“Our First Day of School”/”Our Drunk Friend”
December 1st, 2009
“Everything’s new, except for the title.”
When Scrubs returned for an eighth season on ABC last year, I was a naysayer.
In my eyes, the show had worn out its welcome with a number of problematic seasons that became problematically silly in a way that ruined the heart that made the show so compelling in earlier seasons. I got to the point where I felt the show did not even deserve the chance for closure: no matter what I once felt for these characters, I had no desire to see them continue on thier problematic path.
And then season eight happened, and my point of view changed. The show literally went back to basics, rewinding back into the earlier seasons and starting to tell stories about our beloved characters maturing and a new crop of interns learning the ropes and in need of mentors. The show was breaking no new ground, relying on the same combination of cutaway humour/blind sentimentalism that defined seasons one and two, but it grounded the show to a sense of identity that reminded me what I missed during the dark years. So when it had its beautifully executed finale, season eight proved itself to be the perfect endnote on these characters’ journey.
And then ABC renewed the show. And all over again, it felt like everything was wrong: this was a show that had a chance to leave on a high note after most of us had written it off, and now it’s risking everything to return. And so we had another summer/fall of Bill Lawrence assuring us that the show would be different, this time a distinct enough entity from the Scrubs we knew (he wanted to call it Scrubs Med) to justify returning even after J.D.’s emotional departure.
Watching the ninth season premiere, I’ve realized that the problem is less that this is inherently bad (in fact, it’s quite good) and more that this is absolutely exactly what happened last season. The show presents a new set of med students looking for mentors, and keeps the older doctors around to serve as those mentors, resulting in a show that isn’t actually that different from what they did a year ago.
Which makes it solidly engaging, if not nearly the sort of reboot that it might have been a year ago.