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Scrubs aired from October 2001 until March 2010 On NBC and ABC.
Life at Sacred Heart Hospital was seen through the eyes of three wide-eyed interns in this clever and somewhat surreal comedy. Amiable J.D. ( Zach Braff) was so innocent, and cute, that the nurses nicknamed him Bambi; his friendly college buddy Chris ( Donald Faison) was a surgical aid, and Elliott ( Sarah Chalke) was a bubbly but somewhat indecisive blonde. Put on Earth to terrorize them was Kelso ( Ken Jenkins), the deceptively kind and fatherly chief of medicine whose eyes could glow flame-red(literally) when they made a mistake; and Cox ( John C. McGinley) the loud, gruff and quirky doctor whom no one could figure out. Then there was the janitor (Neill Flynn), a tall, ominous cleaning man who lurked in the corridors and silently tormented J,D. Carla ( Judy Reyes) was the sarcastic, but knowledgeable Hispanic nurse. Jordan ( played by creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence's wife Christa Miller-Lawrence) was a board member and Dr. Cox's ex-wife.
There were numerous fantasy sequences ( showing things as J.D. wished they were) and gross-out sight gags, but then the story would suddenly snap back to a sometimes dark reality, as when all three interns had to inform a different family about the death of a loved one. During the second season Cox and his ex-wife Jordan got back together, although they did not remarry, and she gave birth to his baby, Jack. By 2006 she was pregnant again and this time gave birth to a girl, in the same episode in which Nurse Roberts ( Aloma Wright) was killed in a car accident. Since J.D. was the only one who stayed with her while the others were at a bar drinking a toast to Roberts, Jordan asked him to be the godfather and named the baby " Jennifer Dylan." Chris and Nurse Carla were married in 2004 and after many false starts she finally gave birth to Isabella in 2006. Visiting Dr. Kim Briggs ( Elizabeth Banks) became pregnant by J.D., then left, but returned in 2007 with their relationship up in the air.
Music played an important part in the series , with cast members sometimes performing, musical montages at the end of episodes , and a resident a capella vocal group called The Worthless Peons, led by sadsack hospital attorney Ted ( Sam Lloyd).
Scrubs was filmed at a real-life hospital, the North Hollywood Medical Center in Los Angeles.
A Review from The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEWS; Just Take Two Funny Lines And Call Me in the Morning
By JULIE SALAMON
Published: October 2, 2001
''Pumpkin, that's modern medicine,'' says an experienced doctor to a new medical intern. ''Advances that keep people alive who should have died a long time ago, back when they lost what made them people. Your job is to stay sane enough so that when someone does come in that you actually can help, you're not so brain dead you can't function.''
That cynical assessment may sound like a line from ''E.R.'' or ''Chicago Hope,'' but it's spoken in a funny and appealing new NBC sitcom called ''Scrubs.'' Bill Lawrence, its creator and executive producer, was co-creator of ''Spin City,'' and his new enterprise has a similar combination of glib, comic exaggeration and darkly clever humor. But it's not as reliant on zippy one-liners, at least not for now. It does have a sweet, puppyish main character, the innocent intern, J. D. Dorian, played by Zach Braff. He's charming.
The hospital world unfolds through J. D.'s hopeful eyes. He's the perfect candidate for humiliation, being empathetic, insecure and possessed of a vivid imagination. His fantasies are projected onto the screen. When he lusts after a pretty blond intern, a woman called Elliott, he imagines her ripping open her shirt to reveal a red bra before she kisses him. In reality this ambitious doctor in training flirts with him and then upstages him during rounds. She's played with wit by Sarah Chalke, who for several years portrayed Becky Conner, a daughter on ''Roseanne.''
Like the medical dramas, this comedy capitalizes on the inherent power of illness and death. The grimness lingering in the background gives the humor a jolt. No one is more aware of that sober reality than J. D., who is so apprehensive on his first day that he avoids any procedures that would require him to touch patients. It's not that he disdains them. On the contrary. He's appalled when he hears doctors refer to sick people in rude ways. He's just afraid that he's incapable of adhering to the Hippocratic oath. (''First do no harm.'')
