The SmarK DVD Rant for Scrubs – The Complete Fifth Season

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The SmarK DVD Rant for Scrubs – The Complete Fifth Season

These days it’s getting tougher and tougher to find quality sitcoms on TV, as Friends was seemingly the death of the traditional four-camera setup with the trained monkey studio audience and the like. In its place, the single-camera sitcom, with no laugh track and more awkward humor, like The Office and My Name Is Earl. And somewhere in between, there’s Scrubs.

The Show

I jumped onto the bandwagon around season 3, passing up on the early seasons because I couldn’t stand to watch any of the crap that NBC stuck on Thursday nights in desperate attempts to follow Friends, but once the network gave the show room to breathe and grow on its own, I became a bigger fan. Of course, at that point they started shifting it around the schedule like a game of Chinese Checkers, but that’s always been my luck when it comes to shows like this.

I think the best way to describe Scrubs if you’re new to it is “A live action cartoon,” like if the writers of Family Guy were given the same basic structure and set loose with real actors in a hospital. The show is very, very wacky, and although that’s usually an adjective I hate when it comes to TV shows, it’s very appropriate here. Much of the humor is based on silly physical comedy or well-timed edits, or especially, J.D.’s increasingly weird and elaborate flashbacks and daydreams about whatever offhand comment another character makes towards him. As the show has progressed, it’s become increasingly dependent on those skits-within-the-show, which is either good or bad depending on who you ask. At the same time, given that the audience is basically established and neither increasing nor decreasing any longer, the show has also become one of the most self-referential on TV outside of Arrested Development, basing entire running gags on personality quirks of the characters that newer viewers would have no way to follow. Again, either good or bad depending on who you ask. And in this case, you’re asking me, and I think it’s good, because it’s my review.

My review here is not going to be of the full plot summary variety, but more in the style of the Friends reviews, where I cover great lines and running jokes and references and stuff. If you want to know everything that happens, watch the show.

Scrubs – The Complete Fifth Season comprises all 24 episodes from the 2005 season (although most of it was aired in 2006 in one-hour blocks to burn them off) and are presented as follows…

Disc One

“My Intern’s Eyes” – Changes are afoot, as J.D. is now an attending and Elliot is working at another hospital while pursuing a fellowship. So this one introduces us to a new main character, sort of, in the form of intern Keith, providing us with the POV for the episode much like J.D. did in the pilot episode five years before. Cox’s first girl name for J.D. this year: Lindsay. The other big story arc for the season sees the Turks trying to conceive, although Turk is slipping Carla the pill because he’s a bit worried about being a dad. The winning argument: Having a baby is like having a dog, that slowly learns how to talk. Todd gives us a Euphemism Five and JD learns to be more of a man through the teaching of Dr. Cox, although still a womanly man.

“My Rite of Passage” – First on-screen appearance for Keith here. J.D. learns a valuable lesson (he does a lot of that in this show): You have to treat your interns like crap, because that’s just the way it’s always been done. J.D.’s girl name: Daphne. Kelso gets a great line with “Ketchup is for winners, Ted,” but then Kelso is on FIRE this season anyway. The major plot sees Sam The Drug Addict returning to con again, and this time his gullible target is Jordan, who joins the cast as a regular character and is feeling left out. First appearance of Gloria the Senior Intern here as well. Elliot tries to keep Carla away from her new job, but ends up being known as Bankfarter as a result. And unemployed. And finally, Turk & J.D. give us Multi-Ethnic Siamese Doctor on their continuing quest to be the gayest couple on TV without actually coming out of the closet together.

“My Day At The Races” – Brilliant opening sees Turk and Todd fighting a surprising number of Asian surgical residents for the privilege of sucking up to the attendings, which gives us Betrayal Five. J.D. & Elliot decide to move in together, adding a WHOLE new level of weird to their already weird relationship. J.D. is freaking out about turning 30, so he enters a triathalon. And does very badly at it. Kinda weak, but the Kung-Fu Fighting open can make anything look bad by comparison afterwards.

