Tag Archives: Zach Braff

Series Finale: Scrubs – “My Thanks”

“My Thanks”

March 17th, 2010

This is the third time that I have written a review wherein I believe myself to be writing about the final episode of Scrubs, which is sort of bizarre when you really sit down and think about it. However, this whole season of Scrubs has been bizarre: just months after the show went out with an emotional final episode (the great “My Finale”), it came back in a form that was sort of like Zombie scrubs: it looked familiar in some ways, as certain characters stuck around to provide continuity and the stories were ripped out of the first few seasons when things were still fairly fresh, but other characters were different, and the shift of first-person focus was enough to throw the show off its axis. Zombie Scrubs, or “Scrubs Med School” if we’re being a little less facetious, was met with fairly tepid responses from fans and viewers in general, being written off as a failure even before it went on a lengthy hiatus leading up to last week’s sudden return.

But while I will agree that there were some execution problems early on that rendered Scrubs Med School a bit of a failure, I think that we need to separate expectation from reality. If you expected this show to continue the Scrubs legacy from Season Eight (which I personally found a substantial improvement on the last few NBC seasons), then you would be disappointed; however, if you expected what Bill Lawrence was interested in creating, a new show featuring familiar characters that dealt with med students and the struggles they face, I would actually suggest that “My Thanks” caps off a pretty successful “first season.”

I don’t think that it’s possible to forget what the show was before, and I don’t think that Lawrence made the right decisions along the way, but I want to see more of the show that “My Thanks” represents, regardless of the Scrubs name and the endless finales that the show has endured over the years. That’s not enough to save the show, perhaps, but I need to at least tip my hat to Lawrence for managing to make this Zombified show work at the end of the day.

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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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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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Scrubs – “Our Mysteries”

“Our Mysteries”

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.

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2009 Emmy Award Predictions: Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

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Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Predictions

There is no category at the Emmys that will be less contentious in terms of deciding the nominees than this one, where a number of current favourites, a few old favourites, and one newcomer are going to duke it out: there’s six slots available, and I’d tend to argue that there’s really only seven contenders, making for a disappointing wakeup call for one individual.

Returning to the category will be four of five of last year’s nominees: Lee Pace rode a lot of popular support for Pushing Daisies last year, but shows that were canceled in December aren’t going to make it to the Emmys nine months later. This leaves Charlie Sheen, Steve Carell, Tony Shalhoub and winner Alec Baldwin, a competitive group (although my money’s still on Baldwin).

The two remaining spots are really divided between three people. First, you have previous favourites Zach Braff and David Duchovony. In the latter case, Duchovony was expected to get a nomination last year but failed to make the category; if the voters were supportive of him but the panels didn’t like his morally corrupt character on Californication, he could make it in this time around. Braff, meanwhile, got a tearful sendoff on Scrubs this season, and his fame coupled with the show’s return in quality could make him a contender (if not the show itself, which was off the radar for too long).

They’re likely duking it out for one spot, however, since Jim Parsons is the talk of the category. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to beat out Carell and Baldwin, but Parsons has been delivering an absolutely amazing performance on The Big Bang Theory, equally broad and nuanced in a way that indicates a real talent. The show around him is rarely as good as his ability, but the way he manages to bring humanity to this cold and unfeeling character is noticeable even for non-fans of the show, a quality that makes him a definite dark horse and a likely nominee (he’s announcing the nominees, after all).

This all doesn’t leave much room for even any other competitors: while I could cheer for Zachary Levi, Chuck was definitely a critics’ darling more than it was an industry darling, and outside of a left-field guest star nod for Chevy Chase the show won’t connect with voters.

Predictions for Lead Actor in a Comedy

  • Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”)
  • Steve Carell (“The Office”)
  • David Duchovony (“Californication”)
  • Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”)
  • Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”)
  • Charlie Sheen (“Two and a Half Men”)

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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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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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“Season Finale” – Scrubs – “My Princess”

“My Princess”

May 8th, 2008

It is, perhaps, the most confusing finale in recent years: Scrubs is ending its seventh season tonight, and NBC has no plans on bringing it back. So, there is the thought of series finale in the air, but this is not true: although it won’t be confirmed until after the show concludes its run on the peacock, ABC has already ordered 18 episodes of the series that are filming now, and that will air next season. The result is an episode that exists purely in limbo, a false goodbye for a series we’ll be seeing more of.

As I’ve noted, I really am not that enamoured with the series as of late, but the last few episodes have showed potential – if anything, their only major flaw is their decision to continue the forced march towards J.D. and Elliot reconnecting romantically. I like the sendoff given to Ken Jenkins’ Dr. Kelso, I’ve enjoyed our time spent with the Janitor, but with a certain lack of faith in the show’s central romantic storyline I certainly need to be convinced that those 18 episodes next season will be worth my time.

If there is any way to do it, though, perhaps this is it: Zach Braff’s second epic take-off of a classic fairy tale, this time cult classic The Princess Bride, and if his work on the charming Wizard of Oz episode that signaled the show’s 100th episode was any indication this kind of thing is right up his alley. Scrubs is a show that often works well within event formats (The Musical episode was a highlight dramatically, if not perhaps musically, for the sixth season), but has Braff managed to do the inconceivable?

Has he actually created an episode of Scrubs that cuts through my jaded cynicism for the future?

Not so much.

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Reviewing the Finales: Saturday Night Live (May 19th) – Zach Braff & Maroon 5

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I wasn’t actually able to watch Saturday Night Live, well, live. However, while my overall thoughts will have to wait, here’s some YouTube videos which are providing a bit of a preview. I’ll try to keep the videos alive over time, but I offer no promises.

[Special Thanks go out to YouTube user Wings1914 for another week of fantastic YouTube SNL work]

Zach Braff’s Monologue – A New Jersey State of Mind

I like it. It involves singing, actual comedy, thumbs up.

SNL Sigital Short – Rufus: Dog Love

Good use of dialogue, strong use of adorable dog, a bit gross in the end, but quality overall.

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