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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Old Show, New Season: “Scrubs”

Q. Is “Scrubs” funny?
A. It’s a matter of opinion. If you ask Peter Griffin, the answer is “no.” (“You ever watch that show ‘Scrubs’? Lois had it on the other night, and I was kinda fading in and out, you know. I was watching and wondering: which one is the funny guy?”) Personally, though, it’s one of my favorite sitcoms, with a great ensemble cast and an ability to move from laughter to tears without making it feel forced.

Q. Has the writing on “Scrubs” maintained the same level of quality since its premiere in 2001?
A. I think even those most die-hard fans of the show would have to say that the answer is an unequivocal “no.” And so, for that matter, would the show’s creator. Bill Lawrence said outright in his chat with me for Bullz-Eye, “I let it get too broad and goofy in the middle, and, y’know, we got a little lazy sometimes and were a little bit of a caricature of ourselves.”

Q. So given that “Scrubs” just finished up seven seasons on NBC, isn’t the show outstaying its welcome by moving to ABC for an eighth season?
A. Oh, hell, no. And if you think otherwise, then I ask you to at least check out the first two episodes of Season 8 before you make a final decision on the matter, because I’ve seen them, and they’re good.

There’s an immediate change in “Scrubs” from the moment Dr. Dorian…or J.D., if you like…steps onto the screen, sporting what the Janitor describes as a “pre-pubescent ‘Miami Vice’ beard.” (“There are some who say I look like a young Kenny Loggins,” claims J.D., though you’d be a fool to believe him.) Taking a coincidental cue from “House,” the show finds Dr. Dorian dealing with a new class of interns, including Katie the know-it-all suck-up (Betsy Beutler), the incredibly callous Denise (Eliza Coupe), and the awesomely inappropriate Ed, played by Aziz Ansari from “Human Giant.” The powerhouse within the list of guest stars, however, is Courtney Cox, who plays Dr. Taylor Maddox, Dr. Kelso’s replacement as Sacred Heart’s Chief of Medicine.

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