Certainly one of the finest sitcoms since "Seinfeld" and one of the best ensemble casts in a good ten years, I've often said "Scrubs" is one of network televisions few bright spots since its debut in 2001. For those unfamiliar with the series, it focuses on a group of new medical interns at a local hospital, including John Dorian "J.D." (Zach Braff), Turk (Donald Faison) and the attractive, yet utterly neurotic Elliot (Sarah Chalke). They're looked over by the near-psychotic Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley in an utterly classic performance), cost-cutting head Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), nurse Carla (Judy Reyes) and others, including Janitor (the brilliant Neil Flynn).
During the first year, "Scrubs" launched with an unusually high degree of confidence. The show's mixture of the real and the surreal is often brilliant, as the random dream sequences are at their best during some of the first season episodes. The show's ability to mix comedy and drama is downright remarkable, such as the incredibly touching season 1 two-parter "My Occurence"/"My Hero", which stars Brendan Frasier as Cox's best friend and his ex-wive's brother, who finds himself admitted to the hospital for a serious issue. I won't give away any more than that, but while "Scrubs" had been terrific up until this point, it's this exceptional two-parter where the show really showed what it was capable of and it showed non-believers that it deserved to be around for a long, long time.
"Scrubs" is a delicate balance, and yet creator Bill Lawrence ("Spin City") manages to get it right nearly all of the time. The show's dream sequences are remarkably funny and add even more punctuation to nearly all of the show's bits. It helps that two of the show's writers, Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan, were picked up from the king of surreal dream sequences, the animated "Family Guy". The performances by the leads are also first-rate, as Braff makes for a likable "everyguy" and Faison somehow balances a frat-guy sense of humor with a lot of intelligence and heart. Sarah Chalke is also makes what could be an unlikable character charming. Finally, John C. McGinley rips into the role of Dr. Cox, who terrorizes everyone but occasionally lets a caring side show.
The show's supporting cast is simply priceless, lead by Robert Maschio as Todd (aka "The Todd") a "frat boy" surgeon who turns every sentence into something sexual, yet he also somehow is a good doctor. As we learn in the first commentary on the second season DVD, "The Todd"'s high-five "whoosh" is the only sound effect left in a show that used to have quite a few. There's also Ted, the hospital lawyer who is a reluctant servant of Kelso. Johnny Kastl plays a wonderful target for Kelso and Cox, as Dr. Doug Murphy, a resident Cox refers to as "nervous guy."
Finally, there's Christa Miller ("Drew Carey Show" and creator Lawrence's wife), playing Cox's ex-wife, who's as much of a rage-a-holic as he is. The cast works together perfectly, especially Faison and Braff, who are completely believable as long-time friends. One of the best character elements of the series is that everyone's flawed and the mistakes that people make here aren't sitcom cliches, but feel real. It's one of the reasons why "Scrubs" can manage to be so touching at times, and why the characters are so engaging.
Season 6 of the series makes a big mistake (one that will probably go down as the show's worst) and a few minor ones, but despite some concerns, the series still surprises at times with some episodes that are just as hysterical and moving as some of the show's best early episodes. The season's worst decision comes early in the season when JD (Braff) finds out that the girl he's seeing, Dr. Kim Briggs (Elizabeth Banks) is now pregnant.
The series never quite figures out what to do with the storyline, as it doesn't go anywhere interesting before the Banks character leaves for much of the season. When she returns, I didn't buy it, and the last moments of the season makes things unnecessarily complicated and sets up what seems like a predictable open of season 7. Banks, a deeply funny comedic actress, finds herself stuck in a largely straight role and never seems to gel with the rest of the cast.
Season 7 does have some terrific moments where the series reaches the heights of earlier moments, but it's still dragged down at least somewhat by the JD/Kim subplot of the prior season. While the Banks character leaves early on, the effects of the subplot are still seen. There was no reason to require JD to have a kid, and it really didn't further the character or create comedy. The JD/Elliott off/on relationship (they almost kiss in the opening episode) also has started in this season to drag on to the point where it began to feel strained.
