Old Show, New Season: “Scrubs”

When “Scrubs” wrapped its eighth season earlier this year, it did so with the presumption that it was offering viewers a final farewell to its characters. J.D. (Zach Braff) and Elliott (Sarah Chalke) spent the season finally settling into a groove as a couple, and in the 2-part finale, we watched J.D. make the most mature decision of his life: to leave Sacred Heart in order to take a job which would allow him to live closer to his son. If you followed the show throughout its run, it’s hard to imagine that you didn’t get misty as he took his final stroll down the hospital’s corridors, revisiting the memories of former friends, lovers, colleagues, and patients, and even if you did somehow make it through without dry eyes, the combination of having Peter Gabriel’s cover of the Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love” play over a montage of J.D.’s possible future was enough to kickstart anyone’s tear ducts.

It was, most fans agreed, the perfect way to close out the “Scrubs” story.

As such, when it was announced that 1) ABC had offered Bill Lawrence the chance to continue “Scrubs” for a 9th season, and 2) he had accepted their offer, fans immediately split into two camps: those who felt that Lawrence was betraying the legacy of the series by not leaving well enough alone and leaving them with their perfect ending, and those who were excited at the prospect of seeing the series continue. The phrase “legacy shmegacy” quickly became a staple of Lawrence’s interviews (such as, for instance, this one), and he soon revealed that Season 9 of the show would feel almost like a spin-off, taking Drs. Cox (John C. McGinley) and Turk (Donald Faison), turning them into med school professors, and exploring the world of first-year medical students…or, as he said to Michael Ausiello when the announcement was first made, “It’ll be a lot like ‘The Paper Chase’ as a comedy.” But while that’s a great reference to endear TV critics to its premise, is the concept enough to bring back those who were quite happy with the show reaching its logical conclusion at the end of Season 8?

If it isn’t, then maybe Zach Braff will be.

At first, it was implied that Braff would only be returning for a few episodes, with rumors abounding that ABC was pushing for the show to add a “big name” to its cast to keep the ratings momentum moving along; instead, he will actually appear in half of the episodes this season, with Lawrence rationalizing that, all things considered, Braff is a pretty big name in his own right. At the very least, his presence will surely inspire some of the on-the-fence fans to give the new version of the show a shot, and the same goes for Sarah Chalke, who will be turning up on a semi-regular basis as well. Although we saw Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins) drive off into the sunset at the end of Season 8, he must have turned around at some point, since he’ll also be teaching a class at the medical school, and as the ever-abrasive Denise (Eliza Coupe) was deemed way too good a character to leave behind, she’ll be working with Professors Cox, Dorian, Kelso, and Turk as a teaching assistant.

But, wait, now you’re wondering about everyone else, too, so I’d better get them out of the way, too.

What of Carla? Well, since Judy Reyes was reportedly only interested in reprising her role in a full-time capacity, we apparently won’t be seeing her for the foreseeable future, but we were given the impression that Carla was probably going to be transitioning from nurse to homemaker, anyway, so it’s easy enough to buy that. Christa Miller’s pretty busy over on “Cougar Town,” so there’s no sign of Jordan at the moment, but given that she works for the same network and that she’s married to the man behind both shows, let’s just say that it wouldn’t be impossible that she could turn up. (In fact, the word probable might even be appropriate, but you didn’t hear that from me.) Neil Flynn’s gig on “The Middle” is keeping him hopping, too, but The Janitor will rear his head briefly tonight, and Ted the Lawyer (Sam Lloyd) will turn up in the near future, with his significant other, The Gooch (Kate Micucci), in tow.

Okay, now you know that there’ll be plenty of old faces around to make you feel at home. So how about the new faces? ABC kicks off the return of the series with two new episodes, but if you can’t wait ’til then to find out if “Scrubs: Med School” – yes, Lawrence won his fight with ABC to add an era-differentiating subtitle to the series – will permanently taint your memories of the preceding eight seasons, then you’ll probably want to read on. Be forewarned, however, that there are SPOILERS in your immediate future, so those who wish to remain blissfully ignorant until 9 PM should bail out now. Just be sure to come back later to offer your thoughts about the show’s return.

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Professors Cox and Turk, at your service

Over at EW.com, the great and powerful Michael Ausiello managed to score the scoop from Bill Lawrence on what’s going on with “Scrubs” come its return for its semi-unexpected ninth season. (I’d be sad that he got the exclusive and I didn’t, but, frankly, I’m still riding on the high from a past interview with Mr. Lawrence where he actually said, “I can’t remember if it was you or Mike Ausiello that I said this to before.”) The talk had always been that the show was going to reinvent itself if and when it came back to the airwaves, and so it will: Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) and Dr. Turk (Donald Faison) are going to become med-school professors.

Said Lawrence to Ausiello:

“It’ll be a lot like Paper Chase as a comedy. It’s going to be a different show. It’ll still be life-and-death stakes, but if the show is just ‘Scrubs’ again in the hospital with a different person’s voiceover, it would be a disaster and people would be mad. Med students in their first three years have to spend anywhere from 10 to 50 percent of their time at a hospital. And that’s when you’ll see some of the [original cast members]. Continuity-wise, Sacred Heart will still exist with those people still working there.”

Ausiello also confirms that Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Judy Reyes and Ken Jenkins will be making guest appearances, and that Neil Flynn, a.k.a. The Janitor, will not be popping up for the foreseeable future, due to his commitments on his own new series (“The Middle”). Beyond McGinley and Faison, however, the majority of the cast will consist of freshman folk, though Lawrence teases in the article that the network is putting the screws to the show to hire a semi-big name as one of the new faces. Who will it be? Time will tell…

  

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A Chat with Bill Lawrence: The “Scrubs” Exit Interview

By the time you read this, “Scrubs” will have completed its eight-season run. Or not. That’s kind of still being decided, actually. But for all practical purposes, the series has still come to some sort of a conclusion, since even the rumored continuation of the show – which is still under discussion by ABC – would almost certainly be a new permutation that might or might not resemble the existing series. As such, we decided we’d check in with “Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence and chat with him not only about this season but, indeed, to offer a few random questions about the series as a whole. Mind you, it took for-freaking-EVER to finally get him on the phone, but we decided to let him slide. After all, the dude’s got a broken leg and he created the best blend of comedy, drama, and medicine this side of “M*A*S*H.” That kind of thing tends to earn you a little slack from TV critics.

Bill Lawrence: Hey, Will! How’re you doin’, man?

Premium Hollywood: I’m good, man. How are you doing?

BL: I’m good. Sorry to keep you waiting.

PH: Not a big deal. The beauty of working at home: I’m always busy. So how did you break your leg, and why didn’t it make it into the gossip rags?

BL: I know, right? I was just playing basketball. It’s kind of a drag.

PH: Recovery going all right?

BL: Yeah, I’m just doing rehab for a couple of months. I can’t tell you how boring having a broken bone as an adult is. (Laughs)

PH: Well, I dared to ask my Facebook friends for questions, and the predominant one seemed to be, more or less, “Why does my favorite show have to end?” But, then, at last report, it was still undecided if it actually was ending.

BL: Well, you know, we’ll see, right? Yeah, it’s definitely a “we’ll see.” It’s 50/50. But either way, Will, even if the show goes on past this, it won’t be the same show. And to me, the thing is, after nine years, there’s no way that we wouldn’t get repetitive next year, so even if it does go on, this’ll feel like the end of “Scrubs.” To me, it’s the end of “Scrubs” as we know it either way.

PH: So have you been happy with the show’s performance on ABC? I presume, at the very least, ABC has been happy with it.

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