I just didn’t fully appreciate. As an English Lit major, I’ve never felt more inadequate.

Stray observations:

  • The return of David Wain as Jewy McJewJew is always welcome—now he’s the base’s chaplain, attempting to sleep with whoever Glenn might be interested in, as ever.
  • Blake tells a soldier what’s up. “We've got fairies right here in the real world, my friend. You just gotta know where to go. Usually near an enchanted forest, because they are tiny and skittish.”
  • Owen accuses Val of being a man. “You got me. Let's just touch ding-dongs.”
  • Owen then wonders if he could be with a man. “But then who would send out the Christmas cards?” Blake reminds him they are an invention of Hitler’s (duh).
  • Sy rues Val/Derek’s takeover attempt. “I knew I should have killed her at Burning Man, we were right there!”
  • Cat knows what’s up too. “I forgot. Jews only have sex through a ghost costume.”