There are many shows that lampoon the style and tropes of others. With a glut of crime dramas, medical thrillers, and forensics investigations, there is plenty of material to mine. Whereas NTSF:SD:SUV amusingly smooshed them all into one, for those who want to mainline a more pure genre score there is always Medical Police.
Medical Police is a full-length spin-off from the long-running Adult Swim short-form parody, Childrens Hospital. Over 10 episodes the show covers the unleashing and global spreading of a deadly virus, dubbed the ‘Sao Paolo’ virus. Doctors Lola Spratt (Erinn Hayes) and Owen Maestro (Rob Huebel) get drafted in by the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) following the outbreak of the highly communicable virus. But it quickly becomes clear that more nefarious bioterrorist forces are at play, which forces the pair to perform not only as medics, but as medical police.
Much of Medical Police smacks of shows like the aforementioned NTSF:SD:SUV or even Brooklyn Nine Nine. Yet here the jokes rarely land. Daftness and idiocy are rife but most dialogue or set up is in search of a punchline that never really materialises. Fundamentally this comes down to poor character work. Parody or not, any comedy worth its salt needs some kind of characterisation in which to anchor the humour. Despite committed performances from both Hayes and Maestro it is clear that pulling from a source that consisted of short snappy sketches leaves little actual substance to work with.
Despite consisting mostly of comedy which might as well have huge flashing signposts telegraphing each easy joke, Medical Police somehow succeeds in accidentally being an intriguing drama. The bioterrorism plot which sees Lola and Owen globe-trot through Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Bhutan, and China has enough twists and turns that I watched the show right to the end in order to see how it all ended rather than due to any enjoyment of the comedic material. Even with a lack of laugh out loud moments, the connection between the two leads is well measured so that you do genuinely root for them and their blossoming attraction to each other.
Over the course of 10 episodes, we see an airplane fall out of the sky and a desperate free-fall for survival; a lethal assassin who carries a Terminator-esque score whenever she strikes; a desperately dangerous Chinese prison; and a tense robbery of an elite medical resource facility. Medical Police plays like someone had a compelling dramatic show and then tried to crowbar deadpan humour into it with little success.
Medical Police is what happens when you extend a minor sketch format but don’t have the kind of material that makes thinly drawn characters flourish. It’s DOA on the operating table but kept on life support so that we can go through the motions. Perhaps your second opinion will differ, but for me despite that genuinely intriguing plot line and enjoyable lead performances, Medical Police discharged me without prescription.
Words by Michael Record