“My Jiggly Ball” – First appearance of Colonel Doctor, which is weird because I thought he showed up earlier than the fifth season. But then I get him and Dr. Beardface mixed up a lot anyway. J.D. gets stuck introducing Kelso at a banquet and has to find something nice to say about him. That proves difficult. J.D. & Turk learn about Elliot working at a free clinic, which gives us a great sequence (“Is one of them a black doctor with a white doctor following him around like he’s in love with him?”) The main gag is JD trying to figure out what Jiggly Ball is. Cox v. Kelso comes in the form of dueling brain-tumor cases, one rich, one poor. Guess who dies in the end. And a little well-timed STD for Kelso brings Elliot back to Sacred Fart again.

“My New God” – We meet Cox’ born-again sister Paige, who is played by Cheryl Hines and is just as evil as Cox. The Janitor giving J.D. the Evil Eye with Philip Glass accompaniment is awesome, and will return later in the season. First mention of “bajingo” from Elliot in reference to a vagina. At least this season. J.D. agrees to help the Janitor move, feeling that THIS time he won’t get screwed over, but doesn’t clue in to all the Asian stuff in the Janitor’s “apartment”. Really, the lack of squirrels should have given it away. Turk gets addicted to angry sex with Carla, giving us some hilarious dialogue as he tries to find ways to push her buttons, and this leads to the one and only appearance of Elliot’s bra for the season. Cox rages against Hugh Jackson for the first time this year – and God – but comes through for Jack’s baptism in the end, because he’s that kind of guy.

“My Missed Perception” – Todd getting a four-story wedgie from the Janitor, thus answering a patient’s question about what a 10 on the pain scale looks like, is a legendary opener. Great bit with a senile racist as well (“Who do I hate again?”) leading to J.D. and Cox battling to treat a dying patient named Mrs. Wilk, who would become a recurring character over the next few episodes. The other plot sees Carla trying to organize a staff photo and running afoul of the Janitor because he just wants to be included. Historic moment as well, as JD reveals his AWESOME screenplay for “Dr. Acula,” which really should have been made into a real movie. Great stuff all around.

“My Way Home” – One of my favorites of the season and probably of the whole series, the 100th episode is directed by Zach Braff himself, making the show into their own take on The Wizard of Oz without actually doing a fantasy sequence or anything. Elliot needs a brain, Turk needs a heart (from a dying patient named Roy Bolger no less) and Ted’s band is only doing classic movie songs this week. Tons of references here, from J.D. listening to Toto on his iPod to red ruby sneakers courtesy of the Janitor. Todd gives us the Inflatable Five. J.D. yet again has trouble with sports figures. And it all ties together with Ted and the Blanks singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and J.D. taking Toto home. Fabulous, I can’t even do it justice with my stream of consciousness rambling about it.

“My Big Bird” – It’s a Scrubs murder mystery, as a patient dies and the Four Horse-Women are being interrogated as to why. First appearance of J.D.’s Floating Head Doctor, one of the more bizarre running gags even for this show. It’s even more brilliant because J.D.’s body is a total screwup, even in his own fantasy. Needy as always, J.D. fails to get a thank you from a patient played by Jason Bateman, and stalks him at home, where he faces the threat of KILLER OSTRICHES!! Carla’s obsession with the lottery leaves the patient in the hands of interns. Lucky him. The usual great physical comedy from Zach here, although the episode itself is not one of the stronger ones.

“My Half-Acre” – Now this would be one of the stronger ones. J.D. gets set up on a date with Mandy Moore, who is a klutz, while Ted and Janitor organize an air band competition. This gives us our first taste of Lloyd The Delivery Guy’s mad (air) drum skills, which would be repeated in the sixth season as well. Cox runs into that pesky God fellow again, as a Jehovah’s Witness refuses surgery and he has to find a way around it. That’s always an awkward conversation. J.D., master of going too fast, buys a half-acre with Julie, which of course proves to be a mistake. But hey, this one’s all about Turk and the Cool Cats! Or the Turkeltones in Kelso’s world.

Disc Two

“Her Story II” – The opening introduces J.D.’s deck, although he’s still lacking a house. As with the other “Story” episodes, the narration shifts out of J.D.’s head and into someone else’s, in this case Carla. J.D. is still neurotic, however, because Julie only ever says “That’s so funny” instead of actually laughing. And of course JD messes up the relationship as a result, so Turk tries “immersion therapy”, which is naturally getting her to watch “Uncle Buck,” the funniest movie ever made in Turk & J.D.’s world. (“That pancake is HUGE! That’s so funny.”) Another bizarre running gag sees Dr. Mickhead fleeing the police on murder charges for the whole episode, which is much funnier than it sounds. Mandy Moore was fantastic while she lasted and J.D. should have totally kept her instead of dumping her over something minor like not wanting kids and stuff.

