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.
While it would have seemed as if the series was over and out after the final season on NBC, the series was picked up in a surprise move by ABC for an 8th season. Before the season aired, it was announced that the show would be making a return to the "Scrubs" of old - focusing on delivering the laughs and surreal comedy and moving away from the personal drama that had started to cause the show to decline in the last season and a half of the NBC run.
Although the results of the 8th season "reboot" of the show on ABC are not quite to the level of some of the best moments of the early seasons, they certainly go a very long way towards the desired result of getting the series back on track. The 8th season picks up with Elliott and JD as a couple, which is handled in a way that's sweet and charming, with Chalke and Braff showing the same kind of chemistry that they did in earlier seasons before their characters started in a spiral of make-up/break-up.
Moving away from relationship dramas allows the series to concentrate on comedy once again, and season 8 is all the better for it. This time around, a new series of interns appear, including Ed (Aziz Ansari, of MTV's "Human Giant") and the delightfully and unapologetically mean Denise (Eliza Coupe). There's also a replacement for Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins), in the form of Taylor Maddox (Courtney Cox-Arquette), who has a dark streak underlying her initially sunny exterior.
The new interns aren't up to the original cast, but the new characters are well-cast, especially Ansari, whose portrayal of a lazy intern is hysterically funny and often feels improved. The character's unfocused/care-free approach to work also sets him up as a bit of a villain for McGinley's character. Coupe's ice queen (whose character is nicknamed "Jo", because of the way she acts like the "Facts of Life" character) is also a great addition to the series, as she gives what could have been a one-joke character (although the one joke is often pretty funny, because it's usually just so wrong) a bit of unexpected depth on occasion. Sonja "Sunny" Day (Sonal Shah) balances things out with her consistently perky outlook, which is often dampened by - well, everything around her.
The show's other delightful addition this time around is Jenkins, who reappears, despite Dr. Kelso's retirement. This season, he's often seen sitting in the coffee shop (because he won free muffins for life), commenting on the events in the episodes like a solo version of the two old guys in the balcony in "The Muppet Show".
While this series is a major leap forward from the previous season, there are still a few concerns. First, the series never quite figures out what to do with Courtney Cox, who - while funny otherwise - just isn't up for the darker comedy that the role requires (the character is out after a few episodes.) McGinley's Dr. Cox eventually takes over as the new chief at the hospital, and the move gives McGinley's beloved character yet more depth. Although a couple of episodes are a bit iffy (The 2-parter in the Bahamas, "My Soul on Fire", is uneven), there are certainly some highlights: "My ABCs" and "My Last Words" are two of the best episodes the series has produced in a long while. The show's balance of comedy and drama is one again wonderful, and the writing is one again imaginative and witty.
Finally, a main concern that I have about this season is the fact that there's going to be another season of the series. The last episode of this season, "My Finale", looked to be a wrap-up of the show, and the final moments of the episode were a deeply moving, emotional look at both the past and the future for the characters. While I'm not against another season (and am rather interested to see where the show can go from here), the final moments of this one provided about as rich and satisfying (and perfect) a closure as I could have hoped for for this beloved, often brilliant series.
151. 8- 1 6 Jan 09 My Jerks
152. 8- 2 6 Jan 09 My Last Words
153. 8- 3 13 Jan 09 My Saving Grace
154. 8- 4 13 Jan 09 My Happy Place
155. 8- 5 27 Jan 09 My ABC's
156. 8- 6 27 Jan 09 My Cookie Pants
157. 8- 7 3 Feb 09 My New Role
158. 8- 8 3 Feb 09 My Lawyer's In Love
159. 8- 9 10 Feb 09 My Absence
160. 8-10 10 Feb 09 My Comedy Show
161. 8-11 18 Mar 09 My Nah Nah Nah
162. 8-12 25 Mar 09 Their Story II
163. 8-13 1 Apr 09 My Full Moon
164. 8-14 8 Apr 09 My Soul On Fire, Part 1
165. 8-15 15 Apr 09 My Soul On Fire, Part 2
166. 8-16 22 Apr 09 My Cuz
167. 8-17 5 May 09 My Chief Concern
168. 8-18 6 May 09 My Finale, Part 1
169. 8-19 6 May 09 My Finale, Part 2
VIDEO: "Scrubs" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. 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 (almost) all episodes by cast and/or crew. The commentaries are a lot of fun, as cast and crew members offer their thoughts on returning for another season, as well as behind-the-scenes stories and other tidbits. "My Bahamas Vacation" is a very enjoyable 20-minute look at the 2-part "My Soul On Fire" episode, which follows the cast and crew as they head to a tiny island (the cast and crew coming to the island increased the population of the island by 33%, and creator Bill Lawrence's parents live on the island half the year) in the Bahamas to film the episode. A few minutes of very funny bloopers are offered, along with a collection of deleted scenes and alternate lines. Finally, "Scrubs Interns", a series of webisodes featuring the intern characters, are also included.
Final Thoughts: Season 8 is a mostly wonderful return for "Scrubs", wrapping up with an incredibly emotional, uplifting (and again, perfect) ending. The DVD edition provides very good audio/video quality, along with a solid set of extras. Highly recommended.