“Our Dear Leaders”
January 26th, 2010
J.D. and Turk are not entirely dissimilar characters: they’re best friends, after all, and both have their quirks which make them quite enjoyable to watch in a “look at how immature he can be” sort of way. However, what I always found interesting was how Turk was always capable of better balancing the two: while the show struggled at the start of this season to position J.D. as both a mentor and a source of comedy, Turk has always been taken somewhat more seriously, which meant that he could be a bit more over the top without losing our respect or the respect of his new Med Students.
Ultimately, though, I think “Our Dear Leaders” didn’t entirely work because there is a point the Chief of Surgery needs to have moved beyond these types of stories. While it may be thematically helpful to have all of the stories play into a sense of leadership, to lump Turk in with the med students is problematic in terms of the necessity to exaggerate his character’s response to particular actions. It’s not that Donald Faison is no longer funny, or that there isn’t a story to be told about the fact that he’s too old to be acting like a Med Student, but the story never really gave him much material to work with, and it never quite connected the dots in terms of making this a story about Dr. Turk needing to come to terms with his maturity (instead suggesting he suck it up so the source of his jealousy would keep donating money to the hospital).
It wasn’t a terrible episode, but it seems as if the show still struggles when it tries to straddle these two worlds as opposed to capturing the points at which they interact.
“Our Stuff Gets Real”
January 12th, 2010
I think we might owe Zach Braff an apology, or a qualified one at least.
A lot of us placed the blame of Scrubs’ struggles on the return of obnoxious J.D. in the earlygoing, leading some of us to suggest the show would have been far better off without him, but what we learn in “Our Stuff Gets Real” is that the problem was not so much the presence of J.D. and more the absence of Elliot. The writers’ mistake was not so much having J.D. return but rather taking away the element which grounded him to reality (his pregnant wife): in the context of that relationship, both J.D. and Elliot are able to remain helplessly neurotic without becoming insufferable, and there’s something there which is both poignant and meaningful (if, of course, not nearly as poignant or meaningful as what they left on in Season 8).
The rest of the episode is similarly on point, delivering another strong installment not only based on the return of the most original cast members yet but also by demonstrating some keen awareness of its new characters and their place within both the original cast and the show’s new dynamics. It wasn’t perfect, but the problems seemed dialed down and the positive seemed dialed in, and that’s the right place for the show to be.
December 22nd, 2009
As Scrubs continues into its ninth season, one can’t help but feel as if the greatest mystery is why said season needs to exist.
It’s not that “Our Mysteries” or any other episode of the season thus far is terrible, but rather that what we’re seeing lacks any sort of emotional punch beyond a desperate play at some sort of nostalgia. And unfortunately, that was already the focus of the show’s creative resurgence in its eighth season, which I found myself absent-mindedly revisiting over the weekend. There, the show used a new crop of interns in order to raise questions of maturity and “moving on” in the characters we knew and loved, which was a good strategy for transitioning a character like J.D. from buffoon to father/husband.
However, the problem with the ninth season thus far is that it seems to want to go beyond that, to actually build these med students into characters, and yet the only parts of their stories which are really connected on an emotional level (Scrubs’ strong suit) have more to do with the returning characters than Lucy, Cole, or Drew.
And what that is, precisely, is still a mystery to me.
“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.
May 6th, 2009
ABC made a decision last year to save Scrubs, which at the time seemed like a mistake: the show was struggling mightily with its creative focus, and if you go back and read my review of the out-of-order finale NBC aired you’ll find that I was more than ready for the show to die. At the same time, there was a sense that a show seven years running deserved a better sendoff. So while I was frustrated that ABC chose to pick up the series on some level, I also hoped that it would be worth it.
It was. The show’s eighth season has not been amongst its most novel, but it’s probably the most consistent the show has been since at least Season 4, and as the series faces yet another finale with an uncertain future this time I find myself entire ready to say goodbye. The show has been on a victory lap all season, giving each character their time to reflect on the past seven years through a vacation, a new set of interns to remind them of themselves, and a new set of memorable if familiar patients that brought the show back to its emotional roots.
There are some rumblings that “My Finale” will actually be “J.D.’s Finale” more than that of the series: the first-person narrator of a majority of the series has been the series’ star, and his relationships with the various characters (his bromance with Turk, his relationship with Elliot, his mentorship with Dr. Cox) are the series’ most memorable. And it’s this reason that this doesn’t just feel like J.D.’s finale: his future is the future of all of these characters, and the idea of them continuing on while he’s off at another hospital doesn’t feel right.
For me, I want the show to be over: I want to go out on a good season, and on a great episode, one which takes some shortcuts but gives John Dorian the kind of exit that feels right for this character, and thus one that felt right for the series. It’s not that the series can’t continue beyond this point, but rather that in many ways it shouldn’t.
But, after a season of good will after seasons of struggle, I’m willing to keep an open mind should they make that decision.