Series Finale: Scrubs – “My Thanks”

“My Thanks”

March 17th, 2010

This is the third time that I have written a review wherein I believe myself to be writing about the final episode of Scrubs, which is sort of bizarre when you really sit down and think about it. However, this whole season of Scrubs has been bizarre: just months after the show went out with an emotional final episode (the great “My Finale”), it came back in a form that was sort of like Zombie scrubs: it looked familiar in some ways, as certain characters stuck around to provide continuity and the stories were ripped out of the first few seasons when things were still fairly fresh, but other characters were different, and the shift of first-person focus was enough to throw the show off its axis. Zombie Scrubs, or “Scrubs Med School” if we’re being a little less facetious, was met with fairly tepid responses from fans and viewers in general, being written off as a failure even before it went on a lengthy hiatus leading up to last week’s sudden return.

But while I will agree that there were some execution problems early on that rendered Scrubs Med School a bit of a failure, I think that we need to separate expectation from reality. If you expected this show to continue the Scrubs legacy from Season Eight (which I personally found a substantial improvement on the last few NBC seasons), then you would be disappointed; however, if you expected what Bill Lawrence was interested in creating, a new show featuring familiar characters that dealt with med students and the struggles they face, I would actually suggest that “My Thanks” caps off a pretty successful “first season.”

I don’t think that it’s possible to forget what the show was before, and I don’t think that Lawrence made the right decisions along the way, but I want to see more of the show that “My Thanks” represents, regardless of the Scrubs name and the endless finales that the show has endured over the years. That’s not enough to save the show, perhaps, but I need to at least tip my hat to Lawrence for managing to make this Zombified show work at the end of the day.

If you judge this finale in comparison to “My Finale,” you’re missing the point: this isn’t meant as a series finale, but rather as a season finale of the next generation version of the original series. I’m aware this isn’t entirely clear, but holding Lawrence and his team responsible for ABC’s marketing decision hardly seems fair. Instead, if we compare “My Thanks” to finales from the 4th-7th seasons of the show, I think you’ll find something far more interesting, something subtle and meaningful rather than broad and melodramatic.

I understand that some missed the original cast when Season 9 started, and I think that comparison still benefits J.D., Elliot, Turk, Carla, etc. There was a sense of camaraderie amongst that cast which can’t be duplicated, and by comparison the lives of Lucy, Cole, Drew and the other med students was much more insular and limited. But I’d argue that the mentorships and relationships that the show created with this new cast are up there with what came before: while less broadly funny, the Drew/Dr. Cox relationship was one of the season’s highlights, and watching Turk starting to mentor Cole in the finale made me wish that the show wasn’t coming to an end so we could see that develop further. Even the romantic relationships ended up working: Denise’s relationship with Drew didn’t change the character as much as I had initially feared, and the show managed to put Cole and Lucy together without turning either of them into complete idiots and without ruining the easy-going dynamic the cast had going for it.

Yes, the start of the season was an absolute failure due to the presence of a sophomoric and juvenile J.D., Zach Braff’s return offering the show an equal amount of narrative dysfunction as star power in the early going, and the show has at times struggled to find ways for the other returning characters (Turk, Kelso, Cox) to remain connected to the Med School stories in non-mentorship roles. But I really liked where they left things here, with Drew and Denise ready to move onto the next stage of their relationship, and Cole ready to take something seriously (but not without remaining a bit of a douche, especially since he finds the “fate” questions in Lost boring and doesn’t like the Turtle episodes on Entourage). Even Lucy, who was met with some justified criticism early on, had a nice story about tempering expectations in regards to their cadaver; the character was able to keep her weirdness (the 17 horse funerals, for example) without having it overpower her narration, an important distinction that the season probably isn’t going to get much credit for.

Some day, a decade from now, I’d be interesting to see what would happen if you showed a set of viewers Scrubs Season 9 without any of the context from previous seasons. Yes, you’d be a bit confused about the nature of some of the relationships, and there would be some lingering questions that would result from that, but I have to wonder if people would be able to see the solid comedy series that managed to form despite the conflict early in the season. No, it isn’t as good as Scrubs was in its prime, nor is it as good as the best parts of the eighth season which were built on seven seasons of character development, but there was the potential for the show to gain that sort of easy-going confidence that is driving Cougar Town right now. But because this group wasn’t the old group, and because the show wasn’t the old show (but was too familiar to be considered a different show) it was never given the chance it deserved.

I questioned the decision for ABC to pick up Scrubs from NBC to begin with, and I was rewarded with a season the redeemed the show creatively (if, perhaps, a bit regressively). Similarly, I questioned the decision to reboot the series as something different, and I was rewarded with a solid little comedy that came together better than I had expected. However, Scrubs had been running on fumes for a few years even before this process, so I can understand how some didn’t enjoy Season 8’s retro feel, and how some checked out of Med School before it really began. The fact of the matter if, Scrubs was a show that had nine lives, and now that it has gone through nine seasons, and two separate casts, I think it’s time that we say goodbye.

No, this isn’t the finale that “My Finale” would have been, but it’s perhaps fitting that Scrubs, the show that kept having finales without being cancelled, goes out with the first finale in a good three or four years where I can actually say that I’ll be disappointed when the axe falls. I understand why it’s gone, and I certainly don’t think Season 9 was its best work, but it was the sort of clever and enjoyable comedy that had it not been part of this whole mess would have been the kind of show I would fight for.

Cultural Observations

  • While doubters could consider Season 9 a failed spin-off or something similar, I’d like to consider it a Flash Sideways.
  • Both Michael Mosley and Dave Franco ended up really impressing me in the series, coming in as two characters that could fall into narrow moulds (Mosley as the straight man, Franco as the douchebag) but which ended up showing some nice diversity. Both were quite funny, but both were able to sell the more emotional stuff as well, all without losing their characters’ basic worldview that might lead them in the narrow directions. Mosley is currently on Broadway in The Glass Menagerie, while Franco is apparently in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, but I hope both return to TV soon.
  • In terms of areas where Scrubs Med defeats Scrubs, I’d say theme song: I prefer this remix of “I’m No Superman.” Sue me.
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3 Comments

Filed under Scrubs

3 responses to “Series Finale: Scrubs – “My Thanks”

  1. Tausif Khan

    The remix “I’m No Superman” could have been the theme song for Parenthood

  2. I didn’t like the WAZ version of “Superman” at first, but it’s really grown on me. It’s had plenty of play from my iPod.

    Anyway, I would agree with this review in its entirety. Fans were altogether too harsh on the season 9 finale. It was a great season finale to a great season. It wasn’t the fault of Lawrence or the Scrubs team that fans didn’t quite understand what their goal was for season 9.
    Also, the logic behind accepting a ninth season was rock-solid. Those crew members had been working the same show for YEARS. In a job-market like this, the extra year of employment had to be a huge assistance.

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