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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Childrens Hospital: “Old Fashioned Day”

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I think I’m not ready to leave “Old Fashioned Day” behind just yet. Written by the great Michael Showalter (his second credit this year after “Triangles” and what an asset to the show he’s proving to be) and directed by Timothy “that awesome guy from The West Wing and thirtysomething Busfield, this episode had a lot of things going on that I want to see more of. Childrens Hospital is usually good at wrapping things up within 11 minutes, but “Old Fashioned Day” was crammed with ideas that didn’t get quite enough time to breathe.

One person I demand to see more of is Steven Weber, who makes his first appearance as base commander about ten seconds after Sal Viscuso announces that he talks without using his mouth for some reason. “You’ll see what I mean.” Indeed, Weber (an incredibly underrated comic actor whose guest turn on Party Down was one of the greatest performances of the last hundred years) is the epitome of a stone-faced general, constantly looking like someone’s just struck him in the face with a cast-iron pan. That weird, distant look of shock, those glassy eyes—it’s a cousin of the death-glare Weber wore on Party Down, actually. I think I need there to be a show where Weber plays a psychotic character on a regular basis. Maybe he can show up on season two of The Following.

The main plot of the episode is the army base indulging an “old-fashioned day” where everyone wears old-timey clothing, Blake becomes a jester, Glenn wears a fiddler on the roof costume, the Chief churns butter, etcetera. There’s a larger conceptual gag in which everyone makes dumb, old-timey jokes (although more from the 1950s than the 1650s) to open the episode, and later Nurse Beth promises to go get modern medical supplies to save a kid’s life but shows up with Chinese food, yelling “SUPPLIES!” (everyone is annoyed but agrees it’s a good joke, because this is Childrens Hospital).

The show is wise not to dwell too much on gags relating to old-timey life and we only spend a couple of minutes in old-fashioned day itself. Most of the episode takes place the morning after, where “red tape” is keeping the hospital from shifting back to the modern day and Blake is drunk with the power afforded to jesters in older, quainter societies.

I almost wish the episode had begun here because the concept could probably have been explained in ten seconds and then we could have seen what traps Blake had laid around the hospital, or more anti-Semitic bullying of Glenn, or an exploration of why the base commander chooses to not move his face like that.

I guess it’s a dumb complaint, because the whole episode is very funny, and the deus ex machina it chooses to resolve things (James Urbaniak zaps in as a future-doctor from a dystopia to help a dying child) is cute and clever. But I found the episode ending just as I was really getting into it, a rarity for this show especially as it’s in its fifth season.


Stray observations:

  • Rob Corddry had the tall order of doing (some of) the Pesci “clown” monologue from Goodfellas and making it funny; he succeeds.
  • “Hear ye, hear ye, staff. Reminder, no smoking in your old-fashioned costumes. They’re rented and it’s hard to get that smell out.”
  • Sal had a good night, actually. I also liked “Attention staff. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but in my day we didn’t have iPads. We got by just fine with iPhones and laptops.”
  • “You will regret that, Hebrew.” I wish people said that to me more.