Friday, September 21, 2007
What's The Deal With Scrubs?
Have you ever watched Scrubs? Do you know what it is? For years, the outside opinion of the NBC comedy Scrubs has baffled me. Entering its 7th and final season, Scrubs has been a television anomaly to me due to the fact that it is constantly a punchline for the television world. Tapped often as unfunny, disappointing, and generally unpopular, the vitriol towards this show is unfair and unwarranted for a show that is creative and entertaining on many accounts.
What really makes the criticism of Scrubs so intriguing is that the show isn't bad, certainly not worse than other sitcoms on TV (According to Jim, King of Queens, and My Name is Earl to name a few), and that for the most part a lot of people accept this criticism they hear. Some how over the years, Scrubs has become the show to ridicule and as a result the show is under appreciated by fans and critics alike.
Told primarily through the main character John "J.D." Dorian (Zach Braff), Scrubs follows the residency of young doctors through the medical world. Using inner monologues and fantasy scenes add to the comedy of the everyday life of J.D. and his other piers at Sacred Heart Hospital. The characters and situations in the hospital create some very imaginative and funny situations that lead Scrubs to be a good television program.
The cast as a whole is one of the strongest on television simply based on the size of the cast and their ability to be funny and add something to each episode whether they are a major component or not. A key example of this is J.D.'s foil and nemesis the Janitor. Torturing J.D. for pure enjoyment, the Janitor's pranks and means of harassing J.D. are great whether he is in the episode for 10 minutes or 2 minutes. That kind of ability to work within the parameters of a TV show so well is something along the lines of Newman from Seinfeld, and praise doesn't get much higher than that.
Also, Scrubs has one of my all-time favorite TV characters in Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley). If you don't know who McGinley is, you'll probably remember him as Bob from the Bobs in Office Space, the S.W.A.T. leader in Seven, and most recently the Commissioner of the More Taste League (MTL) in the Miller Lite commercials. Dr. Cox serves as J.D.'s unoffical mentor and carries himself with a pocketful of insults and overwhelming confidence that leads him to be the top doc in the hospital. Just the character as a whole is so creative and enjoyable that McGinley has really made Dr. Cox his own, adding everything from talking ticks to specific movements that add to the bravado of the character so well. It is amazing to me that he hasn't been nominated for so much as a Golden Globe (I believe he hasn't been nominated) let alone won anything for his performance. It is really one of the most underrated characters on television.
Other cast members add a lot to the show as well. They all add their own special touch of neuroses, egotism, and insanity to the bunch of characters in the show. They can all weave in and out of a storyline perfectly and they are all strong enough to carry an episode on their own. I mean, Sarah Chalke plays Elliot Reid who may just be the only television character in history to get progressively better looking as the show went on. Seriously, she has always taken a step up on the looks department. Which may not have much to do with the show, but is still worthy of note.
(Left: 1st Season; Center: 3rd Season; Right: 6th Season)
Which is coincidentally the exact inverse of Ellen Pompeo on Grey's Anatomy, who has only managed to become more sickly looking and closely resemble a plastic doll.
(Left: Old School (2003); Middle: Grey's Anatomy Season 1; Right: Season 2)
Which is another point of contention. How can Grey's Anatomy be so much bigger as a show than Scrubs? You're dealing with essentially the same material, only Grey's is a dramedy (drama with some comedy) while Scrubs is comedra (comedy with some drama). Granted the allure of Grey's is greater, and for that reason and the fact that dramas are easier to get attached to than comedies, I would expect Grey's to be a bigger hit, but the disparity is so great that it leaves me confused.
Further elaborating on the Scrubs drama point, there are some very poignant moments that go along with the goofball comedy that Scrubs is known for. Some of the stories are well written in a way that at the end, all of the plots in the episode come together to not only make the episode complete, but also lead to sometimes unexpected and refreshing revelations about the struggles in life. Scrubs would never consider itself a drama, and it would never want to be, but that doesn't mean there cannot be moments that make you feel something other than typical light hearts for these characters. The thing Scrubs does that I admire the most is the way in which it shows these young residents struggling in their profession. It isn't all one-liners and goofy situations. There are times when these people do struggle and suffer through hardships that you would find on any drama. Even for being a comedy, Scrubs takes the time to break down these difficult situations and resolve them in a way that is atypical of your usual comedy.
If I was hard pressed to think of reasons why this show is so mistreated, and trust me, I have tried to think of as many things as possible, I can really only come up with two.
First, ironically, what I admire most about the show is what may detract from it. Namely the comedra aspect of the show. I was watching it once, and my brother came down and happened to catch the last 10 minutes or so. Well, the ending was rather serious, and as it wrapped up, my brother turns to me and goes, "What the hell is this show about?" Keep in mind, this isn't the first time he has seen Scrubs, and he was well aware of what show it was, but maybe people who watch a comedy do not necessarily want these curveballs thrown at them out of nowhere. After watching a show that makes them laugh and have an enjoyable time, to throw in some drama can leave a bad taste in their mouths. Also, the fact that these mostly funny characters suddenly go through incidents of death, self-doubt, and depression can seem melodramatic coming through the TV screen. The points of drama are not subtle. They're in a hospital, they're going to have to deal with death, disease, and personal turmoil not because it's easy to write about, but because it is what they as characters would go through.
Second, is the inherent dislike for Zach Braff. As a person, I don't see too much that is good about the guy. He seems like a jerk in real life, and kind of a downer. His movies always show him as some kind of depressed loser who can't get his life together and tends to blame others for his faults. When he threatened to punch an 8 year old on Punk'd didn't help, and something about those scenes in Scrubs when he has to be rude or he says something wrong are just a little too real. Think about it, has there been a least liked leading man for a sitcom ever? Of course, I don't know Braff, he could be a great guy, but these are just general observations from me. Although, I can't imagine my impressions are that different from most anyone else, and that's not a good thing.
Other than that, I can't really think of anything to take away from Scrubs. I'm just a guy trying to figure out why no one seemingly likes this show. It's like the musical equivalent to liking the Foo Fighters. They've been around for awhile, sure I purchased "The Colour and the Shape" back in the day, but I don't like the Foo Fighters now. As a matter of fact, I know more people that hate the Foo Fighters than like them. Can you name one person that legitimately likes the Foo Fighters? That's what liking Scrubs is kind of like. Maybe I'm way off and a lot of people like Scrubs, who knows, but I'm just trying to get to the bottom of this situation as best I can.