“My Buddy’s Booty” J.D. & Elliot are close again, but the next big story arc interferes with his happiness, as Elliot starts using Keith for booty calls. Cox and Janitor start drinking together, but discover that the cultural gap between maintenance and medicine is just too much to overcome. There’s a famous poke at Grey’s Anatomy here, as J.D. notes that “It’s just like they’re watching our lives and putting it on TV.” The prehistoric booty call fantasy is great, the rest is pretty weak.

“My Cabbage” – J.D. decides to favor intern Cabbage over Keith, which is silly and unreasonable even for him, since Keith is obviously awesome. Kelso demonstrates the effects of infections in hospitals, which pays off in a Todd joke in hilarious fashion. Another mention of Dr. Acula here as well. Kelso is again the king with “You bested me again, you chocolate bitch” as he battles with a muffin, and then JD has a dream sequence that annoyed the crap out of a lot of people: The infamous “Turk switches his baby with a pumpkin and raises it for 21 years” one. Yeah it was way over the top, but what do people expect by this point? First mention of Keith’s last name — Dudemeister! Or “master of dudes”, in German. And the infection gag comes back for another payoff, as Mrs. Wilks’ recovery is stalled by J.D.’s favorite intern killing her as a result of a poorly handled piece of medical waste. You’ll either love or hate this one based mostly on the pumpkin.

“My Five Stages” – So it’s time for Mrs. Wilks to die, and everyone is bummed, so we meet Dave Foley as the very dry and sarcastic Dr. Hedrick, aka Dr. Headtrip. And of course, when you need someone to play the understated smartass, Foley’s the man. Cox & J.D. present a united front against the forces of head-shrinking, until J.D. learns that root beer + Porsche = Angry Cox. As they proceed through the five stages together, Turk urges Keith to stand up to Elliot, while the Janitor tries to get Ted to stand up to Kelso. No real great lines here, as it’s kind of a melancholy episode, but Kelso telling Ted that he wants to discuss things man-to-man, with no lawyers present, is a great backhanded shot at him.

“My Own Personal Hell” – Elliot & Keith are getting a bit obnoxious for everyone’s tastes (especially J.D.), and that comes back to bite them later. Carla is increasingly distraught about her lack of baby, so Turk gets to take a fertility test, and of course chooses his hetero life partner J.D. to accompany him in a moment that’s 100% true to the characters. The whole running gag with walkie-talkies wears itself out pretty quick, although it does lead to JD getting revenge on the Janitor for once. The rest, meh.

“My Extra Mile” – I do enjoy this one. J.D. dates a woman who is only attracted to his hair, and because it’s Scrubs, she’s ONLY attracted to his hair. Nice self-referential moment with Cox cutting off an impending J.D. fantasy about switching genitalia. So the lesson today is “Going the extra mile for patients”, which is J.D.’s latest annoying fad. Turk fights to have attending spots determined by merit (a situation that of course disgusts Kelso to no end) but the Todd ends up above him in the standings as a result. So he also tries that extra mile thing, and wins himself a job. I don’t know that “Kelly Ripa” ever caught on, but really “Zoom zoom zoom” wasn’t much better. The Janitor’s insane severed head story had to be improvised. And in the end, JD goes the extra mile and shaves his head, although not for realsies, as Elliot would say.

“My Bright Idea” – Carla is FINALLY pregnant, so that storyline can advance, but Turk manages to find out before she does in one of those comedic twists that you don’t see very often. Todd gives us the Breaststroke Five, while the Janitor reveals that he was a world-class hurdler in one of those bizarre flashbacks (complete with Steve Prefontaine moustache and cigarette smoking on the track) that you don’t THINK will pay off later, but then it does. J.D. plans to have everyone surprise Carla outside with baby balloons, but then plans change and he gets the line of the show with “Abort the babies!” J.D. then launches into ANOTHER plan to have Carla find out herself, but despite a surprisingly effective start, he manages to screw it up himself. Although really it doesn’t matter in the end and Carla is just happy, which is a nice, non-sitcom payoff to the situation. This episode is also a rarity, in that it is the only time I can remember when Carla’s scrubs did NOT match her lipstick. If you watch every other episode, her lipstick is always the exact same color as her scrubs are.