J. D.'s idealism is put to the test on that first day. When the interns are greeted with a lecture on medical malpractice, J. D. is told by one of the doctors that Dr. Kelso, the chief of medicine, ''may indeed be Satan himself.'' Dr. Kelso, played with gusto by Ken Jenkins, soon confirms that diagnosis. With an ugly chuckle, he evaporates J. D.'s illusions. ''Don't you realize you're nothing but a large pair of scrubs to me,'' he snarls at J. D., who has just mistaken sarcasm for sincerity.
The ensemble is established nicely in the premiere, despite the obvious calculation in the script and casting. The show covers a variety of personality types and cultures. There's Carla (Judy Reyes), a pretty, no-nonsense Hispanic nurse. Donald Faison plays Chris Turk, an African-American intern and J. D.'s best friend. The obligatory good-hearted eccentric is Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley), who hides his affection and concern for patients and the young doctors he's training behind taunts and cynicism.
In the first two episodes, ''Scrubs'' quickly achieves a breezy comic rhythm. Like ''Spin City'' this show operates with deliberate artifice but enough warmth to bring humanity to the characters. ''Draining Mrs. Pratt's stomach fluids will get my spirits back up,'' says one intern to another. ''Scrubs'' has the same effect and isn't nearly as messy.
NBC, tonight at 9:30
(Channel 4 in New York)
Produced by Touchstone Television; Bill Lawrence, creator and executive producer; Eric Weinberg, supervising producer; Adam Bernstein, director.
WITH: Zach Braff (J. D. Dorian), Sarah Chalke (Elliott Reid), Donald Faison (Chris Turk), Ken Jenkins (Dr. Bob Kelso), John C. McGinley (Dr. Perry Cox) and Judy Reyes (Nurse Carla Espinosa).
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
Doc-Doc Jokes (
NBC prescribes a welcome remedy to hospital dramas with Scrubs, proving laughter is the best medicine.
A-By Ken Tucker
Like ''Undeclared'' and the as-yet-to-premiere ''Bernie Mac Show,'' ''Scrubs'' is a TV rarity: a new sitcom with an original look and point of view, and the merciful absence of a familiar star attempting a comeback. Scrubs' premise is an easily summarized pitch -- it's ''ER'' as a comedy; ''M*A*S*H'' in peacetime, with newbie interns. But the series is distinguished by the unexpected interplay between its well-cast characters and the shrewd strategy it deploys to avoid making its overriding themes (illness, death) a poor-taste downer.
Our hero is John ''J.D.'' Dorian, played by Zach Braff, who looks like a youthful cross between Ray Romano and Ed's Tom Cavanagh -- a perfect TV-likable naif. Scrubs started on J.D.'s first day at a big-city hospital, where he's a lowly medical resident at the mercy of the more experienced nursing staff, who view his fumbles with IVs and catheters with disdain. (One of the best aspects of Scrubs is its hearty class animus -- the nurses are portrayed as smart, dedicated, but disgruntled workers made bitter and vengeful by scores of arrogant young doctors who grab the lifesaving glory while the nurses are left with the tedious, messy work.)
In fact, class divisions are a pervasive Scrubs subtext. J.D.'s longtime best buddy is Chris Turk (Donald Faison, from ''Felicity''), whose decision to pursue surgery has put him among a more esteemed, cocky group within the hospital than J.D.'s bedraggled band of temperature takers; their friendship is strained because of it.
The series' creator, Bill Lawrence (''Spin City''), plays off the hospital-show expectations we might bring to Scrubs after years of watching classy-doc dramas like ''ER,'' ''Chicago Hope,'' and ''St. Elsewhere.'' Like Hope's Dr. Phillip Watters (Hector Elizondo) or Elsewhere's kindly Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders), the leader of Scrubs' hospital is also a wise, earnest, older man, Dr. Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins) -- except that with Kelso, pious concern is just an act. Behind his crinkly eyes and warm smile lies a brain simmering with resentment over the onus of bureaucratic detail, and a general feeling that he'd rather be playing golf. He's no one to go to for advice or comfort.
