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.
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.]
Filed under Avatar, Scrubs
“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.