“My Chopped Liver” – Jordan, much like Carla and women in relationships everywhere, is obsessed with going out with another couple for drinks, which leaves Cox stranded with the Dudemeister. J.D.’s flashbacks to joining the Hare Krishnas and offending Turk’s fraternity brothers with a poorly-timed blackface converge to pay off in a very unexpected way at a bowling alley. Yeah, it’s bizarre, but it’s hilarious. As promised, the Janitor’s Evil Eye appears again, as he teaches it to Ted, Todd and Laverne, complete with the same music. Least shocking thing on the show: Turk and JD think that a cruise ship stand-up comedian is a genius of comedy.

“My New Suit” – last appearance of J.D.’s loser brother Dan here before he goes off to bomb in Love Monkey, as he returns thinking that Elliot is still into him. That leads to a great Keith moment, as Dan assumes that his presence means that Elliot is up for a threesome, and poor Keith just trudges into battle, ready for anything. Kelso gets a great shot at Cox, with “You’re just like House without the limp” Others have noticed that as well, which probably is why they did an episode about it in season six. Tons of great Ted stuff here, with “My Mom calls me Sweaty Teddy, and she loves me, doesn’t she?” and his staring contests.

Disc Three

“His Story III” – Another favorite of mine. After painting an awesome mural of Optimus Prime on Turk’s nursery wall, J.D. tries wearing a camera for a video diary and it looks like that’ll be the gimmick for this one. But no, instead the Janitor kidnaps him and leaves him in a water tower, assuming narration duties himself. Cox’s rant about Turk’s blackness is tremendous, and leads to an episode-long war between them, which is more of a one-sided beating on Cox’s part than anything (“And a DVD player, so the kids can watch Elmo in the back seat!”) Janitor gets to help save a life, giving us a callback to Dr. Jan Itor, but his bravery goes unappreciated by the staff and he’s left keeping a mute, paralyzed patient company instead. Elliot learns about how Carla actually bailed her out several times, which defuses her anger at the idiot interns somewhat.

“My Lunch” – Another candidate for best of the season. We learn that Todd’s one-liners are WAY more work than you’d think. J.D. & Cox head off for lunch and bump into super-spaz Jill Tracy (played by super spaz Nicole Sullivan in a recurring role) and J.D. gets sucked into the Jill Zone again. Cox goes off another rant about Hugh Jackman before launching into a campaign to save three different dying patients at the same time, each patient requiring a different organ. The other story sees Carla & Elliot “outing” the Todd, which then leads to the most icky running gag of the series — Gloria the Senior Intern hooking up with Leonard The Hook-Handed Security Guard. He digs the white meat, y’all. So they kill off Jill, and good riddance, and that seems to solve Cox’s organ problems, but it’s early in the show so you know it’s gonna turn out bad. J.D. blames himself for her death until a pep-talk from Cox turns him around, but when all of Cox’s patients die because he didn’t know Jill had rabies of all things, JD’s same pep talk doesn’t have the same effect. This of course gives us Cox smashing stuff up to show his rage in the kind of powerful moment that Mad TV tried to mock in their lame parody. Yeah, the Fray song is tired now, but it’s still the kind of moment that makes this show one of the best on TV. A million home run Todd lines here, but the winner is probably “And you were really impressive in the shower, dong-wise”. Is he gay? Straight? He’s the Todd. Love this one.

“My Fallen Idol” More rage from Cox, which leads to him spiraling into a drunken depression and even JD giving up on him. The gang takes turns babysitting him, while Turk meets up with Kellerman from Prison Break, as a touchy-feely doctor that of course immediately bonds with JD. Tons of “J.D. doesn’t know sports” references here. Another mention of Dr. Acula, and of course JD saves Cox, who then FINALLY shaves that god-damned hobo beard off. Thank you, Johnny C.

“My Deja Vu, My Deja Vu” – This is another high-concept one, the closest thing to a clip show before they pussed out this past year and actually did one. The theme is that nothing really changes, and JD notices the same situations repeating themselves over his five years, which gives us another run-around with the hairmet and the riddle about the two coins and Bob Kelso’s two thumbs and Floating Head Doctor. The other story is Cox messing with Elliot while seemingly unable to make big decisions again after his ordeal. They never could nail down the dynamics of that relationship — sometimes he’s punching out Kelso to defend her, and other times he’s barely aware of her. Very self-referential and definitely not one for the casual fan.

