Tag Archives: Scrubs

Cougar Town – “Makin’ Some Noise”

“Makin’ Some Noise”

October 6th, 2010

There’s an interesting duality to Cougar Town: the series is more consistently driven by change than any other television sitcom, and yet at the same time it feels the least vulnerable to the effects of those changes. “Makin’ Some Noise” is about how Jules and Travis each deal with a major change (Travis going to college), and yet it never seems as if those changes will be insurmountable or even that challenging.

Instead, the episode manages to create the sense of real change while also emphasizing that nothing is going to actually tear about this particular cul-de-sac. It’s the best of both worlds, delivering the sense of familiarity we expect from sitcoms without abandoning the real emotions of Travis’ move and its effects on his relationship with his mother (and her relationship with Grayson).

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Cougar Town – “Feel a Whole Lot Better”

“Feel a Whole Lot Better”

May 5th, 2010

In Scrubs’ first season, J.D. and Elliot were two people who should logically be together: they were clearly attracted to one another, they were both young and attractive, and they were the male and female leads on a television comedy series. However, in the span of a forty-minute episodes entitled “My Bed Banter & Beyond,” the two characters decide to embark on a relationship after spending a day in bed having sex and chatting about the future of their relationship. The episode cuts back and forth between their time in bed on that first day and their attempts to make the relationship work in the real world, and at the end (spoiler alert), they realize it was all a mistake, and just as we finally see them part as young lovers on that first day we see them broken apart a few weeks later. It was a really fantastic episode of television in terms of breaking down and psychoanalyzing the show’s decision to not follow through on that pairing, and it was the sort of subtle and effective storytelling that would abandon the show and that relationship until the show’s eighth season.

I was just saying to my friend Colin yesterday that Cougar Town is shaping up into a spiritual successor to Scrubs in certain areas, so it’s fitting that the show would introduce its own play on that episode and its functions with “Feel a Whole Lot Better,” another in a pretty long line of really strong episodes for the show. Playing out the “Will They, Won’t They” outside of the thralls of young love and within the dynamics of two divorcees trying to keep from being lonely for the rest of their lives, the episode plays out the consequences from Jules and Grayson’s hookup last week by having the characters lie to themselves about the dramatic conflict apparent in the story. While the episode skips over some of last week’s subtexts that could have made this even more complicated, they manage to squeeze in a lot of story which transforms last week’s hookup into something definitive.

And thus the transformation from “What the hell is this” to “the new Scrubs” continues.

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Cougar Town – “Everything Man”

“Everything Man”

March 31st, 2010

I feel as if “Everything Man” was written as some sort of ridiculous joke, fitting for the night before April Fool’s Day. My point is not that the episode wasn’t funny, but it seemed like the writer drew three things out of a hat and had to turn them into an episode, or perhaps it was the result if an improv session; they asked for a location and got bathroom, they requested an object and got talking toilet, and they asked for an occupation and got photographer.

I thought the episode had the signs of something that never quite fit together, trying to force too much action into that enormously large bathroom  and never quite bringing together the separate storylines, but the show was having so much fun with its individual parts that I can’t really hold it against them. While some shows try to pretend that they’re more cohesive than they really are, Cougar Town knows when it’s forcing things, and that self-awareness goes a long way to keeping an episode like “Everything Man” moving; the impressive thing, really, is that it ends up a fairly nuanced investigation of the show’s romantic tension by the end of the half hour.

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More than One Way to Steal a Scene: Thievery in Television Comedy

More than One Way to Steal a Scene: Thievery in Television Comedy

January 6th, 2010

Last night, when watching Better Off Ted, I tweeted the following:

When I made the comment, I was really only trying to say that while I enjoy Lynch’s work on Glee (for which she could well win a Golden Globe in under two weeks) I believe Portia de Rossi is doing some stunning work on Better Off Ted that is being comparatively ignored by the major voting bodies (I’m with James Poniewozik: we need to ensure she remains consistently employed on sitcoms for all of time). However, a few alternate suggestions for television’s best scene stealer made me realize that I was commenting less in terms of who is the better actor, and more on what precisely I consider “stealing a scene.”

