Metro Weekly

Cirocco Dunlap’s Universal Health Care

Cirocco Dunlap's "The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy" takes an uproariously alien perspective on medical emergencies.

The Second Best Hospital in The Galaxy: Stephanie Hsu (Dr. Sleech), Keke Palmer (Dr. Klak), Natasha Lyonne (Nurse Tup)

Ask creator Cirocco Dunlap how she managed to convince all five Culkin brothers — Kieran, Macaulay, Rory, Shane, and Christian — to portray alien brothers in Prime Video’s new animated series The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy, and she gets visibly giddy.

“Do you want to know what’s so weird about that?” says the affable 38-year-old whose writing credits include the time-loop sensation Russian Doll. “We had written the character [Kieran plays] before he was cast. The character had four brothers before he was cast.

“At one point during a recording session I said to Kieran, ‘Your character has four brothers,’ and he was like, ‘I have four brothers. Should we cast them?’ And I was just like, ‘Yes. Yes, we should!’ while staring at our producer, who was like, ‘We can’t afford it!‘ But I was like, ‘We’re doing what we have to.’ And so that’s how that happened. And what a wonderful thing. Those scenes with his brothers are so fun.”

Dunlap admits, however, that the brothers were not in the same room for the recording session.

“I wish,” she sighs. “It was the same for everybody because of the pandemic. Most people were just over Zoom, alone, in our sad little pandemic lives.”

Culkin voices Dr. Plowp, a yellow-feathered empath with a decidedly gentle demeanor (think an intellectual Big Bird) — a far cry from his Emmy-winning turn on Succession. Plowp is a doctor at a hospital situated in the far reaches of the galaxy.

The Second Best Hospital in The Galaxy: Stephanie Hsu (Dr. Sleech), Kieran Culkin (Dr. Plowp)

The series centers around the exploits of two of its resident physicians: the pastel blue, multi-eyed Dr. Klak (Keke Palmer) and the purple, amphibious Dr. Sleech (Stephanie Hsu) as they tend to all manner of intergalactic maladies, deploying whatever risky, unconventional methods pop into their heads.

“All these sci-fi classic [alien] villains I just thought, ‘Well, what if they just need treatment?'” says Dunlap of her inspiration for the series. “We play with perspective — who the victim is, who the villain is, who the prey is, who the predator is, that sort of questioning of why someone is the way that they are.”

Hospital, which recently released all eight episodes, is an engaging, oddball charmer. Visually rapturous and thematically relatable, it boasts a powerful narrative thread about taming anxiety that gives the show tremendous depth and cohesion.

The series is stockpiled with memorable characters, such as robot intern Vlam (Maya Rudolph), the sarcastic, frequently invisible Nurse Tup (Natasha Lyonne), studly, dim-witted frogman Matt (Andrew Dismukes), and the gender-fluid, hot pink Dr. Azel (a sublime Sam Smith), an elitist surgeon Klak used to date. And then there are the Crunchy Screechies. Don’t ask.

The show’s overarching theme is about taming anxiety, which Klak suffers from, often debilitatingly so.

“We tried to show anxiety in ways I hadn’t yet seen,” says Dunlap. “I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t. One of the episodes that I really like is where Klak…meets this girl she likes, and [her anxiety] actually becomes a barrier to intimacy.”

Intimacy is a huge driver on the show, particularly that of the sexual kind, with nearly every episode introducing a surprising new form of alien copulation.

The Second Best Hospital in The Galaxy: Sam Smith (Dr. Azel)

“I was watching a lot of Grey’s Anatomy at the time,” laughs Dunlap about what influenced the show’s plunge into sex. “I think one of the funniest things humans do is have sex. But we made it very Animal Planet, because these are all different beings and creatures. And, somehow, the weirder we made it, the more it felt real to me.”

Although Dunlap identifies as straight, her upbringing demanded that the diverse field of LGBTQ experiences be baked into the series.

“I grew up in San Francisco,” she says. “My dad was gay. My mom was bi. My sister was in a three-woman relationship for many years. This was my normal, this is what I was exposed to. And I never questioned it. And then, I encountered the rest of the world, and was like, ‘Oh, well, I see there’s a difference between the wonderful world I grew up in and the challenges that are faced in other places.’ So it was just important to me to have the world [of Hospital] reflect the diversity that I had experienced.”

The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy is now streaming on Prime Video. Visit

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