Tag Archives: Sarah Chalke

Scrubs – “Our Stuff Gets Real”

“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.

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How I Met Your Mother – “As Fast as She Can”

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“As Fast as She Can”

May 11th, 2009

After “Right Place Right Time” was sold as a rather ‘epic’ episode in the grand scheme of things, evoking the titular story while providing one of those stories that separates itself amongst the various characters, “As Fast As She Can” was perhaps necessarily slower and less eventful. While it doesn’t directly connect the dots as to how these events relate to Ted’s discovery of the future mother of his children, it does provide events that feel like they put Ted into a particular location where those events could take place.

I just wish that it could have been a stronger episode overall: whereas last week was ostensibly about Ted but realistically more about Robin, Marshall and Barney, this week’s episode was primarily Ted and more Ted, and that’s problematic. I don’t mean to rag on poor Josh Radnor, who really wasn’t bad in thise episode in terms of acting like a total tool, but the character just isn’t that funny, and since we’ve already established Stella (Sarah Chalke) as a black hole of comedy it meant that the drama and the comedy were isolated within the episode.

So while I’m still excited for the finale, this didn’t do anything to build any momentum and, in actuality, probably slowed things down a bit too much.

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Series (Season?) Finale: Scrubs – “My Finale”

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“My Finale”

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.

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How I Met Your Mother – “Right Place Right Time”

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“Right Place Right Time”

May 4th, 2009

[Spoiler Alert: Don’t read the Episode Tags if you don’t want to have the episode spoiled! – MM]

When it comes to the combination of comedy and mythology on How I Met Your Mother, the show has always operated on a tight rope of sorts as it relates to the identity of the eponymous mother. The reason for this is not that the mystery isn’t interesting (it is the very premise of the show, of course), but rather that the character at the center of the drama is the show’s least funny, often least interesting, and at times most frustrating. Ted Mosby is really only tolerable when he’s being sweet and romantic, and even then he’s rarely funny in those scenarios. He’s better when he is taking a supporting role, not so much the center of the drama than he is an observer who just happens to be our “lead” character.

What “Right Place Right Time” does is position itself as an episode about Ted but really spend almost all of its time with the characters that are more capable of being funny. Utilizing a traditionally unique structure (at what point does it become its own cliche? I remain unsure), the show lets Bob Saget take us through how a series of random and ridiculous events force Ted to end up at the right place at the right time where, holding the epic yellow umbrella we’ve seen in previous episodes, when a woman taps him on the shoulder.

I like this approach because it minimizes being repetitive with Ted’s various destiny speeches, but the show at this point is running a serious risk with its mythology. What happens in this episode appears to actually answer the titular question, but I don’t think it does: there is more than enough wiggle room for them to pull the rug out from under us yet again. Considering who ends up tapping him on the shoulder, I’ll be happy when I’m vindicated and they pull out the “Just kidding!” next week, but the more the show does this the less we’ll be able to trust them, and the mythology will only be getting in the way of the comedy.

And that’s the last thing the show needs.

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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.

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Season Premiere: Scrubs – “My Jerks” and “My Last Words”

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“My Jerks” and “My Last Words”

January 6th, 2008

When I heard that Scrubs was given an eighth season, I was frustrated: this is a show that has been proclaimed dead more times than I can count, and was quite actually creatively dead at a certain point in its seventh season. But if I had to give you a single reason why I fail to find much enthusiasm for the ABC premiere of Scrubs, it’s simple: fatigue.

It’s one thing to say that I grew tired, through particularly rough sixth and seventh seasons, of the show’s inconsistency of tone, allowing a pervading wackiness to overwhelm the heart that drove the show forward; that’s pretty understandable, and even partially acknowledged by Bill Lawrence and Co. behind the scenes. But I also found myself growing tired of the course correction: just as the initial problems were becoming too common, the solutions were becoming their own internal cliches, and the show’s structure was beginning to wear thin. I was ready to say goodbye to Scrubs as a show not because of its fixable struggles, but because whatever show it tried to be in spite of those problems wasn’t really holding my attention either.

What “My Jerks” and “My Last Words,” the first two episodes of the series to air on ABC following the show’s off-season move from NBC, represent for me is a test: to what degree can the show, now hyper-aware of fan desire to return to the tone of the first few seasons to the point of a meta-commentary during the credits of the first episode, rely on its old formulas without wearing thin the nostalgia of those watching the show. If you are someone who has always held out hope for Scrubs to get back on track, I can see how this episode could provide substantial hope for the future; similarly, for viewers tuning in after a long hiatus or for the first time, they will stand out as solid comedy episodes which balance slapstick and sentiment like few other shows can.

But as someone who was ready to call Scrubs a dead horse and send it off into the sunset, I’m not sure how long my nostalgia will be able to hold out; I was charmed and entertained by these episodes, but they felt alarmingly rote. They’re enough to get the show out of the television dog house, but are they really enough to reinvigorate the emotional connection some once had with the show?

As if to answer my question, Dr. Cox and J.D. discuss how they’re tired doing the same thing over and over again, a bit of foreshadowing to potentially spin the series off without its major stars but also a shrewd commentary on the show’s paradox: the network might be new and the energy might be higher than it’s been for a long time, but what’s old is all that’s new again.

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How I Met Your Mother – “Happily Ever After”

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“Happily Ever After”

November 3rd, 2008

After reading Alan Sepinwall’s impressions of Scrubs’ upcoming season on ABC (which are very positive, and might convince me to give the show another shot), I remembered something: I had once hoped, wished even, that Sarah Chalke could abandon that comedy for this one, a show where her character of Stella once felt like a breath of fresh air. But, there was no happily ever after for Ted and Stella: once their relationship left its romantic side behind in “Ten Sessions,” the original impact was wearing off and, by the time we got to Stella leaving Ted at the altar we were all ready to more or less throw Stella out the door.

And in one scene in “Happily Ever After,” we get that moment: Ted tears Stella apart for putting him through hell, and for making a huge mistake. It’s a scene that we needed to see, but it’s also a scene that wouldn’t have worked outside of its imaginary context: while we needed Stella to hear what Ted had to say, she has chosen a life that is reunites her daughter with her father, and the series is smart not to exist in a universe where Ted is that self-centered, especially since he has his issues with that as is.

Overall, this week’s episode is one that wasn’t quite as definitively strong as one might hope, using some oddly cliched constructs to eventually make this poignant realizations, complete with some enjoyable comedy from Robin’s Canadian roots along the way. The real question now is, with Stella out of the picture, where the show goes from here on the road to its own…well, you read the title, you know where that cliched transition sentence is going.

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