In the show's most original move, ''Scrubs'' one true good man is also its loosest cannon. John C. McGinley is giving a career-making performance as the flinty, sarcastic Dr. Cox, an experienced doctor who is, on the surface, everything we fear in a healer we might come into contact with: a bully with cold eyes, a short temper, and a black sense of humor.
But just as ''M*A*S*H's'' ''Hawkeye'' Pierce made jaundiced puns about jaundice because war inspired cynicism as a defense mechanism, Dr. Cox staves off J.D.'s petrified stares (one nurse, Carla, played saucily by Judy Reyes, calls him ''Bambi'' for his doe-eyed fearfulness) with a suck-it-up attitude. J.D. and the colleague he's inescapably attracted to -- willowy Elliot Reid (Roseanne's Sarah Chalke) -- desperately want Dr. Cox to mentor them (the second episode was entitled ''My Mentor''), and Cox resists the role. But it's because, we discover, he's tired and fearful too; his only advice against disease and decay is ''Everything is a stall -- we're just trying to keep the game going.''
Lawrence and the writers stuff ''Scrubs'' with a bit too much voice-over narration by J.D., and a few too many fantasy sight gags, as when Elliot is seen, after making a hospital faux pas, literally digging her own grave. But better a surfeit of creativity than a dearth of it, especially on a network whose other big freshman comedy, ''Inside Schwartz,'' can barely stretch its gimmicks into a second week. Indeed, Scrubs really deserves the plum spot between ''Friends'' and ''Will & Grace'' that Schwartz was handed -- Scrubs' genial skepticism is much more suited to NBC Thursdays. But maybe the network figured that if we spent a half hour laughing at the stat!-paced jokes on Scrubs, we'd never be able to take Dr. Mark Greene's sad-sack shtick on ER seriously again.
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on September 13, 2002
What's Up, Doc?
NOW IN THEIR SECOND YEAR OF RESIDENCY, THE SCRUBS TEAM HOPES A HEALTHY DOSE OF NETWORK SUPPORT AND A VERY FRIEND-LY NEW TIME SLOT WILL ADD UP TO A PRESCRIPTION FOR BREAKOUT SUCCESS
By Josh Wolk
There's a new tradition on the Scrubs set in its second season: a weekly challenge called ''Scrubs Factor.'' In its first installment, cast and crew members were offered $100 for every pickled pig's foot they could eat. (An assistant director took home the loot, after chomping down seven feet.) Then there are the standing wagers outside of this tourney, like the open challenge for anyone to spend an hour in a drawer in the basement's morgue. (The medical comedy is written, shot, and edited in a Studio City hospital that was closed in 1998.) ''I hate turning down bets, but that was like, there's no way,'' says Sarah Chalke, who plays the driven, social-skills-free Elliot. ''There's still mung in the trays.''
The biggest Scrubs gamble, however, comes courtesy of NBC, which handed the sophomore comedy the hallowed post-Friends time slot. That makes it the first critically acclaimed show to start the season Thursdays at 8:30 since, well, Friends did in 1994. ''The spotlight is so bright [at 8:30], it's almost unfair to ask any new show to go in, no matter how good it is,'' says NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker. (Feel free to snicker when mentally pairing the word good with slot alums ranging from The Single Guy to Inside Schwartz.) ''We realized we would probably be better serving the time period and ourselves if we moved an established show in there.''
This increasingly rare instance of a network heartily supporting a show that hasn't yet reached smash status (it finished in 38th place last year) has the cast somewhat mystified. Says Judy Reyes (the no-nonsense nurse Carla), ''Jeff Zucker loves himself some Scrubs, I have to say.'' So far the prognosis seems positive: Since Scrubs moved into its new time slot this summer, it has been retaining 87 percent of Friends' audience -- and Zucker has been quoted as saying that he'll be happy with a 70 percent retention when Survivor returns. ''I cut that [article]out so I could fax it over to him every time the numbers come out,'' laughs show creator and executive producer Bill Lawrence.