“My Urologist” – We meet Kim, who has apparently worked in the hospital for the whole length of the show in a bit of retroactive continuity, although she was invisible to J.D. because of her wedding ring. Thus we learn why Gift Shop Girl disappeared – she got married too. This gives us another self-reference moment, as the opening credits change to include Kim complaining about the x-ray being backwards. Yet another Dr. Acula fantasy from JD, which is the last one. We also get video footage, complete with Turk worrying about hurting his “ho-slapping” hand. Keith stands up to Carla on behalf of Elliot, which would make him a dead man were he anyone else at that moment, but Carla likes him so he lives. Kelso also goes to war, with the Janitor, and loses pretty decisively. Really, would you trust the guy to get $400 from your house? He deserved that one. And JD adds Kim Briggs to his list of conquests. For a guy who whines about being lonely all the time, he sure gets a lot of hot chicks.

“My Transition” – Love is in the air and J.D. is getting beat up more than usual. Final appearance of Floating Head Doctor here, as Body screws up for the last time and even the other characters are sick of hearing about it. So that gag gets retired and replaced with gay senior citizens using his deck as a cruising spot instead. (“Gay? Old? Like Decks?”) J.D. takes Kim on a horseback ride on the beach (just like the one with Turk, except with TWO horses this time) and discovers that riding bareback has consequences. And if THAT isn’t foreshadowing, I don’t know what is. Perry also learns the pain of riding bareback, as Jordan is pregnant with another demon spawn and it has to be his because she always brags about who she cheats with. Cox’s revenge on the vasectomy doctor who botched the operation, using Ted and his band and annoying jingle, is truly cruel and unusual punishment. But at least he gets his workout pants back from Turk. And while everyone assumed that Jordan’s pregnancy was the big twist hinted by Bill Lawrence, in fact it turns out to be J.D. proving himself a man for once by knocking up Kim. And that’s the season!

Now I think, and I could be wrong here, that while other seasons have better-written episodes and deeper character stuff, this one is probably the most purely funny, even it it’s sacrificing the more heartfelt stuff at times. Floating Head Doctor alone was GENIUS, as was Dr. Acula, and there were very few weak points comedy-wise. Scrubs has always been one of those shows where I introduce it to someone and they immediately get hooked, and I think this one is as good a place to start as any because you’re basically diving into the deep end of the wackiness pool without all the character backstory needed for the other seasons. But maybe that’s just me. That being said, I think five seasons was enough and the sixth one showed that they were running out of steam, but I’ll keep watching.

The Video

Sadly they haven’t jumped on the HD bandwagon yet like the rest of their Thursday night brethren, but hopefully it’s coming soon because shows like Arrested Development and The Office have been raising the bar for video quality to high levels, and Scrubs looks dated by comparison. Colors are good, if a bit overblown at times (mainly in Carla’s day-glo scrubs) and the presentation is generally equal to that of broadcast quality, but these days it should be much more.

The Audio

Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, I didn’t really notice much, if any, use of the surrounds. The music and dialogue is in crystal clear stereo, which is enough for me, and even better all the music is left intact instead of hacked up due to royalties like every other sitcom released on DVD. Extra points to Buena Vista for that alone!

The Extras

Better than most releases, but still a little disappointing. You get an extended version of “My Way Home” as a separate feature on disc three, although I liked the quicker-paced broadcast version better. There’s also cast & crew commentaries on that episode and “My Lunch”, which are somewhat informative but a lot dryer than you’d expect for a group of people as crazy as the crew of this show is supposed to be. Also, you get some deleted scenes and alternate takes, many of which are just as funny as the original ones and could have been used just as easily. Best of all, though, is a 20-minute featurette called “My 117 Episodes”, about the evolution of the show from season one to here. Just watching Elliot go from frumpy weirdo to Glam Doctor is amazing in of itself.

The Ratings:

The Show: ****1/2

The Video: ***

The Audio: ***

The Extras: ***

The Pulse:

Clearly Scrubs is still one of the best shows on TV, even if the latest season was a lot weaker, but the fifth one was the show still at its peak, and given that not many people got a chance to watch it when it first aired, this is the perfect way to get caught up. Strongly recommended.