Season six of Childrens Hospital is on a hot streak right now. Coming back to the hospital in Brazil (which, of course, is where they are) after season five’s army base, M*A*S*H season was really the best thing the show could have done, and it’s managed to prove that with each episode. That’s not even to say season five of Childrens Hospital was bad—looking back at the episodes in the season, it was full of winners—but there was something off about the locale and the tone of the season from the start, something that never quite felt right, except for in the case of something like “Country Weekend” or even “The Gang Gets Sushi.” Last season was a lofty concept on a show all about lofty concepts (and a little toilet humor), an homage on a show all about homages.
But when Childrens Hospital gets it right, it really gets it right. That’s the case again for this week’s latest episode, “Koontz Is Coming.” The episode is an homage to British sitcom Fawlty Towers and also a tip of the hat to the work of “the one and only suspense thriller novelist, Dean Koontz.” It’s also another fantastic showing for Childrens Hospital.
Childrens Hospital is already an intense farce as it is, so it makes sense that it would want to pay tribute to one of best of the genre. In fact, John Cleese and Connie Booth’s Fawlty Towers has been called the best British series of all time on occasion. That show is comedic royalty, and for Childrens Hospital to tackle it takes a lot of confidence and a lot of foresight. Luckily, this episode, written by Rob Corddry and directed by Ken Marino, transforms what could, on paper, easily be a sequel to the Madonna episode, “Staff Dance” (which is great on its own), into a tonally competent homage to the ‘70s sitcom (right down to the multi-camera and laugh track aspect), with Henry Winkler’s Sy Mittleman as the Basil Fawlty of the piece.
“Koontz Is Coming” actually hits all the Fawlty Towers sweet spots, with an impending event in the form of the Annual Childrens Hospital Fundraiser Gala, a soon to arrive, high profile guest in the form of Dean Koontz, an anonymous, anti-Childrens Hospital blogger that could possibly ruin the whole thing for them, and plenty of unnecessary misunderstandings. So many misunderstandings. The attention to detail for such an endeavor is something Childrens Hospital doesn’t get enough credit for, but it’s also something the show is pretty amazing at. Episodes like “Just Like Cyrano de Bergerac” or “A Lot of Brouhaha Over Zilch” (another Rob Corddry-written and Ken Marino-directed episode)—to keep the list very short—have proven that time and time again.
The episode is really a terrific showcase for Henry Winkler, who has been one of the casualties of the cast-shifting in this season and rarely gets as much of a focus as the rest of the cast, despite (or because of, thanks to how busy he is) the fact that he is Henry Damn Winkler. Here, he gets to run around, make stupid French accents, and insult everyone. It’s amazing. And while Sy is the Fawlty of the episode, it’s important to note that Winkler isn’t playing with a Fawlty or John Cleese impression; he’s definitely playing Sy in this situation, which is what makes it even more enthralling. Sy himself has never been a truly respected authority figure, so in the form of blowhard Basil Fawlty-type role, it feels like a character homecoming.
“Koontz Is Coming” also provides a storyline in which the children’s hospital aspect of Childrens Hospital is finally of some importance again (something the show has gotten away from at times), with the story of the long term patients who just so happen to also be bloggers. To say that the reveal of the first blogger not being the one behind the negative reviews is predictable would be an understatement, but the predictability of the whole plot is part of what makes it work as such a pitch perfect homage. To those unfamiliar with Fawlty Towers, the episode is still an adept enough execution of the source material for the intent of the episode to shine through and still work. Plus, when Lola’s not detailing the intricacies of getting money from donors, she’s spending the majority of the episode telling people what their “thing” is (that’s her thing) and making sure everyone hears what Sal Viscuso has to say on the P.A. As for Chief, she really just spends her day drinking extra strength laxative (that’s her thing), but she’s just as intrigued by the goings on of this episode as anyone who would possibly live in this world should be. You don’t need to have seen Fawlty Towers or be an expert on British comedy to appreciate that. You just have to understand how Childrens Hospital works.
What makes “Koontz Is Coming” so good is that, on the surface, it’s also kind of a terrifyingly accurate depiction of the worst of modern multi-camera sitcoms. Try to remake Faulty Towers today without even a hint of irony and you get something like Fox’s one and done Do Not Disturb. Here, it works. And it’s actually hilarious, because while it’s kind of dumb, it’s mostly brilliant. (Again, that is the Childrens Hospital way.) Take, for example, Nurse Beth’s Manuel the waiter-esque moments of complete incompetence in this episode, from her “huh” repetition to her constant bowing during the dinner for three to her inability to light a match. There’s also the constant laugh track, telling the audience when to laugh. It’s jarring at first, but it fits into the groove that this episode is working with, and it quickly becomes a part of the humor itself. These are seemingly simple bits that are funnier than they have any right to be because of Rob Corddry and Ken Marino’s attention to detail.
Take a bow, Childrens Hospital.
- From what I could tell, the Childrens Hospital establishing shot sign never changed. I must say, I was a bit disappointed by that.
- Sal: “Attention, staff. The Annual Childrens Hospital Fundraiser Gala will start tonight at 6 p.m. sharp. The host of this year’s fundraiser will be the one and only suspense thriller novelist, Dean Koontz! … And—”
Lola: “Hey! He said ‘and’!”
Sal: “—That is all.”
Lola: “Oh. There it is.”
- Lola explaining the entire process of getting fundraiser money will never cease to make me laugh.
- Dean Koontz’s voicemail: “Hi. You’ve reached Dean Koontz!”
- thelongtermcarewing.com. I appreciate the kid’s succinctness.
- Nurse Beth: “Huh?”
- Sal: “Attention, staff. Bob Odenkirk played a lawyer on Breaking Bad. That is Saul.” I’ve missed Sal so much.