Scrubs: The Little Show That Could. And Then Should’ve Stopped

guest blogger logan fowler returns with a retrospect on scrubs.

Before I begin my very extended look back at this one camera sitcom, let me be honest: I did not watch Scrubs from Season 1. I didn’t jump in at the start of Season 2. And I didn’t catch it midway through Season 3.

No. I started watching it because my college friend Kim asked me to tape the first episode of Season 5 because she was going to miss it. I did that, watched the episode, and loved what I saw. So she earns all credit for getting me into Scrubs. Thank you Kim.

Now, for all you out there reading this, you may say, “Hey, what can you offer to the writing world about Scrubs based on your untrue fandom? You started from Season 5? Pssh!”

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Well friends, Scrubs has such an impact on me that I quote characters in my facebook status messages. Also, lines of dialogue between characters were used as my AOL Instant Messenger Away Messages. I created a YouTube Scrubs video set to Robert Palmer’s “Bad Case of Loving You.” I make it home from work at 6:00 pm these days, which is when Comedy Central airs an hour block of those crazy doctors from Sacred Heart.

Still not convinced? I own all 8 seasons on DVD. So therefore I have watched and seen all the episodes in the Scrubs library (sans Season 9, which I’ll get to). I’ve done my homework.

About midway through Season 5, I was hooked. And I picked up the first season on DVD. Scrubs was unlike any show I had seen before. Yes it was goofy, yes it had lessons to learn, yes it had cliché points that all tv shows might have. But Scrubs, as God as my witness, is the only TV show ever in the history of TV shows to make me cry. Multiple times at that.

The first episode that got me, “My Old Lady” was 4 episodes into Season 1. John Dorian aka J.D. (Zach Braff) deals with his own emotions as an elderly patients tells him it’s time for her to move onto the next life. We witness J.D. struggling with this news (and using the classic gag of him getting hit with a ton of bricks-literally) and how, as a new doctors, he’s learning to cope with all that he’s learning.

Scrubs, for all it’s seasons, had the ability to blend comedy and drama SEAMLESSLY, which really brought it into it’s own. It dealt with everything-love, bitterness, drama, comedy, birth, death, make ups, breakups, sex, midgets, illusions, daydreams…

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Ah, there’s a topic-the daydreams. J.D., as the narrator the majority of the time, always tended to day dream. It could’ve been about anything, and that’s where Scrubs really took off. While these might have been alluding to things J.D. did in actual life, sometimes, they were just plain bizarre fantasies. Him on a sitcom making out with Elliot (Sarah Chalke), or him and his best friend Turk (Donald Faison) almost-read: almost-making out, or seeing his mentor Dr. Cox (the underrated John C. McGinley) teaching J.D. how to ride a bike, like a true father figure.

The relationship between Cox and J.D. was always a major plot point in each episode. J.D. always sought his approval, but Cox never gave in completely. If J.D. needed something along the lines of advice, Cox always doled it out with an air of aggressiveness and insult to his words. And more often than not, would call J.D. a girl’s name.

Going back, starting at Season 5 for me was a mistake, only because that’s where Scrubs got a little too silly. It alluded to things that could never happen in real life (Turk shoves J.D. into his backback, and this is not shown as a fantasy. Basically you know a fantasy is coming because the screen goes to white before the next clip and there’s a specific sound effect). While Scrubs clearly pushed the point of reality beforehand, it had an air of realism to it. Plus, with the added affect of drama, it always brought the show back down to Earth.

Season 6 had the worst of the series’ episodes (in my opinion). There was one based around a political standoff of all the doctors in the hospital which I absolutely loathed, then another episode narrated by Dr. Robert Kelso (Ken Jenkins), the hospital’s chief of medicine, who is funny as a side character, but not as the center of an episode.

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When Scrubs entered into Season 7, there was major talk of it being the final season. But then-gasp!- the writer’s strike came along, making that season very brief and well, anti-climatic. It ended with a fairy tale based episode that gave no real insight on the characters tying up loose ends and, for the record, seemed wrongly placed in the time line of the season.

But then, just as all hope was lost, ABC picked up the show, and placed the importance upon It that NBC was lacking. ABC provided with plenty of on air advertising for the show, telling of when the show would be airing, while NBC kept continually switching the show’s time slot and confusing fans who didn’t know when to tune in.

