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STUDIO: ABC Video
RUNNING TIME: 414 minutes
• Scrubs: Interns web series
• Outtakes, bloopers, alternate lines
• Audio Commentary
• My Bahamas Vacation – behind the scenes documentary
The doctors at Sacred Heart say goodbye. Or do they?!
Starring Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke, John McGinley, Neil Flynn, Christa Miller and Sam Lloyd
Created by Bill Lawrence
The times they are a changin’ at Sacred Heart, the hospital you might not want to be a patient at, but is fun as hell to visit. Characters we’ve grown to love are moving on, moving in, finding themselves in strange places but ultimately, end up the stronger.
It’s no secret that seasons 5 through 7 of my favorite medical show, ‘Scrubs’ were full of wheel spinning. As is the case with many shows, when there’s no end in sight, nonsense plotlines are added and they insist upon stretching the show out until it limply crosses the finish line. But give those slightly pale guys in a stuffy office an end date and a new network (ABC), and suddenly they’re focused, committed and the show is made richer because of it. Scrubs season 8 is one of the best seasons of the show, both in terms of scope (they go to the Bahamas!), humor, development and, most importantly, emotional impact. Even in its wheel spinning seasons, there were always sublime moments and as season 8 wears on, and the characters we know and love move forward, it transcends into something sublime and wonderful.
The early episodes begin much like the others, a series of one offs with various recurring throughlines and arcs present. All cast members return, though not for every episode; a device that allows the support (read: the non-Braff) to take the ball and run it in for a touchdown. The biggest addition at the beginning is the introduction of Courtney Cox as the wickedly evil Dr. Taylor Maddox, the new chief of medicine. She brings a certain relish to the role, and given her short span of episodes, can indulge in all the things they never really let Kelso do the previous seasons. I suspect this was also a ‘hey, you want to appear in my next show? Well, do a guest spot on my current one!’ from series creator Bill Lawrence to Cox, as well.
But the crux of the show still revolves around our core of characters, centered (sparingly) with Braff. who doesn’t so much act as JD, as he does fully inhabit him. He is, and always will be, John Dorian (and also the guy who did Garden State) to me. The series has always focused on him growing up, becoming the man he is supposed to be and here, finally, there’s a real sense of change on the horizon. Nor is it limited to his leaving Sacred Heart to be closer to his son, but a final, permanent attitude adjustment: he wants to be there for his son, he wants Elliot to move in, even admitting in one of the most touching episodes that he “loves you more than Turk”. And considering the bromance between JD and Turk, which is even given its own theme song, ‘Guy Love’, it’s such a great moment in a series full of great moments. JD is finally accepting all the things that at first terrified him when the show began.
If ‘Scrubs’ is about anything, it’s love: JD and his various flings, including Elliot, the rock that is Carla and Turk and to a lesser extent Jordan (Christa Miller) and Dr. Cox. Through all the comedy, the non-sequiturs, the fantasies, there are always these relationships, and nearly all the comedy and drama stems from these love affairs. Stepping it up in the romance department this season: two of the funniest support guys, Ted (Sam Lloyd) and The Janitor (Neil Flynn) all end in happy places with women who not only love them, but accept them for all their (many) eccentricities. The entire two part ‘My Soul on Fire’ is the main relationships of the show boiled down to their essences, as the gang heads to the Bahamas in search of a respite, only to find themselves still confronted by all the issues that plagued them at home. The writing is top notch because while we know everything will be alright, we are still terribly worried about the problems everyone faces. And when the problems are finally fixed, this time, THIS TIME, they’ll last.
We’ve all known a JD and an Elliot in our lives. It’s not that they’re right for each other, it’s that they’re not right for each other right now. From the first episode, we knew they would end up together and though they’ve been on/off again for years (another by product of the neverendingness of television), this time, we finally see them stop behaving like the manic, dysfunctional children that they were at the beginning. It’s refreshing that between all the comedy, the dreams and asides, we’re finally dealing with adults for once. Sarah Chalke shines brighter than ever, she keeps the manic down and even gets to headline the episode “My Full Moon” alongside Faison.
A mainstay each season is the new batch of interns the mains are forced to deal with. A lot of the time they’re shoehorned in and largely forgotten towards the end, but this year’s batch, Denise (Eliza Coupe), Katie (Betsy Beutler) Sunny (Sonal Shah), Howie (Todd Bosley) and Ed (Aziz Ansari) are wonderful and can more than hang with their elders in the comedy department. Coupe is especially effective as the good looking, mouth-like-a-sailor Denise and Ansari plays his usual, annoying self perfectly. Season 8 is all about spreading the wealth around, and unlike other years, the interns get their own episodes “Their Story II” and “My Full Moon”, as well as their own spin-off web series aptly titled Scrubs: Interns (more on that below). The new blood helps to mix up the sometimes stale comedy and gives JD and crew a new group to sling barbs at, as well as learn a little something about themselves. But like all good supporting characters, they never overstay their welcome and are used perfectly as both comedy devices and teaching tools.