Being bequeathed TV's highest-profile -- and, some would say, most cursed -- time slot hasn't given the cast a case of nerves. In fact, they're downright Zen about it. ''We can't do anything about it other than tell one joke at a time,'' says Ken Jenkins, who plays the show's soulless chief of staff, Dr. Kelso. Adds Donald Faison (cocky surgical resident Turk): ''We got here because we played hard and didn't take ourselves too seriously. So we'll go out, have fun, and enjoy the game.''
The Scrubs folks clearly take the ''game'' metaphor to heart: Visit the set and you're likely to see John C. McGinley (the unrelentingly sarcastic Dr. Cox) practicing Rollerblading in the hall. Between shots, Faison's been known to strum a guitar and perform his impression of Neil Diamond singing the theme from the cartoon Transformers. Things are so relaxed that when the actors finish early, they often won't leave. ''People hang out because they're laughing so hard they don't want to go home,'' says Zach Braff, who stars as the show's hapless protagonist, the eager resident J.D. Credit for this chummy atmosphere is given to Lawrence's strict ''no a -- hole'' policy, announced at the beginning of last season. ''I would rather have a good guy than an a -- hole who's slightly better at a job,'' he says. ''It's a quality-of-life thing.''
This policy is taken so seriously that even a whiff of cockiness is met with relentless mocking. Ask Braff, who, rushing onto the set one day, asked an assistant director to grab him a bagel. "I got so teased and laughed at for being a prima donna that I never did it again," he says. The taunting has become preemptive: It goes on all day in all directions, whether there's diva behavior or not. "You gotta wear ego Kevlar when you walk in here," says McGinley, who received endless jabs last year when repeated reviews dubbed him a "scene-stealer"; whenever he arrived on set, he was riddled with faux-reverential barbs from coworkers like "Oh, is the scene-stealer ready to do his work? Does he have a moment?"
Lawrence extends the show's collegiality by hiring friends and loved ones for guest shots. "If you're lucky enough to have a friend that's talented," he says, "I personally think you're a bad guy if they don't end up working with you on your show." The upcoming season is no exception: His real-life wife, Christa Miller (The Drew Carey Show), will be back for repeated appearances as Cox's witchy ex, as will Heather Locklear (Lawrence cocreated Spin City), guesting as a horny pharmaceutical rep. Schedule permitting, pal Brendan Fraser will reprise his role as a leukemia patient. (In his two-episode run last season, his character went into remission. "If Brendan Fraser's nice enough to do your show, you can't kill the guy!" says Lawrence.) Lawrence also isn't above using the show to indulge his own personal jokes and interests. Since many fans and critics noted how much Braff looked like Ed's Tom Cavanagh, this Halloween Cavanagh will guest-star as J.D.'s older brother. And after Braff turned Lawrence on to former Men at Work frontman Colin Hay's solo career, he made Hay the show's unofficial troubadour: Not only does he appear in the season premiere, but two of Hay's songs will be on the Scrubs soundtrack (in stores Sept. 24). A splashy musical number later in the season will feature one of Hay's tunes as well.
That said, Lawrence wants to rein in some of Scrubs' goofiness this season--specifically the show's trademark fantasy sequences (e.g., an angry J.D. morphs into the Hulk). "Some early episodes erred on the side of being too frenetic," he says. He'll also have to economize: The fancy new time slot comes complete with more commercials, which cut nearly two minutes out of each episode. "Last year you could take a pause," says McGinley. "This year, if you take one, hasta la vista--that scene's not making it in, man." One more addition: Neil Flynn's terrorizing Janitor will return as a full-time cast member--but this promotion doesn't mean his character will get an actual name. "Is it more significant to be 'Bill Johnson on Scrubs' as opposed to 'the Janitor'?" Flynn asks. "I think 'the Janitor' is more distinctive. It connotes a wrestling villain."
One thing Scrubs will not do is pair off J.D. and Elliot. After a brief one-episode dalliance last season, Lawrence decided to end the affair and concentrate on only one couple, Turk and Carla (who are headed for a proposal this year). "Even I was like, 'Dude, one episode? Shouldn't there be a ramp-down?'" says Braff. "[Bill] was like, 'Nah, I don't want to talk about it anymore.'" Leaving the will-they/won't-they chestnut to lead-ins Ross and Rachel, Lawrence's plan for J.D. and Elliot is that "once a year, without any warning, they'll randomly f---. And it always falls apart the very next day.... That feels real to me."