The 8th season (and in my opinion, the last) of Scrubs had something different to it then the previous few seasons. It felt new again, fresh, even when J.D. and Elliot decided to enter into a relationship for a several time. Characters grew, laughs were had, and the final episode, when J.D. leaves Sacred Heart Hospital for a job at a new one, felt like a real series ending-the character we were first introduced to and followed along for eight years, was leaving. Packing his bags. Saying goodbye.

And who’s to say this isn’t what happens? Who can tell me that my fantasies won’t come true? Just this once.

Those were the last few words uttered by J.D. in the season 8 finale. As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I was very proud of what I just saw. That’s, I thought, how you end a series. Feeling like I just said goodbye to a good friend, I turned off my TV, and went to bed.

But as days passed, it became clear-Scrubs was not ending. The show that was deemed “might not survive” was now deemed “might not go away.”

When Season 9 (aka Scrubs: Med School) was announced, I had nothing but doubts: Why do this? Why continue? Why drag on? End on a high note for crying out loud!

And then, as Dr. Dorian, Dr. Turk, Dr. Cox, and Dr. Kelso came back onto my television with new things to say and do, I realized right away that this Scrubs was not like the one of old.

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Brand new hospital. Brand new story. Brand new (ANNOYING AND IRRITATING) interns. Seems that the four mentioned above all become (plot convenience, anyone?) teachers of the up-and coming-doctors. Pretty much at the center of it all, there’s Lucy, who is the J.D. type character and has her own fantasies. Meanwhile, the only good parts of the show are the old cast members, and for the sake of the matter, having J.D. return when we are supposed to be thinking that he is gone is just wrong. I think Braff made a huge mistake in coming back, but yet I would’ve have probably never watched Season 9 if he wasn’t on it. Once his 6 episode deal was done, he left. And so did I.

Six episodes into Season 9 and I hated it. They took something so amazing and lovable and turned it into a mess. They always say, “Quit while you’re ahead.” The people behind Scrubs did no such thing. They capitalized on the success of their own show and ripped it right off. They only thing mentioning of Season 9 were the classic characters. Other than that, the show was pretty much D.O.A.

It is hard to look back on Scrubs with 100% joy. It certainly had some low points, some horrible episodes, and a final (semi) season (that being 9) to place a bad taste in your mouth if you gave it the light of day. However, what Scrubs season 9 did for me was put into light that the bad episodes that came in previous seasons were beautiful to what 9 had to offer.

Scrubs only had 8 seasons. That’s how I look at it. That’s how I’ll continue to look at it. We were given morals, lessons, advice, and words of wisdom from fictional characters that apply to everyday living. We were given moments of laughter, and moments of sadness. We were, in my opinion, given two of the greatest TV characters ever created, Dr. Perry Cox, and the Janitor (Neil Flynn), a character who, in the beginning, was only supposed to be a figment of J.D.’s imagination. Thank God they expanded that role.

Scrubs, for me at least, was a show that whatever time I watch it, I enjoy, being that the episodes are ONLY from Season 8. Yes, Season 9 came and went. I’m glad they pulled it. I had no place in the library of Scrubs, no matter how much they tried to get to be like it.

Scrubs had fun characters, good stories, and heart. No pun intended.

I am a proud-and will always be proud-fan of Scrubs. Check my facebook group that I created if you don’t believe me.

18 COMMENTS

  1. This article is pretty damn spot on. Season 8 was a perfect ending and I definitely am not crying for another season of Scrubs: Med School. Though if I can offer one small defense for season 9, the first 6 episodes where they were awkwardly holding onto the past of Scrubs while trying to move forward, were the worst six episodes. While the rest of the season never captured the magic of Scrubs, it certainly improved when JD left. Lucy continued to be a letdown, but Drew and Cole provided a few laughs.

  2. Gee you three guys could become the 3 Musketeers of professional and extremely accurate critics circle. Good article.

  3. I agree. They should’ve stopped it at season 8. Season 9 was nothing like Scrubs. It really wasn’t all that funny. They had a couple of people on there that were basically the same character. Horrible people. Scrubs ended when Bill Lawrence pulled the tarp down in the final episode of the 8th season.

  4. I totally agree!! Scrubs was an amazing show, it was just great and had its own feel and it really brought out your feelings and everything, but why they had to make a series 9 I have no idea!! Maybe they should not have had all of the old characteds and had med school as a seperate spin off series???

