Get out your badge and medical gloves, the new genre-bending Childrens Hospital spinoff, Medical Police, is now available to stream on Netflix and we’ve got an interview Matt Novack who served as a composer for the series.
The off the wall comedy/action series stars Childrens Hospital alums Erinn Hayes and Rob Huebel as American doctors and cops, at the same time… It’s been almost four years since Childrens Hospital ended and from the buzz online, this new series couldn’t have come at a better time, as fans are welcoming it with open arms. Most of the Childrens Hospital creative team is back for Medical Police, including composer Matt Novack. It’s hard to musically navigate a show in this subgenre because one moment it feels like a thriller and the next it’s a screwball comedy, but Novack does a great job of finding the balance between the two, overall heightening the straight action and slapstick humorous moments. A show’s score is crucially important, as it tells viewers what sort of emotion they are supposed to feel, so we decided to speak with Novack about creating the score for Medical Police. Read the exclusive Q&A below.
WoN: Medical Police, like Childrens Hospital, has a certain brand of humor. It’s not quite a parody, but it’s not meant to be taken seriously either. What challenges does this subgenre bring to you when you are trying to create the score?
The biggest challenge is striking the right tone. With this brand of comedy, it works by playing it straight, so in general, I’ll score it like a drama, or an action/adventure show without having the score winking to the audience. However, it can be easy to push it to far so that’s where it helps to have great collaborators as I did with the showrunners so we can refine cues and make sure we’re striking the right balance. This especially happened early in the experimentation phase of scoring the first episode and main title where we tried a few different tones and levels of intensity. Besides that, it’s also a matter of making sure jokes are heard and playing well.
WoN: Out of the creative team, who do you find gives you the most input about the score?
That’s a tough one. Looking back, they were all about the same. We have a pretty democratic process of doing notes where we all weigh in and discuss things and I honestly can’t think of either of them standing out as having any more or less input. It really is a very collaborative team.
WoN: A lot of composers have said that scoring a Netflix streaming series is like scoring a long 5-hour film. Did you feel like that was the case with Medical Police?
Absolutely, especially since this team has always liked doing episodes in batches, even back when we did Childrens Hospital, so we’ll spot and start working on multiple episodes at once, and then at the end of the process we’d do the same at the end with final mixes. I still worked episode to episode, for my own sanity, but we did bounce back and forth a bit between episodes, and it was extremely helpful to see how story arcs played out later. Not just reading the scripts, but actually seeing the episodes down the road from where I was working.
WoN: Do any of the characters in the show have their own themes? If so, do you have a favorite?
The main theme of the show, along with fragments and variations of the different pieces of it, is used throughout for the duo of Lola (Erinn Hayes) and Owen (Rob Huebel) and definitely my favorite. It’s been fun figuring out different variations and ways to play it, as well as injecting the fragments throughout the score. Then there are shorter motifs for some secondary characters, villains, and situational themes. One of the villains, Tran/Lavator, has this angry motif played on synths or guitars that was always fun to throw in. It’s so simple, but so over the top.
WoN: From the first episode to the last, did the tone of the score change or adapt as the story unfolds? Or were you pretty consistent with the overall palate for the whole season?
The first episode starts like an episode of Childrens Hospital, so we actually use some of those themes and palate for a few cues until Lola and Owen start investigating and they’re pulled into a new world and the score becomes more Medical Police by the end of that. Once the second episode starts, we’re pretty locked into the palate for the rest of the show with exception of a handful of quirky/fun cues and musical side trips.
WoN: Medical Police is somewhat a spinoff of Childrens Hospital. Because Childrens Hospital was on Adult Swim and Medical Police is on Netflix, are the vibes of the show a lot different?
Yes and no. I think in terms of comedy, the vibes are similar and it feels like a natural progression out of Childrens. The biggest difference in tone comes from Medical Police having one season-long story arc as opposed to single 15-minute episodes each with self-contained stories; so this story takes its time, jokes develop over multiple episodes, there’s actual continuity, and the tone is consistent from episode to episode.
WoN: Are there any Netflix shows you are currently watching?
I really enjoyed Living With Yourself, Paul Rudd was brilliant. Currently getting caught up with The Crown and watching Lost in Space, and I just watched the first episode of Dracula which was pretty great. Looking forward to finishing it.
WoN: What is next for you?
I’m currently helping out with additional music for composer Jefferson Friedman on Harley Quinn (DC Universe) which has been a blast, then this spring/summer I should be scoring Unplugging, a comedy feature directed by Debra Neil-Fisher; written by Matt Walsh and Brad Morris which I’m looking forward to!
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