The Chicago Tribune’s always spot-on Maureen Ryan made a case for Nick Offerman, whose Ron Swanson is an unquestionable highlight on Parks and Recreation. And my immediate reaction was that, as great as Offerman is and as hopeful as I am that he receives an Emmy nomination later this year, I don’t know if I consider him a scenestealer. Of course, as soon as I say that, she comes back with the example of Offerman simply raising an eyebrow and demanding your attention despite an only observational role in the scene in question, making me look like an idiot.

However, I’m going to argue that our differences of opinion on this issue are not simply the result of my poor memory or our subjectivity when it comes to what we enjoy on television, but rather the result of the various different ways one could define “stealing a scene.” Based on different intersections of acting, writing, and cinematography, I would argue that we all have our own impression of what this term means, as we all have our own readings of each individual show and who the scene in question actually belongs to.

Which is why I didn’t initially consider Nick Offerman a scene stealer, and why I don’t expect everyone to feel the same way.

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A Whole New World: World-Building in Avatar and Scrubs

A Whole New World: World-Building in Avatar and Scrubs

December 20th, 2009

It’s very rare around these parts that I actively engage in any sort of cinematic analysis, but apparently it’s a yearly tradition as twelve months ago I was waxing poetic on the virtues of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire and its connection to reality television narrative. And after seeing James Cameron’s Avatar last night, I feel I need to spend at least some amount of time discussing what was a truly fantastic cinematic experience (even if I also end up discussing its connection with television).

I could spend a long time talking about the film’s visual prowess, but as noted on both Twitter and Facebook (which means that, if you’re a Myles McNutt aficionado, you think me mighty repetitive) this was the first movie I saw wearing my new corrective lenses, which meant that it was so stunningly sharp that I think I would have found any movie mind-blowing from a visual perspective.

However, I want to focus on what those visuals are meant to achieve, in particular the film’s efforts to create a “world.” Cameron’s Pandora is full of life in a way that sustains this film, filling in the gaps of the somewhat reductive and straightforward plot by making us anxious less for what will happen next and more for what unseen part of this planet we’re going to see for the first time in the near future.

And it has me thinking about those television series which rely on the same sense of world-building, specifically ABC’s Scrubs, and in particular how Cameron’s film draws attention to the advantages and disadvantages of the audience (or, in the case of the film, its characters) dropping in and out of that world on a regular basis.

[Spoilers for Avatar will be minimal, more particular moments than any sort of plot or character things, but if you want to go in blind turn back now.]

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The Best of 2009: Episodes of the Year

Episodes of the Year

December 20th, 2009

[This is the second of three lists recognizing the best of 2009 in Television: Performers of the Year has been posted, and Series of the Year will be posted tomorrow morning. These other lists will recognize parts of some of the shows missing from this particular list.]

When you review individual episodes all year, you might presume that it’s easy to be able to then categorize those episodes for the sake of an end of year Top 10.

You would be right…and wrong.

See, on the one hand, I have a pretty good memory of individual episodes that really made an impact, ones which stood out from the pack and connected with me. However, on the other hand, comparing an episode of Lost to an episode of 30 Rock doesn’t feel particularly natural, and more importantly you can’t actually create a list like this in a bubble. You have to consider which shows are making it onto other lists, and whether the sum of their parts are perhaps more worthy of recognition than a single episode. And you also need to consider whether a single performance was more likely the cause of an episode’s greatness as opposed to its collective influence. Throw in concerns about nostalgia or proximity clouding your judgment, and you have just as large a challenge whether or not you write episode reviews for the heck of it.

As such, my Top 10 Episodes of the Year are not, perhaps, the best episodes that aired this past year, but rather those which either really connected with me, or felt incredibly important to their individual shows’ success, or those which are on the list so that I’m not so embarrassed as to have those shows represented on none of the lists I put together. It’s not an exact science, but it eventually created a list (which is ordered by air date, in case that isn’t clear) of ten television episodes that really stuck with me this year.

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Cougar Town – “Don’t Come Around Here No More”

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“Don’t Come Around Here No More”

November 4th, 2009

It’s been a while (since, you know, the show’s pilot) since I’ve visited Cougar Town from a critical perspective, as the show has largely stood to serve as background for my Modern Family review writing. There are worse fates for a series, of course, such as not watching them at all, but with Cougar Town I feel as if there’s a definite need to say something about a show that’s been unfairly maligned in some respects and quite fairly attacked in others.