Speaking of reality checks, here's one: The utopian feel on the set is easy to maintain before the season starts--but what if Scrubs becomes a true Must See Friends-level cultural phenomenon? In that stratosphere, can a newly all-star cast keep from becoming a--holes? "It took me a long time to get here," says Faison (Clueless). "I wasn't an a--hole when I got here, so I'm not gonna become an a--hole.... You control your a--holeness." Actually, that's a damn good prescription for celebrities in general. --Josh Wolk
An Interview with John C. McGinley from Entertainment Weekly
Published on September 24, 2002
Dr. Cox answers burning questions about ''Scrubs'' -- John C. McGinley, who plays the cranky M.D., says the new season will turn Elliot into an Angel of Death, while someone else is gonna be a daddy
By Liane Bonin
Last season, ''Scrubs'' fans were left in a state of shock (get the defibrillator, stat) when Jordan (guest star Christa Miller) revealed Sacred Heart Hospital's dark and dirty secrets to an unsuspecting staff. But the high-blood-pressure high jinks are just beginning. John C. McGinley, who plays J.D.'s intimidating mentor Dr. Cox, spoke with EW.com about what we can expect from the second season (debuts Sept. 26 at 8:30 p.m.) -- including why J.D. (Zach Braff) could be shopping for baby booties, and the scoop on the cast's very own fear factor.
What surprises await us in season 2?
Christa Miller, who's married to our executive producer Billy Lawrence, is pregnant in real life. So Billy's going to milk that. And considering that J.D. had a Mrs. Robinson with her last year, and Cox has courtesy sex with her all the time...
Do you know if Cox is the father?
I don't know whose kid it is yet. I think they're going to introduce a third character who's shagging Jordan too. I'm guessing the kid isn't mine, although I wish it was. It would be great to see Cox with a kid. But I don't think we're going to take the edges off that much.
How does the cast feel about following in the doomed footsteps of ''Inside Schwartz'' and ''The Single Guy'' as the follow-up to ''Friends''?
[NBC entertainment president] Jeff Zucker told us people are going to switch channels and watch the second half of ''Survivor,'' that's just the way it is. You're going to lose 20 percent to 30 percent of your audience. But that still leaves 17 or 18 million viewers. The difference between us and those other shows is that they were unmitigated crap. And ''Scrubs'' isn't.
What's ahead for Elliot (Sarah Chalke) this season?
In one episode, she tells me she wants to be treated as a colleague, an equal. So I give her the job of telling someone her husband's dying. And when she comes back all sunny and chipper, she becomes the Angel of Death for the hospital for a little while, dispensing bad news for all the doctors.
It's been said that some of the characters in the series are vastly different from when they were originally conceived. What's been changed?
In the pilot, Elliot was written as this horrible bitch, and Sarah was incredibly miscast for that because she doesn't have a bitch bone in her body. But instead of doing what's in vogue right now, which is recasting and reshooting, Billy rewrote her as a ''Butterflies Are Free'' Goldie Hawn with foot-in-mouth disease, which she's fantastic at.
What about Dr. Cox?
I said at the first audition that he was way too similar to the head of the hospital, and that I didn't want to play another prickly acerbic guy from hell. I wanted windows of redemption. And to Billy's eternal credit, he worked with me. I mean, I certainly didn't have any sense of entitlement to the role, because I had to audition for it four or five times.
The series is shot at a defunct hospital in Los Angeles. Is that a cost-cutting measure?
I'm pretty sure there's nothing cheap about it, because typically someone's whining that we should move to a studio, and something breaks down every single day. But I don't want to move. It's like Scrubs University there, because there are no network suits around. And it's funny, because the writers' room is in the old psychiatric ward.
Can you explain the ''Scrubs Fear Factor''?
