Composer Matt Novack on scoring Childrens Hospital spin-off Medical Police

Saving the world from a deadly virus, no big deal for Lola Spratt (Erinn Hayes) and Owen Maestro (Rob Huebel). In Netflix’s new series, Medical Police, Hayes and Huebel not only do this, but they do it hilariously. It’s pretty obvious that the cast has chemistry, thanks to their days together on the long-running Adult Swim series Childrens Hospital. Heightening that chemistry and “thriller meets dry humor” vibe is the score by composer Matt Novack. Novack is also a Childrens Hospital alum, hence why the show’s music does not feel out of place or forced. Below Novack speaks exclusively with Nerd Reactor about his work on Medical Police.

Are there things you didn’t get to experiment with in Season 1 of Medical Police that you would like to do in Season 2 if there was to be one?

Great question. I think it’s more that the score evolves a bit over the course of the season, which works since the characters and story evolves too. I did a decent amount of prep work before scoring, but I still found different ideas and variations of ideas coming to me as the season went on. There was even a moment in scoring the finale where none of the synth sounds I had found or built were doing what I wanted to do so I did another search and tweaking pass until I found what I needed and thought to myself “Oh! I kinda wish I had this sound earlier…”

But more importantly, now that Lola and Owen have earned the title “Medical Police” by the end of the final episode, I’d love to experiment with how that changes the story and score now that that’s locked-in and their growth into these new lives is complete, so fingers crossed for season 2!

The first scene of the first episode opens with very grand music. Did you score the scenes in sequential order? If so, was it hard to create such intense music right out of the gate?

I tend to bounce around an episode a little bit. If there’s a big climactic set-piece, I’ll usually score that first so I get of sense of where the score’s leading up to, and then I’ll work in groupings of like-cues: cues that relate to that climactic cue, action cues, mystery, recurring themes, etc. I’ll basically divide up an episode’s score by those groups, rank them in terms of story priority and then typically work sequentially within those groups.

In the case of the first episode, I actually did start with that opening action cue as I wanted to dive right in and discover what the maximum level of intensity was going to be for the show. Plus, I really enjoy writing action music.

Owen has a vintage-type theme in the first episode when viewers are first introduced to him in the surgery room. For viewers who didn’t watch Childrens Hospital, was this the same theme he had for Childrens Hospital?

Childrens had more situational themes instead of character themes. Because the story, continuity, character dynamics, and even the characters themselves would change drastically or even be completely tossed from episode to episode, specific character themes didn’t really work.

For Owen, the idea was to re-introduce him as a hotshot surgeon, more concerned with himself and his ego, so it’s a bit of a one-off theme, but the sound of the guitar becomes part of their palate in the score moving forward.

About how much music did you create for each episode of Medical Police?

For each episode, about 14 minutes, on average. Some are denser than others and the season finale is pretty wall-to-wall with almost 20 minutes of score. I think the total for the season came out to around two and a half hours of music.

A lot of the score for Medical Police is more like one of a spy thriller. Were you surprised when you first started working on the show in this direction? And that it was not really about hitting comedic cues.

A little bit! I generally approach scoring comedy straight and letting the jokes speak for themselves, so I wasn’t too surprised in that respect, but very early on, before I even had a chance to have any broad discussions with the producers on what they were thinking about the score and tone of the series, I got a call from David Wain about starting to write a main title. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like “Hey, we need something better for the title card and our temp is just not cutting it,” so he sent me the final scene of episode one, out of context, and I wrote a theme that was very superhero, saving-the-world, over-the-top, so of course I ended up having to scrap it when we had the conversations about the show being more like ordinary(ish) people being thrown into a spy thriller. I still think it’s a good theme though, will have to have it in my back pocket for something else!

At what point did you begin working on the show? When the episodes were already finished or during pre-production?

They had already shot the show and were in the middle of editing when I came on. It was incredibly beneficial to get started early with hammering out the main title and getting themes and the palate right prior to locked cuts without too big of a threat of deadlines looming (that came later!)

Do you have a favorite memory from working on Childrens Hospital?

It’s so hard to pick one. With seven seasons, it was such a big part of my life and career; and in some ways still is. One that comes to mind is for the season seven episode “The Show You Watch,” my music team and I had to write a 1950s-esque jazz dance song based on lyrics written by Megan Mullally and Megan Amram as a pre-record for Mullaly and Ken Marino to dance and sing to on set. I had a blast writing “The Pickle Song” and collaborating with them on it. Then seeing it all come together on set with Kathryn Burns’ choreography was a lot of fun!

I’ll also never forget the screening of the final episodes with all the cast and crew. For such a silly show, it had such a large impact on a lot of our lives, so saying goodbye was surprisingly emotional and lovely.

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