Season 8 continues with the inspired musical choices, including Our Lady Peace, Blue Oyster Cult, Randy Coleman, Rogue Wave, The Magnetic Fields and countless others. The ending montages, featured in nearly every episode, are on paper a little cheesy and symptomatic of a show that follows a rigid plot structure, but it is a testament to the creative team behind the show that each one always accentuates the episode’s theme and strikes an emotional chord as well. The music never upstages the action, though it does come close some times, instead reinforcing the ideas and images present on screen. Precisely what music is meant to do, and ‘Scrubs’ does it better than anyone else. Plus, Ted and his barbershop quartet The Worthless Peons provide some diagetic music that brings the surreal to the real, as they can often be found practicing in closets or elevators, arriving at precisely the right moment when a song is needed.
The season features some of the sharpest writing of the show. The jokes are more on point and the fantasy scenes, while present, are not as ubiquitous, allowing the real world to shine through more fully.
I love finales. I will watch a finale for a show I’ve never seen before just because that’s when everyone brings their absolute, 100 percent A game. The series(?) finale of season 8 simply called ‘My Finale’ is one of my favorite hours of television, and possesses perhaps the most affecting three minutes ever broadcast. It follows JD on his last day at Sacred Heart and it’s not quite what he, and in turn us, expect it to be. There are a lot of little moments that, when added up, are special: Turk delivers a goodbye that peaks too early, the Janitor tells JD his name, and most importantly, Dr. Cox finally admits to liking JD, but it ends up almost at an anti-climax. There are no big parties, no ridiculous goodbyes, just JD and his thoughts, which provide all the closure that we need. I would love to tell you all about it, but it’s a scene that has to be seen to be believed and can bring a lump to my throat just thinking about. Even if you’ve never watched the show, it can move you, it is such a perfect marriage of script, image and music.
‘Scrubs’ season 8 is a complete return to the level of consistent humor and emotion that made the first few seasons of ‘Scrubs’ unmissable. Everyone steps up. They’ve been playing these characters for so long that they do it effortlessly, with special props to John C. McGinley, though he was never the center, was always one of the best characters. He brings it, maturing Dr. Cox to an understandable and relatable end, but keeping the wit and sarcasm that made us love Perry Ulysses Cox to begin with. It might not deviate from formula too much, but when the formula works this well, there is no point in changing it. Best of all, it brings about closure to the characters; they end up where they belong, whether it’s in a new place, a new (or old) relationship or even a new job.
Whether you’re a long time fan of the series or just tuning in, ‘Scrubs’ has a little something for everyone. Comedy, pathos, some of the best characters on tv saying some of the best things on tv. It gets too comfortable in the middle of the season, but there are still treasures to be found in even the weakest of episodes, like the Braff-less ‘My Absence’. This is one of the best half hour comedies on television.
And that final scene…Jesus. As Brian Cox once said, ‘Wow them in the end.’ And Bill Lawrence delivers such an end as to be remembered long after the credits roll. It is not just a perfect way for JD to go out, I think it might be the only way. Simple, heartwarming; it’s not a fantasy anymore, it’s a world of definite possibility. It’s one of the high watermarks of a finale in any television show. And it’s the moment to take with you and cherish for a long time. I mean, it’s not like they’d go and fuck it up by continuing the show a la ‘AfterMASH’ right? That’s just crazy talk.
The DVD set comes loaded with extras, deleted scenes, alternate lines, out-takes and commentary for various episodes, all of which are worth checking out and showcase the camaraderie and love every cast and crew member has for the show. It’s DVD done right. The show is lovingly crafted and it looks and feels more like a movie. Thanks single camera!
A 20 minute documentary called ‘My Bahamas Vacation’, which details the backstage shenanigans of the episode ‘My Soul on Fire’ confirms what we all believe: that Bill Lawrence said ‘Hey, let’s go to the Bahamas!’ ‘But, Bill, why?’ ‘Fuck it! Who cares? My parents live there. We can write something on the plane!’ Aah, television. But it’s a fun documentary and while you won’t learn many of the nitty gritty ‘this is how we did this’ elements, the doc shows off all the fun and drinking, while serving as a mini-travel guide to Hope Town on the Abacos islands.
The 12 part Scubs: Interns series is included and it’s not as bad as things like this can be, in fact, there are some genuinely wonderful moments. Sunny is creating a video diary, so it has a rough around the edges quality that makes it enjoyable. All the interns are good comedic actors and aided by strong writing, put together cute 4-6 minute segments that allows them to shine. Some of the series regulars, including The Janitor and Ted appear for at least one segment, and we even get a look at their own “spin-off” legal custodians. Well worth a watch. If you like Scrubs (and hopefully you do), then you’ll like this. The names are different, but the comedy is still there.