Several years ago, I lent out my DVD seasons of Scrubs: these were seasons 1 – 4, so this would’ve been around the fall of 2006. Four years later, they came back to me in a box (arriving, incidentally, the night my jury duty ended). As I’d just finished re-watching the first four seasons of How I Met You Mother, I decided to do the same thing to Scrubs, and from September 11th until October 16th I watched every episode, of every season, of what was at one point the best sitcom on television. Yes: you are reading this correct, I also watched the 9th season.
Scrubs focuses on John (“J.D.”) Dorian, a doctor who has just finished medical school and is beginning his internship at Sacred Heart Hospital under the tutelage of Dr. Perry Cox, Nurse Carla Espinosa, and Chief of Medicine Bob Kelso (and the terrorizing of the nameless The Janitor). Rounding out the cast is J.D.’s best buddy since college, Chris Turk, and their fellow intern (and J.D.’s ongoing love interest) Elliot Reid – it is explained that her father really wanted a boy, and went ahead and named her Elliot despite the fact that, yanno, she’s a girl.
Each episode of the show is structured very similarly, with a first-person narration from J.D. illustrating a theme common to the show’s characters over the course of the episode. Generally, Dr. Cox calls J.D. a girl’s name, Dr. Kelso kicks someone out of the hospital for their insurance lapsing, the Janitor plots some intricate revenge plot against J.D. and is surprised people expect him to clean things up, Turk does something stupid, Carla yells at Turk for doing something stupid, and Elliot has problems being emotionally stable.
Rounding out the cast with a beloved bevy of wacky characters: Ted, the bald incompotent (and impotent, I think) lawyer whose wife ran away with his brother (I think), and who lives with his mother (and sleeps in her bed, ew.) There’s Todd, a surgeon who makes inappropriate sexual comments about everything and is constantly asking for high-fives named for whatever the current situation is (i.e, “Stuck in traffic high five!”), which sort of makes him an early version of HIMYM’s Barney. Jordan is Dr. Cox’s ex-wife, and long after they divorced, they find true love and happiness together (even though they hate each other). Nurse Laverne was a bible-thumping African-American woman obsessed both with her stories, and telling the main cast that their bad activities were going to send them to hell.
And for the first several years, it was really amazingly good. Scrubs’ first episode aired just a few weeks after September 11th, and I remember following the first season regularly enough that when I found out the show was only a year old or so, I was surprised. Hadn’t I been watching it longer than that? The show was almost less of a comedy, and more of a dramedy: it’s hard to paint the deaths of people, even fictional patients, in a light hearted manner, and yet the show was able to convey a sense of loss, and lessons learned, along with a touch of humor.
I would go so far as to say that Scrubs would be damn near perfect if NBC hasn’t picked it up for a seventh season, but they did, and, as I’d been watching it as much as I had, I quite clearly picked up on a noticeable drop off in quality. NBC apparently picked up on that, too, because they canceled the show – but never fear, ABC resurrected it. In either the first episode of that season, or at least one of the early ones, J.D. gives Turk and Elliot a pep-talk admonishing them “not to call it in”, and how they had to still “give it their all!” And that was nice – but a lie. By the end of the show’s run, people weren’t even pretending to take the characters seriously. J.D. went from a smart, studious doctor with a weird fun side to a weird guy with funny weird pranks who was an okay doctor. The relationship between J.D. and Cox, which had been slowly moving towards mentor/father figure, took an abrupt 180-degree spin back to how it was at the start of the show.
And then came the show’s finale. And it was — okay, not perfect. But it was damn good, and yeah, I’ll admit the touching montage coupled with Peter Gabriel’s Book of Love, made me well up a bit. But even then! They brought the show back for another season, basically rendering the entire finale null and void.
And if Season Eight was the cast “calling it in”, Season Nine was the cast daydreaming about being productive enough to call it in. The show retooled from the previous seasons, moving the setting from the Sacred Heart Hospital to a medical university, where several older characters — Dr. Cox, J.D., Turk — were now professors, and the focus of the show shifted to medical students. I don’t know what exactly caused ABC to extend the show’s life, so I will just say this: it was not, in the word of Zach Braff, “A good attempt”, it was a very, very poor and horrible attempt, and what’s worse is that the ninth season was neither funny, nor touching.
I will say that there was one good thing about the 9th Season: and that sole thing was Eliza Coupe as Denise “Jo” Mahoney as a regular member of the cast (she was a recurring character in the 8th season), and only — and I do mean only — because her character enjoys having sex with fat guys because “they work harder”, and I appreciate that point of view in women, even fictional women (except for Carrie Heffernan from King of Queens, because I find Leah Remini incredibly off-putting on every level it is possible for a human being to be, and on that note, having had to look up her character’s name, Kevin James’ character’s last name is a play on Heffer? Holy Asshole, sitcom writers!)
And for my favorite moment from the show’s run? Because, sure, while it never gets tired hearing Dr. Beardface angrily announce how to actually pronounce his name, Scrubs was best with the emotional heart-string pulling: yeah, I admit it, when Carla finally goes into Laverne’s room to say goodbye before she passes, I teared up.
Now I’m trying to decide what show to watch next. I’m torn between Highlander: The Series and The Wire.