As strong as the cast members of Childrens Hospital are individually, the show is definitely at its best when it really gets to use its cast. The show’s original Grey‘s Anatomy-parodying ways may have themselves to a specific lead, but that hasn’t been the case for many years, so the ensemble is key. So while the first two episodes of this season have been relatively good with the limited cast options, they still haven’t been peak Childrens Hospital. Good, yes. Great, not yet. “Sy’s Tenure,” on the other hand, is all about the great level. Finally.
“Sy’s Tenure” is an episode that works simply because of how much of a show it makes out of the surplus (also relative) of cast members it has in comparison to those first two episodes. It works for other reasons, of course, but this is the basic reason. It’s still not even all of the cast members, but it’s a substantial amount, and that goes a long, long way at this point. That sort of cast presence makes a huge difference in the show, both from a quality level and an energy standpoint. In fact, there’s more of a frantic nature and a sense of urgency when Childrens Hospital has to squeeze 12 minutes of plot and action into an episode with more cast members. That’s really how Childrens Hospital should always feel.
This is an episode that gets into all of it from the very beginning. The “Previously on Childrens Hospital” is absolutely nowhere to be found, and that right there is an instant sign that Ballers’ Rob Corddry is giving us something special with this episode. We’re delivered right to the partying, and that ambiance basically encapsulates how non-stop the episode is. We go from Cat’s crazy (and captivating) dancing to Owen’s DJ aspirations to Chief’s quest for survival to Sy’s titular tenure, and there’s never a lull. It’s just beats of the crazy Childrens drum.
Now remember, those beats are what made Childrens Hospital work in the first place, and it’s something that’s almost lost on the smaller casts. Instead of everything going a mile a minute in those instances, it now feels like every thing is slowed down to accomodate for the cast needing to stretch things out. This episode, on the other hand, is the return of total nonstop Childrens Hospital action; and while such a style is perhaps possible with the limited cast, it hasn’t really come out into full effect this season until this particular episode.
I’ll admit that my first reaction to the episode being titled “Sy’s Tenure” was a dubious one at best, since as much as I love every character on this show, Sy is sort of at the bottom of my list. While Henry Winkler is delightful in the role, he’s also ultimately a character who works mostly in support of and as an afterthought to the other regular characters. He’s the suit that they all hated from the jump, only he’s one of the gang now. Here in “Sy’s Tenure” specifically, his enthusiasm is infectious, and such a different approach to the character that it was worth waiting this long to see this version of him. Then again, Sy and the rest of the characters all come across like they’re on drugs during at least one pont in this episode (like Lola in “Childrens Lawspital;” Val and Owen in “Night Shift”), and that is quite possibly the best choice Jim Margolis’ script (his first for the series) makes.
By the way, despite my Sy bias, I can’t say I wasn’t excited to see this episode outside of the character’s focus. Because first of all, based on the episode synopsis, there was the fact that “Chief is stranded on a dance pedestal.” How can you not be both intrigued by that and excited by the fact that Chief is finally back in this episode? The plot itself doesn’t disappoint either, as Megan Mullally makes the most out of her solo scenes, selling both the desperation and the ridiculously pathetic nature of Chief in a much different way than usual. She’s terrific, by the way.
Then, there was plot point where “Owen learns how hard it is to be a hospital DJ.” The obvious question is “Harder than it is to be a camp DJ?” but that remained to be seen… until the episode ends with Owen’s death by DJ lifestyle.
Once the episode actually happens, the combination of Henry Winkler, Erinn Hayes, Lake Bell, and their combined dumb enthusiasm over the tenure party and jetpack just propel (no pun intended) the entire episode. Last week, when Childrens Hospital gave us two good, strong plots, the downside was that they both ultimately felt like tewo separate wholes that were eventually tweaked to work together. But in “Sy’s Tenure,” every single moment is connected, smartly woven together, even when it’s just building up to Sy taking on DJing next.
That’s why there’s no need for a “previously on”: The tenure party itself is one big “previously on,” as well as the catalyst for everything in this plot. Owen’s hospital DJ hobby stems from this; Sy, Blake, and Chief’s new chapters begin with this party; Cat Black dances out all of her frustration over the “understaffed” hospital (and cast) at this party, even though it doesn’t change anything.
Speak of Cat’s frustration, the fact that she’s completely over all of the jetpack nonsense from the very beginning is pretty amazing to see from her. From the beginning, Cat has always been the ace that has been more focused on her relationships (and possibly jetpacks) than her work, but somehow, this is finally the time when that changes. Instead, Lola is the child in this scenario, so into the jetpack she won’t even think about listening to Cat about actual work until it’s done. Cat’s exasperation when she provides Lola and Sy with the blueprints “for a working jetpack” (the only thing they never tried) is just one of many reminders in this episode about how fantastic of a comedic actress Lake Bell is—just as Lola’s reactions within the entirety of the jetpack plot is a testament to Erinn Hayes’ comedic sensibilities.
And on the male side of things, Rob Huebel plays Owen’s accidental step into the world of hospital DJs perfectly, while Ballers’ Rob Corddry still manages to work Blake’s typical nonchalant nature into his new lease on life. (And it kind of goes without saying, but Winkler is at his best here, of course.)
Simply put: It took three episodes, but Childrens Hospital is finally “back.”
- The presence of Chet (and his gun) and Nurse Beth really makes the episode feel complete, even with a lack of Val, Glenn, and Dori.
- Question: Is there a way to get an Erinn Hayes/Lake Bell two-hander on the air? Because I definitely have an idea if they’re (and the entire world is) interested. Ken Marino has already shown interest in the ideas I have for him and Jon Hamm.
- Next week’s episode “Doctor Beth,” a Nurse Beth origin story. This is great news.
- DJ Lunch or DJ Owen? Pick a side. And do you understand both?
- “star of the show;” “fly sy;” “should go up” (not pictured):
- If Sy just yelled “tenure” and “jetpack” for the rest of the series, I’d be perfectly content.
- The “understaffed” line is obviously a meta line about the cast situation, but Cat’s focus on how no work is getting done really fits with how this shrinking weekly cast appears to correspond to the growth of Childrens Hospital the location. Again, how can a million be saved when there are only a handful of doctors in such a huge hospital?!?
- Chief: “Don’t leave me, Fernando!” Damn you, Fernando.
- You know something? Chet and his gun would have found Chief while on that jetpack. Immediately. Stupid Sy.
- Much like Malin Akerman’s scene last week, I think it’s fair to “assume” that Megan Mullally shot her scenes separately from everyone else in this episode. Just a guess.