Monday, June 17, 2013

Scrubs: A Look Back on an All-Time Great Show

Comedy is one of the toughest genres of television to pull off successfully. More comedies die in their first couple of years than is possible to remember. This is especially true for big networks, which often seem hellbent on killing their best comedies. The three best examples of this are probably Futurama, Arrested Development, and Community, but let's not forget that NBC also managed to lose one of its greats before the show had a chance to come to a conclusive end. That show is Scrubs.

Scrubs is one of those shows that can claim to be part of multiple genres, as at times it felt as much like a drama as it did a comedy. While this is true, the show excelled most greatly in the moments where it tried to be light-hearted and amusing. Not familiar with Scrubs? Here's a short summary:


Scrubs is a show about an innocent and fun-loving medical intern--J.D. (aka John Dorian: played by Zach Braff)--and his close-knit group of friends, mentors, and enemies. The show travels from J.D.'s first day at "Sacred Heart"--a fake hospital believed to be somewhere in California--through his education and development into a full-fledged attending physician.

As J.D. is the center of the show, the show relies most strongly on his specific relationships with other characters. Primarily, the show focuses on his relationships with his best friend Chris Turk (Donald Faison) and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Elliot Reed (Sarah Chalke), and personal mentor Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley). These relationships drive the show and carry the audience from J.D.'s innocence as an intern to his eventual growth and maturity as a doctor.


The show uses a very unique style as a very large portion of the show is spent inside the mind of J.D. Whether he is thinking up quirky fantasies or preaching valuable life lessons, this approach makes everything gel together just a little bit more. In most shows, the audience has to rely on reading body language--which requires phenomenal acting--to understand how characters are feeling. In Scrubs, the audience is brought inside the mind of the main character--and sometimes minor characters--for a glimpse at his--and their--inner-most thoughts.


As a medical show, the majority of the time is spent within Sacred Heart hospital, which serves as an educational hospital for young interns trying to break into the medical field. When the show isn't in or around Sacred Heart, time is most likely being spent at J.D. and Turk's shared apartment--where the living situation changes periodically throughout the show.

Now that you know more about the show, I can talk about some of my favorite aspects. Let's start with my top 5 favorite characters:

1. Theodore "Ted" Buckland- Ted is played by actor Samuel Lloyd. In short, Ted is a less-than-capable medical lawyer who lacks self confidence so badly that he serves as the "hospital sad sack." Most of Ted's humor comes off of the actions of other characters, which is part of why I love him so much. Essentially, there really isn't a time at any point in the show where I do not laugh at what Ted's character does. Whether he is singing in an A Capella group or showing everyone that his girlfriend is indeed real, Ted serves as a reminder to us all that we really are better at things than we sometimes think we are.

2. The Janitor--In what may be the best acting performance on the show, Neil Flynn plays the primary antagonist to J.D. With his crazy, over-the-top schemes and general disregard for his work, The Janitor serves as the show's most quirky and out-of-place character. What I mean by that is that the rest of the characters in the show are put in very important and serious positions. Several are doctors, some are lawyers, and some are in charge of running the hospital. One of the recurring themes in the show is that The Janitor doesn't have much work to do, yet he doesn't do it anyway. As the show progresses, we see The Janitor become more and more human to the point where he becomes married and actually is seen helping with important tasks throughout the hospital.

3. Dr. Bob Kelso--The only reason there's a "may" next to Neil Flynn's role as The Janitor is because Ken Jenkins is, in my humble opinion, the best at portraying the role given to him on the show. Dr. Bob Kelso spends the vast majority of the show as the Chief of Medicine at Sacred heart, which is fancy talk for saying that he is the head honcho; he runs the place. Kelso's character depends primarily on his status as the primary antagonist to J.D.'s personal mentor: Dr. Cox. To best summarize Kelso's character, I have a question for you:

Who has two thumbs and doesn't give a crap? Bob Kelso

4. Dr. Percival "Perry" Ulysses Cox- Dr. Cox' character serves as the rebellious leader of the hospital's working staff. Due to Kelso's nature as Chief of Medicine, Cox fulfills the role of the individual who does his best to counteract Kelso's decisions and fight against his authority. When Cox isn't calling J.D. by a vast array of girls' names, he is being incredibly passionate about his job and his family. While his ego is his greatest asset, it is also his greatest nemesis as he repeatedly gets in his own way--most notably in an episode where he ends up losing three patients due to his stubborn drive to get them organs for transplants. His character is defined by his cynicism of the world and his drive to see J.D. do well--despite never being able to admit it.

5. Dr. John "J.D." Dorian--Zach Braff is simply great in this role, and the show is nothing without the performance of Braff as J.D. After all, everything that happens in the show is--in some way-related to what goes on in J.D.'s head. A large portion of the show is spent between J.D.'s often ridiculous day dreaming and his constant screwing up of his intimate relationships. Really, the reason J.D.'s character is so great is because he is easy to relate to. He struggles with self-confidence, he gets in his own way, he is immature, and he is nothing without his best friend--Turk. It's easy to root for J.D.

While it is fun to focus on the funny moments in a comedy, Scrubs is an all-time great due to Bill Lawrence's fantastic ability to direct the story and deliver powerful moments. Here are a few of my favorites--based on how strongly they impact me emotionally:

1. Ending to "My Fallen Idol" (video through 3:22)

2. Carla Says Goodbye to Laverne

3. J.D. Looks Into His Future

All of this makes Scrubs fantastic, but there is one thing that I appreciate more than anything in the show: Lawrence's ability to choose music that fits the scene. Here are some more of my favorites--not including "The Book of Love", which is used in the final scene of the show (that matters, anyway):

"Be Yourself"- Audioslave

"Guy Love"- Turk and J.D. 

"Poison"- Belle De Voe

"More Than a Feeling"- Boston


So there you have it. Scrubs is a comedy that knows how to relate to the individual. Through the use of characters we can relate to, the incorporation of music, and the focus around a vulnerable individual trying to make his way in the real world, Scrubs is a show for, well..everyone. There is a character for everyone in the show:

Vulnerable and immature- J.D.
Cocky and confident- Turk
Intelligent, yet ditsy- Elliot
Proud and motherly- Carla
Arrogant and passionate- Dr. Cox
The guy you want to root for- Ted Buckland
The boss that shits on you wherever you turn...but really has a soft side- Dr. Bob Kelso

Very few shows have accomplished what Scrubs has. Unfortunately, NBC swung and missed at the show's end, so they weren't able to finish what they started--the last two seasons (only one matters) aired on ABC. At some point it might be cool to see a Scrubs movie or something of the like, but I feel as if Scrubs' biggest accomplishment was wrapping things up in a way that makes sense. I won't completely ruin it for people that have yet to view the show in its entirety, but it becomes clear where each of the characters is headed.

So this is to you, Bill Lawrence. You created a hell of a show, and I really appreciate that you did.

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