Scrubs – “My ABCs” and “My Cookie Pants”

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“My ABCs” and “My Cookie Pants”

January 27th, 2009

I knew something was off when I was watching, especially, the first episode of last night’s Scrubs doubleheader. J.D. and Elliot didn’t seem particularly close despite getting back together last week, the interns were being introduced as if we had only first met them, and we got the genesis of J.D.’s Facts of Life name for his intern despite having already seen it pop up in the premiere episodes three weeks ago. And sure enough, my confusion was quite justified: reading Sepinwall’s review confirms that this was, in fact, a rejiggered episode likely meant to be the season premiere – you don’t go out and grab the Sesame Street muppets for just any episode, after all.

But what it created was a weird sameness to these episodes: they were never meant to run sequentially, and it shows in the fact that they have very similar structures and at times felt like we were just dealing with not only storylines repeated in previous episodes but also in the one that followed. This is already a season that is repeating past storylines in an effort to reclaim some past glory, so it’s not like this is out of place or even unwanted: I laughed quite a bit through both half-hours, so I’m not one to complain.

Just that when the show is already getting put on hiatus (until mid-March) and moving to a new timeslot (Wednesdays at 8pm), they could have used something that promoted continuity as opposed to disrupting it even in this subtle fashion.

“My ABCs” is the episode that ultimately gives us the largest sense of what the show is trying to become this season, as opposed to the two episodes that began the season which were more “vintage” Scrubs in terms of their structure. This is the episode that dug into Kelso’s muffin reasoning, and the one where the new interns were given proper time to develop. It seemed weird to return to them here, and the retcon of sorts was a bit odd: reshoots made it so Elliot was suddenly commenting that she was choosing Katie because she was no LONGER such a bitch, whereas the character then proceeded to totally undercut her authority and manipulate her. That’s a bit jarring, especially after Carla’s big speech in the episode two weeks ago, which was supposed to have turned her around.

The episode got through all of those quibbles because it worked: J.D. was well paired with his Denise (he really is the girl there), pitting Ed against Dr. Cox was a better way of introducing his character than what we’ve seen before, and all of them got to appear as not incompetent but simply flawed and human. I was also, as always, charmed by the use of muppets in human environments: they were all well paired off (Grover with The Todd, Elmo with J.D./Denise, and Oscar with the Janitor), and it was intriguing to see the basic message of Elmo’s visit be that you can’t use these imaginary worlds and scenarios to fix everything. The slow, melancholy rendition of the Sesame Street theme song was particularly haunting, and made for a nice bookend to a solid episode.

YouTube: Josh Radin performs “Sesame Street Theme”

As for “My Cookie Pants,” it was a bit jarring to see J.D. and Denise jump from one story about her poor bedside story to…another story about her poor bedside manner. It was connected enough that I understand their reasoning for pairing the two episodes, but it meant that we were dealing with the same themes and ideas all over again and not with much in the way of movement. It was also strange to have Elliot talking about Carla being away when she had just been in the previous episode, and to have Dr. Cox thinking about the Chief position having just been dealing with the empty (not because of Courtney Cox’ exit but because of Dr. Kelso’s) right beforehand; it’s just a bit jarring is all, and I found it most distracting to re-enter into the established timeline than I did to move to the old one.

But the episode was again very basic: Elliot and J.D. having fairly mature relationship troubles that were very simple in their base emotions, Dr. Cox bonding with Kelso over the question of becoming Chief of Medicine when it was clearly inevitable based on the series’ progression, and J.D. and Denise deal with a patient in a much more balanced fashion. The episode just happened to follow one with similar themes, wherein we saw very similar montages of everyone experiencing the same kinds of frustration, although one where the end result turned out to be a little brighter. I really like the Denise storyline because she is so different from J.D. and is willing to learn from that, and I find his and Elliot’s relationship (with its cookie pants and piano mat burglar alarms) a nice diversion of sorts.

All in all, two more good episodes even if the connection between them could have used a little bit more work – I’m curious what they do with that had been planned as their second episode, as deciding where to put it could become quite difficult.

Cultural Observations

  • I’ll echo Sepinwall in that I really like the bloopers – they’ve been really great so far, and I can only presume we’re going to keep getting them.
  • Denise is the most interesting of the new interns, but I don’t know if they could ever build a ninth season around her or any of the rest of them for that matter. The show would be strange in a different format, and I think the writers are discovering this slowly but surely.
  • The other sign that the first episode was really the original premiere? Bill Lawrence writing and directing.
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