The show's recent announcement of a jump to ABC that will reportedly come with some major changes is a (at least potentially) welcome one, as while seasons 6 & 7 of "Scrubs" are better than most of what's on television, the series had begun to lose the terrific balance it had maintained between drama/relationships and comedy, and begun to go a little lighter on comedy. The inspired gags of previous seasons (to use an example from a couple of seasons ago: JD deciding that he wants to own a home, then buying the land and only building a deck, which infuriates his neighbors), were also in shorter supply (although a giant parking lot game of "Space Invaders" is not only pretty damn funny, but has the sense of fun that the series used to have an excess supply of) this time around.
The shortened season (due to the writer's strike) not only was an issue due to only about half the usual number of episodes be aired, but the issue of having a fantasy episode ("My Princess") be the finale of the show's run on NBC, when the episode clearly wasn't how the creators intended the show to close its run on the network. Additionally, continuity issues also were seen - "My Princess" was intended to be the 9th episode of the season, not the 11th (the two episodes before it were intended to be 10th and 11th.) "My Princess" may not be one of the show's best episodes, but it at least ends the show's NBC time on a high-ish note.
While "My Princess" was the biggest episode of the season, the best episode of the season remains "My Dumb Luck", where Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins) has to confront the board when Kelso reaches 65 and he has no choice but to face retirement. While the doctors try to find a way to get around the rule of retirement age in order to save Kelso's job, he comes to a realization about life while chatting about life with a new intern on the bench outside. While Jenkins has always given 100% in the role, this is a terrific performance and a great departure for a marvelous character.
I'll always be fond of "Scrubs", and while the 6th and 7th seasons were not the show's best, they are still above-average as sitcoms go today. While I don't know if I believe the series is capable of a return to the level of the terrific earlier seasons, I'm looking forward to seeing the changes in the series - and hoping for the best - when it makes a move to ABC for an 8th season.
Truth Calling (Bonus)
Does Anyone Need Help (Bonus)
Costumes & Makeup (Bonus)
"Scrubs" is presented in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio by Buena Vista. Presentation quality is generally very good, as the episodes as a whole look as good as they did when they were originally broadcast. Sharpness and detail are never really exceptional in any way, but the picture does at least maintain a consistent level of definition, and always appears at least crisp.
Some minor grain and edge enhancement appear at times during the proceedings, but mostly, the presentation appeared clear and free of flaws. No wear was present on the elements used. The show's color palette is mostly fairly low-key, although bright colors occasionally show through quite nicely. No smearing or other faults are spotted. Black level appeared solid, while flesh tones looked natural.
SOUND: "Scrubs" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 here. Despite the 5.1 presentation, the sound still remains fairly front-heavy, with dialogue and music remaining crisp and clear throughout.
EXTRAS: Commentaries are included on all episodes by cast and/or crew. While most of the commentaries are amusing and insightful, the commentaries are a little uneven. Somewhat dissapointing is a commentary by Garrett Donovan, Neil Goldman and Assem Batra, where the trio really don't find themselves with much to say about the season opener, leaving some scattered patches of silence. The track does get a little better, but the three mainly seem to be watching the episode. Zach Braff provides a fine track for "My Growing Pains", as he discusses directing the episode.
On the last disc, there's a hysterical set of bloopers, a set of alternate takes, 15 deleted scenes, a "making of" for "My Princess" and an interview with actor Ken Jenkins.
Final Thoughts: I'll always be fond of "Scrubs", and while the 6th and 7th seasons were not the show's best, they are still above-average as sitcoms go today. While I don't know if I believe the series is capable of a return to the level of the terrific earlier seasons, I'm looking forward to seeing the changes in the series when it jumps to ABC. The season 7 DVD set provides fine audio/video quality, as well as a lot of bonus features. Recommended.