The transition from web series to TV could have been tough for the often-grotesque medical satire Childrens Hospital — a show where doctors get turned on by life-threatening surgeries and saving patients takes a backseat to highly choregraphed dance numbers, among other things. Fortunately for the show's fans, it isn't going to primetime: it's going to Adult Swim, where it's freakishness will fit in just fine.
"Adult Swim has the closest thing to an outsider's sensibility," executive producer Jonathan Stern says. "We figured that was the closest we could come to being on television without actually people thinking we were on television."
Creator, star and executive producer Rob Corddry (The Daily Show) launched the fictional series-within-a-series on TheWB.com in 2008 to mock medical procedurals like ER and Grey's Anatomy. Lake Bell provides the Meredith Grey-style voice-overs, and her character, Dr. Cat Black, is shown breaking up with 15 various partners in the span of a single "previously on" segment.
In an homage to a Season 2 episode of Grey's, Children's Hospital was embroiled in a race riot waiting to happen outside of the hospital. The big dilemna? Deciding which of two victims with a pole struck through them, one Caucasian and one African-American, would live.
Hospital dramas aren't their only target. "We're trying to make fun of television and the way television is made and promoted," Stern says. Take for example the show's supposed anniversary episode, laden with 15 years of bogus clips, or it's "live" episode, inspired by those of ER and Will & Grace, in which anything that could go wrong does.
The webisodes will air in 15-minute blocks on Adult Swim beginning Sunday at 10:30/9:30c. For Corddry, this means having to, uh, give in to some of those TV conventions that Childrens Hospital likes to mock. "Now, I find myself in the position where I had to actually write some semblance of a story."
He may have to write longer episodes — Season 1's webisodes ran between 4 and 5 minutes — but Corddry and crew are taking care not to get caught up in the relationship and patient drama.
"We give it the guise of it being important what the characters' relationships are, but ultimately you really won't care if these two characters are getting together. [What you will appreciate] is that we're treating it as if it's important," Stern says.
It helps that writing on the show is a collaborative process and improvisation is encouraged, if not expected.
"I feel like everyone does feel very comfortable throwing their ideas out all the time," star Rob Huebel (Human Giant) says. "Everyone on the show is individually really funny and most people are writers in some capacity also. So people are always just like, can we try this?"
Even for TV veterans, like cast member and two-time Emmy winner Megan Mullally, the series is a sign of what's to come in comedy.
"Things like this are sort of pioneering, a TV show that sprung out of a web series, it's like the new wave of what TV is," Mullally says.
Only one question remains: Is there room for Childrens Hospital to co-exist with the Izzies and Houses of TV?
"I would say to those medical dramas, that if you are threatened by us or you have a beef with us, you come down here," Huebel says. "Let's fight."