Scrubs, one of my favorite shows, has run its course.
HOWARD MEGDAL: I am not one of the members of my generation who seems to revel in falling idols. I don’t eagerly anticipate the “Jump the Shark” moment for once-great television programs, any more than I have enjoyed seeing a great hitter, David Ortiz, become useless in the Boston Red Sox lineup.
Instead, I find myself rooting for the once-great to return to those levels. It’s the reason I am heartened by every great new Saturday Night Live sketch. Even a good meal at a restaurant I have long enjoyed provides reassuring continuity.
But by contrast, when once-great institutions fail repeatedly, it pains me. And it was impossible to watch this season of Scrubs without feeling that pain on nearly a weekly basis.
And rumor has it that Season 9 next season- for it is true, ABC has renewed the series- will be missing the lion’s share of cast members that made Scrubs great.
But it is the writing that jumped the shark already. The missing cast just makes it that much worse, since the incredible talent of the principal players was all that masked a David Ortiz-like decline in storylines and humor.
Zach Braff was perhaps best at this, in that he could make humor out of broken plays. But he will be in only 6 of the first 13 episodes next season, to help transition to a new cast that, despite a full season of storylines, isn’t memorable, let alone enjoyable.
Janitor also provided some of the best off-message, for lack of a better term, moments in the show. Whether they were improvised, written, or both is impossible for an outsider to say. Regardless, he won’t be providing them next season- his pilot was picked up by ABC.
Fortunately, Donald Faison and John C. McGinley (Turk and Dr. Cox, respectively) did not receive fortunate news in the pilot department, so they will return. (McGinley may be the best part of any show- I watch his Miller commercials). But Judy Reyes and Sarah Chalke, two more critical parts of the Scrubs team, have yet to sign new contracts. I feel as if Judy Reyes is particularly underrated- her absence isn’t discussed much, but she managed to flesh out a secondary character on Scrubs in a way most principal characters never are on a television show, let alone a comedy, where such characterization has to be played for laughs.
This leaves aside the direct comparison between David Ortiz and Scrubs, which can be found in the writing. Ortiz looks the same, takes the same ferocious swing, but his slow bat speed and pitch selection make him impotent. So it is with Scrubs storylines. I’m not sure I enjoy any character as much as Ted, played by the amazing Sam Lloyd. But while allowing him to find love was heartwarming, it essentially marked the end of playing his character for laughs. Not his fault-the writers are at fault on that one.
Similar choices were made for Dr. Cox and his wife, played by Christa Miller, who never became more than a pale imitation of Cox, along with Lady, Janitor’s wife. This ridiculousness reached its nadir with the awful two-part Janitor’s Wedding storyline, which saw the writers attempt to pair everyone off, regardless of emotional fit, as if Scrubs was little better than a boilerplate romantic comedy from Hollywood.
Scrubs was better than that, and deserved better.
But this new group isn’t the way to save it. Go back to Season 1 of Scrubs (lord knows the writers did!) Many of the same things happened to the new interns that happened to the original group. But it wasn’t the events that made Scrubs fantastic- it was the humor around those events, and caring about the group going through those events. Who am I supposed to care about in the new group? Overachiever Katie? Always-smiling Sunny? Unfeeling Denise? We don’t know anything about them, because unlike the originals, who we saw interacting with each other, who we saw interacting with patients… we only saw them interact with the originals.
But if by Season 8, the writers couldn’t make us care about the day-to-day fates of such brilliant characters as J.D., Dr. Cox, Turk, Carla, even the tremendous Dr. Kelso… what chance does the new group have?
Please end Scrubs. Even the Red Sox eventually bowed to reality and dropped David Ortiz in the order.
EMILY SAIDEL: In one of the flashback clips used during “My Finale,” Episodes 18-19, Season 8 of Scrubs, Dr. Kelso says, “Dr. Dorian, do you not realize that you’re nothing but a large pair of scrubs to me?” This clip is from “My First Day,” Episode 1, Season 1, and represents the question the writers and producers must ask themselves now, as the show has been renewed for a 9th season.
For the first 8 seasons, Scrubs was the story of J.D., John Dorian, as first an intern, then a resident, then an attending doctor at Sacred Heart Hospital. Episodes begin and often end with J.D.’s voiceovers and are interspersed with his daydreams. Even episode titles—“My Karma,” “My Butterfly,” “My Way Home,” —emphasize that this is J.D.’s story. The show occasionally ventures into “Her/His/Their Story,” but these episodes are few and far between.
Howard criticizes the emotional pairings of the 8th season, but I enjoyed the sentiment. A good Shakespearean comedy ends with everyone married, and Scrubs took the same approach, more or less. But Rosalind and Orlando don’t reveal their hearts until the end, and the love of Beatrice and Benedick is only influential when the audience has witnessed the previous four acts of bickering.
The producers have two choices for Scrubs Season 9. To take the ER revolving door approach, and treat the show as a comedy about a location rather than a group of characters. This approach makes sense when examining the new class of interns who only existed to receive advice from our beloved regulars. (There were webisodes in which these characters, Katie, Howie, Jo, and Sunny, were featured.) But this also turns the ensemble into a group of ever-replaceable archetypes—just large pairs of scrubs.
The second choice is to take the spinoff or reboot approach done so well by Degrassi and Star Trek. Change the 1st person limited camera, open up the focus, and truly create a new show to explore new worlds. J.D. may depart, but if the spirit of his outrageous charm is sustained, then a new show may have a shot.
The Scrubs I watch is filled with distinct, quirky characters, who are moving on to new phases of their lives and careers. A show by the name may continue, but My Scrubs has had its finale.