I never leave my dressing room, so I'm not so hip to it. But we collect money every Friday, and to get the kitty, someone has to complete a certain extreme task over the weekend. Somebody ate pigs' feet once, and then another guy had to wear Maori face makeup that was applied with a Sharpie. He made about a thousand dollars, and it's tax free.
Weren't you supposed to get an Emmy nomination this year?
I bought into all that Emmy buzz for a minute or two. John Cusack [his ''Fat Man and Little Boy'' costar and longtime friend] and I had a conversation about that -- because for every movie that he's in, it seems like someone gets nominated for an Oscar but never him. And he told me, ''Cut it out. You play the most fun character on TV, so nail it, grow up, and be quiet.''
What's this about you filming another project on the ''Scrubs'' set?
Well, I'm shooting a public service announcement for the National Down Syndrome Society this month, but I'm just going to borrow the ''Scrubs'' crew for a medium shot, then a tight shot, and that's it. The producers said it was okay, which was great because NDSS has exactly zero money for this sort of thing. I'm this year's spokesman for the organization's Buddy Walk, which means a lot to me. My son Max, who's five, has Down syndrome, and he has completely informed how I play Dr. Cox. He's the angel on my shoulder. When those times come when Dr. Cox drops the tough-guy act to show some love, those are what I call Max moments. Since he's been born, I don't want to play tough guys anymore. I don't have it in me.
An Article from The New York Times
'Scrubs': To Find an Audience, Let It All Hang Out
By JOE RHODES
Published: April 9, 2006
BILL LAWRENCE, the creator and executive producer of "Scrubs," NBC's critically supported but often ratings-deprived medical comedy, said he couldn't remember exactly when he decided to give up the fight. But it was sometime last spring near the end of the show's fourth season, at one of the many times (six or seven, he lost track) that the network's schedule makers decided his frequently absurdist single-camera, no-laugh-track show was going to be moved, shelved, placed on hiatus or held in reserve. Again.
"In the beginning we felt a lot of pressure to seek out mass appeal, which was tough," Mr. Lawrence said, sitting in the "Scrubs" writers' room, which is seriously the former psychiatric ward of the North Hollywood Medical Center, the abandoned hospital where the show is filmed. (In the first few months of production, several disoriented would-be patients entered the facility only to find lights, cameras and actors dressed as doctors, but no one actually qualified to stitch up a head wound.)
"This year we decided to stop obsessing about how we can bring new people to the show," he continued. "We decided that this year, we'd just do what we wanted and hoped we would at least be proud of it, even if it never saw the light of day."
Zach Braff, whose character, Dr. John Dorian (J. D.), narrates the show, said: "When we saw the first couple of scripts this year, there was a noticeable change. The volume was sort of turned up on the wackiness. And we all kind of laughed to ourselves and thought, Well, I guess Bill just sort of said 'I'm going to make the show I want to make.'
"And I think we all took the spirit of that and said: 'This could be the last year and we love this job, so let's have fun with it. Let's just lean into the turn and see what happens.' "
The result is that "Scrubs," always a schizophrenic mix of cartoonish jokes, surrealist fantasy sequences and genuinely poignant life-or-death moments, has become even weirder, thick with inside jokes, psychotic monologues, a cappella singing in the elevator, bizarre secondary characters like the High-Fiving Surgeon, the Sweaty Lawyer and the Absent-Minded Morgue Attendant, and the continuing adventures of a megalomaniacal maintenance man who has crowned himself the King of Janitoria. There have been ravens and ostriches and a front deck built on a lot with no house. Pumpkins are raised as children. Alzheimer's patients go on tackling binges. Also, and this can be the tricky part, people get cancer and die.
"Rather than trying to seek out new viewers, our survival technique was to try and hold on to the old ones," Mr. Lawrence said, acknowledging that the sudden switches from Looney Tunes to pathos can be jarring. "So now we do stuff that we know will make real fans of the show laugh, assuming they can find us. We're like 'The Simpsons' in that every episode has jokes that are only going to be funny to people that have watched at least 20 or 30 episodes of the show. We aren't writing for people that have turned this show on for the first time."