  5. I agree with this so much. I ignored season 9… but here we are 2014, and I thought, why not, lets check this out.

    I’m glad I did because Dr Cox is worth watching, but now I can go back to pretending Season 8 is where it ends.

  6. So I’m going to be honest
    I grew up watching reruns of Scrubs all my life
    And then recently marathoned seasons 1 – 5, and am a little into 6.

    And I’ve seen season 9.
    I liked season 9. As much as the rest? No. But I found it genuinely funny and I liked many of the characters.
    I like to think of it separate from Scrubs. Like a spinoff. That’s what it was originally meant to be, it wasn’t supposed to be Season 9 of Scrubs, it was supposed to be Season 1 of Scrubs Med School. But ABC wouldn’t stand for that, for some reason.

    As a standalone thing, I feel like it was decent. Not as good as Scrubs, sure, but I feel it had potential. I hated the way it anticlimactically ended. I wanted more. I wanted to see how these characters were to grow and develop. But poor ratings prevented that from happening, and I’m just left with an unfinished story everyone else chose to ignore.

    • If Scrubs were your family, I think the author of this article would be the grouchy old weirdo nobody wants to sit with because he’s always complaining about getting stuff that isn’t up to his standards. Sad, I’d hate to be that guy…

  7. I won’t try to defend “Season 9,” it was everything you say.

    However, I will defend Bill Lawrence for making it. At the time it was being made, he mentioned that, although he himself was hesitant to continue the series, when ABC (who own the show) insisted, he came around upon realizing that making another season would keep the crew (everyone behind the scenes) employed– otherwise, with a canceled show, all those folks get laid off. I can respect that rationale.
    Secondly, he wanted to present it as a spin-off, with “Scrubs: Med School” as the official title. But ABC insisted on it being a continuation of the original series, as well as on bringing Zach Braff back for those episodes.

    So even though the DVD box says otherwise, even Bill Lawrence believes that “Scrubs” officially ended with the season 8 episode “My Finale.”

  8. Apart from your article being riddled with typos of the grammar variety and missing words, you made an excellent point.

    • …you had to be that guy?! Before you critique a post for grammar you should take some time to check your own. The grammatically correct way to turn the phrase “grammar variety” is to change the spelling of grammar to accurately depict an adjective being used….hence the correct phrase should read “grammatical variety”. Just say you liked the article and move on! Don’t be such a pompous ahole!

  9. Thank you so much for posting what needed to be said.

    I watched episodes of scrubs off and on because my friends loved it in high school. I finally got hooked and started with buying the first three seasons on DVD. I then spent my time waiting to buy the DVDs of each season so as to not miss an episode.

    Season 8 came while I was in Iraq, and I watched that season on DVD, and was blown away with the realization that the show that ran my life was now over.

    I had accepted this because of how the ending of the season was the most perfect way to end everything. With every series you beg the question, “How do we end this?”.

    They had J.D. leaving, with his staple “inner monologue” leaving us with a believable ending of the potential future of him and all the characters we grew to love. Everything we wanted to happen was left to believe had happened. I was left with the perfect ending.

    I then got back to the States to find out that the show was still going on, with all of the new intern characters that I hated pushing through introductions of in the previous season now being the focus of another season.

    I have not watched a single episode of the ninth season of my favorite show of all time, because I watched it leave this earth in the best way it could. I would never get a better goodbye than season 8 gave me.

  10. Maaaannnn, when i first saw scrubs i fell in love with it,even since i was a kid!(im 20 now)
    The forst 8 seasons were 9/10
    Season 9 was more like 3-4/10 tbh
    But i feel like for season 9 they shouldve just made it like 4-5 episodes long explaining what everyone did after JD left sacred heart, from ted having a fun life to if JD and elliot had a healthy baby and what they did.

  11. On the other hand the 9th season, many of the same characters and I guess writers, forces one to think about what makes brilliant television. The original had elements of spontaneity, and the interactions between the actors/characters were genuinely felt, not simply lines read.

    There’s a 28 minute video of the players, writers and producers of the original. Look it up, and you will start to understand why this provided such pleasure. And not to be too hard on season 9, it’s really closer to the norm of most TV series. Symbiotic genius is rare, and it was enriching to have experienced it.

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