‘Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy’ Should Be the Next ‘Rick and Morty’

Prime Video
Prime Video

Since the premiere of Bojack Horseman, adult animation has undergone a significant narrative shift. Shows began focusing more on emotions and mental health, offering frank storylines about anxiety, depression, and how they affect relationship dynamics in the workplace and at home. Big Mouth and its short-lived spinoff Human Resources took that subject and made it raunchier, with lighter, more sex-focused storytelling. With comedy as the anchor, these shows have been able to tell relatable stories without getting bogged down by the soapier elements of live-action drama. The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy, premiering Feb. 23 on Prime Video, continues that trend by using workplace comedy to explore anxiety in one of the most hectic and stressful workplaces imaginable: an alien hospital.

The series follows Dr. Sleech (Stephanie Hsu) and Dr. Klak (Keke Palmer), two surgeons and best friends who have been working side-by-side since medical school. They’re a classic duo: Sleech is confident in the operating room and the bedroom, while Klak is brilliant but anxious, and desperately in love with her ex, Dr. Azel (singer-songwriter Sam Smith). She also has a famous mother (Tracee Ellis Ross) who has made a career off her anxiety via best-selling books that positioned Klak as the poster child for mental illness.

Meanwhile, Dr. Plowp (Kieran Culkin) is the resident empath, his powers allowing him to directly identify with his patients and their emotions. There’s also the equally anxious surgical intern Dr. Vlam (Maya Rudolph), an immortal robot who has lived many lives and wears her heart on her sleeve. Rounding out the cast is the surly Nurse Tup (Natasha Lyonne), who tries to keep everything together, despite wanting to quit every other day. Each character is a different species of alien creature, making the hospital loud, colorful, and chaotic.

As Klak and Sleech, Palmer and Hsu have great chemistry, combining their unique comedic personas to create a friendship that feels organic. Surrounded by such strong personalities, Dr. Klak often finds herself caught in the middle. She wants to please everyone and navigate the world with more confidence, but doubt often gets the better of her. She’s a perfectionist who feels deeply, while Dr. Klak lives recklessly, running away from her emotions at every turn. While her friend learns to be more confident, Klak’s journey is all about slowing down and becoming more emotionally aware, especially when it comes to a surprise romance.

Still from The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy
Prime Video

Each episode involves a difficult surgery that Klak and Sleech work together to perform, with the occasional help of Azel, who is one of the few doctors in the galaxy with a better reputation than theirs. Wealthy, skilled, and respected, Azel is everything Klak and Sleech hope to be. But their impulsiveness and disrespect for the rules of medicine often get them in trouble, even when they save their patients’ lives.

Created by Russian Doll writer Cirocco Dunlap, The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy is spirited and joke-forward, making great use of every fluid frame. The pastels soften the surgical scenes, lending a colorful pop to every blood spatter. In many respects, the show feels like a patchwork of comedies that came before. The playfully grotesque-cute art style looks and moves like a mix of the short-lived Comedy Central series Ugly Americans and the candy-colored world Lisa Hanawalt perfected in Tuca & Bertie. And the intergalactic setting suggests Rick & Morty and Futurama, but with a noticeably feminine touch. There’s something nostalgic, too, about a hospital sitcom, which hasn’t been seen much on television since the Scrubs finale over a decade ago. The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy is a charming mix of genres and tones that borrows from the best while still feeling like something new.

‘Rick and Morty’ Writers Promise a Game-Changing Season 7

The show starts a little too quickly, thrusting us directly into a complicated world without establishing all the rules. Maybe it’s the shortness of television seasons these days, but there’s a certain magic lost when no time is dedicated to easing into a premise. Still, the sight gags are great, and go a long way towards establishing the unique nature of this galactic world.

The show’s greatest strength is its voice cast, which also includes Abbi Jacobson, Bowen Yang, Jay Ellis, and veterans like Phil Lamarr and Gary Anthony Williams. But the real star is Rudolph, whose Vlam runs away with half the episodes and pulls the whole cast together, setting a perfect comedic tone. The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy is a series with a lot of potential, thanks in part to an elastic premise that could be exploited for years, if the writing remains strong. In the wake of Tuca & Bertie, a new female-led adult cartoon is exactly what the television landscape needs right now. Here’s hoping that Prime realizes they have a gem on their hands—and that viewers do, too.

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