Curiously, this strategy appears to have brought in new viewers. After being held out of the NBC fall lineup (in spite of its four Emmy nominations last year), "Scrubs" returned in January, and in its first weeks had some of its highest ratings, averaging nearly 8 million viewers on Tuesday nights. And now against the daunting challenge of "American Idol," it has managed to maintain numbers comparable to last season. Not exactly blockbuster numbers, but considering NBC's last-place status ("Deal or No Deal" is its only show in the Nielsen Top 10), more than enough to be considered a success. More importantly, "Scrubs" scores extremely well with viewers 18 to 49, whom advertisers most desire.
The show's producers were also among the first to embrace and cater to an ever-growing online fan base, keeping in touch with Internet chat rooms, providing extensive behind-the-scenes video blogs and Web-only audio commentaries, and offering episodes on iTunes.
'Scrubs' is a show that was somewhat ahead of its time," said Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment, pointing out that when the show made its debut in October 2001, NBC (then programmed by Jeff Zucker) was still on top with its "Must-See" generation of sitcoms like "Friends" and "Frasier." As much as the network executives liked it, "Scrubs" had a hard time fitting in.
"There were very few other single-camera comedies when it started," Mr. Reilly said. "And the show has always played by its own rhythm. It's both hugely broad and strangely intellectual at times. It can be sublime, but it doesn't neatly fit into a comfortable little box. It didn't explode in the ratings right away and in NBC's attempt to find the right spot, it ended up getting moved around a lot over the years."
To complicate matters, "Scrubs" is one of the increasingly rare shows not owned by the network that broadcasts it. ABC/Touchstone, where Mr. Lawrence had a long-standing development deal, developed, produces and owns "Scrubs," meaning that NBC's only revenues come from advertising sales. All the auxiliary income, such as DVD sales or syndication fees, goes to ABC. "Scrubs" needed to be a big ratings success compared with other, NBC-owned shows, for the network to have financial incentive to keep it on the air.
"As much as I complained about the way they treated us the first few years, I kind of sympathize with their situation," Mr. Lawrence said. "If they had a choice between protecting 'Scrubs' or taking a chance on a new show that they owned 100 percent and whose success might save their jobs, that's a no-brainer. I understand that."
But once NBC went to the bottom of the ratings heap, it needed to hold on to as many well-reviewed shows as it could, even if they weren't broad-based hits. Trying to regain a foothold, NBC has turned to off-kilter, single-camera comedies like "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office," shows that are getting attention for the kind of stylistic risks that "Scrubs" has been taking since 2001. After all those years of being the lovable but slightly peculiar stepchild of NBC's comedy lineup, "Scrubs" doesn't seem so out of place anymore.
"Television is such an odd, trend-following business," said Mr. Lawrence, who was a creator of "Spin City," a more traditional live-audience sitcom. "When we were trying to sell this show, no one wanted a single-camera comedy. They didn't think they were funny. Now single-camera comedies are what everyone is talking about. And I would bet that the next comedy to really make it big will be one that bucks that trend and is a really well-written multi-camera sitcom."
Mr. Lawrence says that waiting until January to begin this year's episodes, away from the clutter of all the other fall premieres, helped his show succeed. Coming into this season, almost certain it would be his last, Mr. Lawrence had started writing series-finale storylines including Dr. Perry Cox (played by John C. McGinley) descending into alcoholism and the contentious-but-loving married couple, Dr. Chris Turk (Donald Faison) and Nurse Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes), finally having a child. Those story arcs have remained in place but others have been adjusted or eliminated based on the increasing likelihood that "Scrubs" will return for a sixth season.
Even though license fees will increase dramatically, Mr. Reilly has said he very much wants "Scrubs" to return to NBC next year. And if he changes his mind, Steve McPherson, who was instrumental in developing the show when he was at Touchstone and who is now president of ABC Entertainment, seems more than ready to grab the show for his network.
"I love the show and we could totally find a place for it on ABC," Mr. McPherson said in a telephone interview. "But I can't imagine NBC letting it go."
Mr. Lawrence believes that, intentionally or not, "Scrubs" may have found the blueprint for future television success. Gigantic hits marketed to broad audiences, he said, are increasingly rare. Ratings behemoths like "American Idol" are the exception, not the rule.