There were moments in the first six episodes of the show that it became the show that some critics and viewers make it out to be, an overacted farce of an insufferable woman dating a younger man. But what I liked about the show was that it was never just that show, never just a show about that particular phenomenon. Instead, the show was about a woman dealing with a lousy ex-husband who remains in her life, an overly critical best friend, a dependent co-worker, a sarcastic son, an antagonistic neighbour, etc. And what makes me stick with the show is that for all of Courteney Cox’s overacting (which is truly bad at points) is that, by and large, I like those character. I like Bill Lawrence’s writing style, I like the dynamic between the different characters (Bobby remaining friends with Ellie’s husband, for example), and I think there’s an engaging show here.

And to be honest, I thought “Don’t Come Around Here No More” brought it out. With Jules’ boyfriend out of the picture, the show becomes a show about a “cul-de-sac crew” rather than about simply Jules’ character, and even elements of the episode which in theory should have amplified Jules’ worst qualities connected for me. It’s still not a perfect series, but this half-hour was a lot of fun and I’m not going to pretend my Modern Family review wasn’t later because of it.

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Upfronts Analysis: ABC Fall Schedule 2009-2010

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ABC Fall Schedule 2009-2010

May 19th, 2009

ABC is the one network this year whose strategy appears to be “let’s order a ridiculous number of new shows,” which is really quite interesting in this economic climate. The network isn’t in a bad position, per se, but its been through a rough development patch where this past year brought the failure of three out of four of its major sophomore series (Private Practice being the only survivor) as well as the failure of all but one of its midseason replacements (Castle being the only one who managed to pull it together, and even then only with the support of the Dancing with the Stars lead-in). Their staple shows have remained fairly strong, with Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters all remaining solid performers despite industry-wide drops in ratings, but they were in need of some new blood.

Their solution, however, is going to be a rather interesting experiment, especially when we consider the way in which the network is programming those new series, and just how many of them they have working for them: ordering a mix of legal, procedural, and science fiction dramas on top of four (count ’em) four new comedies, the network is banking on people being ready to laugh and, more importantly, to embrace shows in the 10pm timeslot with NBC out of the running.

Let’s take a gander at the highlights, shall we?

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The 2008 Television Time Capsule: The Ones That Didn’t Make the Cut

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If you’ve been following along with Cultural Learnings’ 2008 Television Time Capsule [Full links available at the intro post], you will have surely noticed that there are shows I watch that didn’t make the list. I could have just ignored this fact, but in writing the various pieces that comprise this epic journey through the year in television I had to, for my own benefit, justify my decisions.

Here are my reasons for not including various shows on the list, and feel free to comment with any shows you think I unfairly left out of the time capsule for one reason or another.

The Shield (FX)

Last year, it was The Sopranos that had me left behind as the rest of the world of television criticism discussed its ending and the show’s role in shaping a decade of television. This year, I missed out on The Wire and The Shield both, and at a certain point I had to make a decision about which one I wanted to rectify first. The Wire won, which leaves the Shield’s highly acclaimed seventh season, and the six which came before it, on my catchup list for 2009. I reserve the right to dig up the time capsule, should its genius not be overstated.

Breaking Bad (AMC)

I fell behind on a fair few shows last year, but Breaking Bad is the one that feels like the biggest mistake: I could take not finishing off the first season runs of Reaper or Eli Stone, but this is a show that won Bryan Cranston an Emmy, had a really compelling pilot, and has earned a great deal of critical acclaim. The show is returning in 2009, and I do hope that I’ll find time to watch the shortened first season in time to see if season two might find a spot in 2009’s time capsule.

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

After starting out with a great deal of promise, Grey’s Anatomy’s fifth season quickly devolved into a bizarre experiment on how far Shonda Rhimes could push her audience. It wasn’t just the scandalous departure of Brooke Smith, or even Denny’s ghost rising to bring Izzie to a point of emotional breakdown, but rather that the show has at the same time introduced some elements (like the arrival of Kevin McKidd to the cast, or the guest appearance by Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)) that should have made a difference and have been either squandered or terribly conceived. I’m willing to put a show that shows potential but doesn’t live up to it in the time capsule as a lesson, but right now I don’t want anyone following Rhimes’ example.

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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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