Part of the appeal of very early Childrens Hospital was the idea of these ridiculously sexy, rock star surgeons being played for laughs instead of in the straightforward (yet still somewhat laughable) Grey’s Anatomy sense. They were all too ridiculously cool—Cat had dated Josh Brolin, after all—and that was what you needed in order for these characters to be the best damn doctors in Brazil. As the seasons added up and the narratives became less coherent, the characters all definitely become a lot weirder, but “ridiculously sexy” (despite the very attractive cast, of course) and “rock star surgeons” are concepts that wouldn’t be used to regularly describe them at this point. Those words would be more like “ridiculous” or “surgeons” or “trainwrecks.” But sometimes, the sexiness is brought back to Childrens, and when it is, you end up with episodes like “27 Club.”
“27 Club” takes the character who is perhaps most consistently the coolest doctor at Childrens, Glenn, and uses that against him to break him down into a life of absolute shambles. Want to know how cool he is? He has a collar on his scrubs specifically so he can pop it. Here, his acknowledgment of his rock star surgeon status (thanks to Chet) opens up a can of worms (as his 27th birthday is tomorrow, and the 27 Club is a “thing”) that leads to a drug addiction and a missing finger (thanks a lot, Chet). Partially using the Nightmare On Elm Street-esque logic that you can’t die if you don’t fall asleep—as it is a known fact within the world of Childrens Hospital that days don’t change until you go to sleep—Glenn becomes addicted to amphetamines and the rush of doing 48 surgeries in a single day. He wouldn’t be the first Childrens Hospital character to have a deadly tango with amphetamines (“Night Shift”), but here there’s a message, in as much as there can possibly be a message in Childrens Hospital.
Meanwhile, Blake finds himself trying to bro it up big time with Owen and the cycling crowd, which naturally leads to his own addiction in the form of steroids (shot into the butt). And Chief’s storyline, which begins in the Previouslies as a “staycation” in the hospital, also becomes a cautionary tale—one about the troubles of dark chocolate (especially dark chocolate that is above 50% pure) addiction. Let’s just think for a moment about the fact the description for this episode is as follows: “Glenn gets a rave review that causes him to worry about his future, and Chief vacations at the hospital.” None of that is a lie, but there’s obviously a lot that goes on between point A and point B, and it ultimately comes across as miraculous that so much insanity happens in just 15 minutes. And it does so without ever coming across as over-stuffed or skipping a few steps in the process, which has been a problem with other episodes this season.
“27 Club” is Childrens Hospital turned Requiem For A Dream, and it’s as manic as that entails, in the best way possible. The episode is most impressive, story-wise, in the case of the Chief storyline, as that plot begins as a “poor person’s vacation,” an Eat Pray Love, old folks romantic comedy premise. But like all things Childrens Hospital, it devolves into something dark and corrupt, while also being a little stupid. Then, the idea that the combination of amphetamines, steroids, and dark chocolate would create a new, all-powerful, curative drug is right up there with butterfly semen as the type of nonsense science Childrens Hospital would come up with, dream or not.
The combination of Sam Sklaver’s script with Lake Bell’s direction works excellently here. Sklaver wrote “Codename: Jennifer,” another one of this season’s more cinematic episodes. In fact, it too featured some of Childrens Hospital’s more ridiculous scientific logic, in the form of the First Lady not remembering she had given birth to a daughter years ago. Little things like the rather understated Huey Lewis joke and the fact that the Chief plot follows all the beats of a romantic comedy until the last few moments show an understanding of Childrens Hospital general weirdness, and the plot never once lets up.
As far as Lake Bell directing goes, her constant absence in front of the camera is absolutely forgivable (or at least less heartbreaking) as long as she continues to keep making memorable efforts behind the camera. The tracking shot of the three doctors in the bathroom stalls, getting their fixes, is as hilarious as it is stunning. Really, that can be said for most everything about this episode. Plus, the entire dream sequence at the end, followed by the final shot of the trio lying on the bathroom floor with Glenn foaming at the mouth is just the perfect image to leave the episode on. Lake Bell’s fountain of talents are as worthy of envy as they are of praise, and just seeing the “Directed by” credit at the end of an episode automatically makes it click even more than it did before.
For all of this current season’s successes, one of the biggest problems it’s had so far has been having its secondary plots feel far less interesting or thought out than the primary. That’s been a detriment to otherwise good or great episodes, as the balancing act sometimes becomes more of a focus than the episode itself. But in this episode, Marino, Corddry, and Mullally all carry the weight of each plot perfectly, while also making the criticisms of the show’s revolving cast moot, if only for an episode. It even gets to the point where another regular—Rob Huebel—becomes secondary to their madness, despite how many great lines he has in this episode, and it’s not even a problem. It can’t get much better than that, especially six seasons into a show.
- Dori tossing the Chief the keys to Recovery Room 6A—chucking them right at her head—was the perfect way to start the episode.
- Chief: “You see, Dori, rather than go on a trip somewhere unfamiliar and expensive, I’ve decided to go somewhere less unfamiliar and non-expensive. Right here. At the hospital.”
Dori: “So instead of a vacation, you’re doing a poor person’s—
Dori: “— vacation. Right”
- Poor “Black Guy.” One day his name will make a difference.
- Blake playing air guitar on his unicycle is probably the coolest thing Blake has ever done. It is pretty funny how he thinks he and Owen are friends though. “Hahahaha. So funny. Friends.”
- Owen: “Do I ride? Yeah, I ride. I live to ride. And I ride to live. So yeah.”
- Owen: “I suggest you ditch the unicycle and get yourself a two-cycle. I’m talking about a fucking bike.”
- Chet: “Be careful, okay? I mean, all the great rock stars died at 27. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison.”
Glenn: “Well, there’s gotta be some rock stars who live past 27. I mean what about Amy Winehouse, Brian Jones, Blues legend Robert Johnson?”
Glenn: “How ‘bout Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, founding keyboardist of The Grateful Dead?”
- Rob Forster and Chief really could have made it work if he hadn’t gotten her hooked on the choc.
- The book Chief was reading on staycation? The Firm Stool.