What You Should Be Watching On TV: Scrubs

By: Mathan Erhardt

This is a show about the hilarious hijinks of those whose lives revolve around Sacred Heart Hospital.

Over the course of three seasons we’ve witnessed J.D., Turk and Elliot undergo the transformation from residents (interns) to full fledged doctors. We’ve watched them tolerate the torment of Dr. Kelso, Dr. Cox and yes, even the janitor. We’ve even the ups and downs of relationships with the “ups” represented by the marriage of Turk and Carla, and the “downs” shown by the dissolution Elliot and J.D.’s romantic entanglement.

Scrubs is one of the most consistently entertaining shows on television. It’s also one of the few sitcoms with actual heart. It’s not rare for an episode to run the gamut from “madcap” to “poignant” within the course of 22 minutes.

The comedy comes from many places. J.D., who provides the narration, also provides much of the humor. His imagination is fertile and balances the line between “childish” and “childlike.” His relationship with Turk, his best friend, is one of television’s most endearing. They are the best friends ever, seriously.

Elliot and J.D. are friends despite their former relationship, which is good because they’ve got to share Co-Chief Resident duties. The two former lovers now spend most of their time as rivals. J.D. and Elliot sometimes behave more like brother and sister than actual doctors, but that’s part of the allure of their relationship.

Usually when two characters get married, like Turk and Carla, it’s a ratings gimmick but this marriage seems more about evolution and natural progression than a mere stunt. Their marriage also seems more nuanced than most television marriages. The strain of spouses working, and working together is addressed, as is, ironically, the idea that marriage isn’t as it appears on television.

But J.D.’s life isn’t all imagination and best friends. He also has to face the constant challenges of Dr. Cox and the janitor. Dr. Cox has been around long enough to know that masking his feelings behind a façade of sarcasm is the best option. He takes every opportunity to berate anyone at any given moment, but takes special pride in attacking J.D.

The janitor is J.D.’s other main tormentor. The janitor is sadistic, but in a funny way. In his own way, he runs the hospital through intimidation. Dr. Kelso actually runs the hospital, and is best characterized by his jadedness.

The Writing

This is an extremely well written show. It is consistently funny yet can still be more touching than some dramas.

Take for example the recent episode, “My Life In Four Cameras.” The main story was about a celebrity patient of sorts. One of the creators of Cheers comes to the hospital, much to the joy of J.D. and Turk. Unfortunately he’s diagnosed with lung cancer to the dismay of J.D. and Turk.

At that point J.D. imagines the scenario as a sitcom, a typical sitcom complete with laugh track, obvious jokes and bad lighting. But J.D. learns that not even his imagination can help the situation.

The writers deftly handle poking fun at the genre while still remaining intelligent. Another example of the great writing is Dr. Cox’s patented rants. They are filled with bile and venom, and some of the best most compact writing around.

The Acting

Like I said earlier J.D. treads the line between childlike and childish, and the Grammy® winning Zack Braff does this excellently. His geeky innocence is almost charming. Sarah Chalke plays Elliot with a bit of ditzy aloofness, but isn’t playing a stereotype. Donald Faison gives Turk an air of arrogance yet keeps him likeable and his chemistry with Judy Reyes’ Carla is very believable.

I’ve got to say that John McGinley’s Dr. Cox is captivating when on screen. He performs the “Dr. Cox rants” with such rapid-fire fervor that you await their mandatory appearance every episode. Yet he instills Cox with the occasional glint of humanity and actual heart. McGinley is an underrated talent on television.

Why You Should Watch

You should be watching for a myriad of reasons. It’s the only thing on NBC that could still be described as “Must See TV.” It’s also one of the few sitcoms that haven’t devolved into lowbrow humor devoid of morals. That’s not even mentioning the writing or acting, which ranks in the 99th percentile of all the shows on the air. If you aren’t watching Scrubs you don’t like television.

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