"If you don't start out as the most prominent show on the network, with huge ratings right off the bat," he said, "you have to readjust yourself almost immediately to say, 'Who is our core audience and what are they responding to?' "
"It's like politicians deciding to play to their core constituencies," he said.
"A competently made, middle of the road show, which used to be the network model, isn't going to generate that level of passion," he said. "So you have to do what we've done, what I think 'My Name Is Earl' and 'The Office' have done, which is to write a show so quirky and so specific that you're acknowledging right out of the gate that it's not going to have universal appeal. But for the people it does appeal to, it's going to have an iron-clad grip."
An Article from The New York Times
Diagnosis: Acute Case of Broadway Melodium Tremens
By EDWARD WYATT
Published: January 17, 2007
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 16 When a sitcom in the sixth year of its run starts talking about presenting an all-musical episode, it usually means one thing: grab the remote, because the writers have run out of ideas.
But for Scrubs, the long-running and often unappreciated series on NBC, a new musical episode has energized a cast and crew that, at a point when most situation comedies are sputtering along or dead, have recently been doing some of their best work.
And while it may not be apparent, musical theater is never far from the hearts of many on the set.
Most comedy writers are tall, jocky types, said Bill Lawrence, the creator of Scrubs. But they don't like being stuck in the comedy closet. Secretly they have arguments about Sondheim.
Scrubs: My Musical, scheduled to be broadcast on Thursday night, has a pedigree that would make many Broadway producers envious. Rather than go the cheap route with pedestrian music and lyrics, the show's producers enlisted Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, the creators of Avenue Q, the Tony Award-winning musical featuring puppets singing about Internet pornography and other perplexities of life.
But much of the conception and execution of the episode was home-grown. Mr. Lawrence, who grew up being toted to Broadway shows by his parents from their home in Connecticut, had long said he wanted to do a musical episode. From the show's earliest days, he has made music a longstanding presence, with one early episode a parody of West Side Story.
Debra Fordham, a supervising producer on the show who says her iPod is filled with Broadway cast recordings, took to heart Mr. Lawrence's suggestion that this could be the year for the musical episode. His one condition, however, was that the music and songs had to be integral to the show, not simply an overlay of songs bridging patches of dialogue.
Working with one of the series's medical advisers, Dr. John Doris, Ms. Fordham built a story around a patient who is found to have an aneurysm that causes her to hear music. She sketched out a story and some lyrics mostly as a guide to the composers, she said. But when she got the work back from the composers, she was shocked to find that many of her lyrics had remained intact.
She's really a talented librettist and lyricist, Mr. Lopez said. The composers, for their parts, had never heard of Scrubs when they were approached with the idea. After viewing some episodes on DVD, however, they became hooked.
We thought they might be expecting us to come up with the whole kit and caboodle, Mr. Lopez said. But when we got the script, there was already a draft of a complete set of lyrics. We really didn' have to change a whole lot.
They made additions and changes to some rhymes, tightened some of the jokes, added introductions to some of the songs and wrote the music for four numbers. Four other songs were written by Ms. Fordham and Paul F. Perry, who has previously arranged music for Scrubs, and one is the work of Ms. Fordham and Jan Stevens, a composer for the series.
In total, 19 of the show's 23 minutes are musical, and the musical styles have been made to fit each character, from the Gilbert-and-Sullivan-like patter sung by John C. McGinley, who plays Dr. Perry Cox, to the heartwarming Guy Love, sung by Zach Braff and Donald Faison, whose characters, J. D. and Turk, are the best-friend physicians at the center of the show.
Mr. Lopez and Mr. Marx have done some writing for television before: Mr. Lopez for The Wonder Pets, an animated musical show for preschoolers, and Mr. Marx for some Disney Channel projects. Never have they had to delve so deeply into the world of medicine, however, to come up with descriptions of just how close two people are, as in the show's finale, a Grease -like number:
We're as close as
the vena cava and the aorta,
We go together
like diverticulitis and a barium enema.
This being medicine, of course, the lyrics could not help concerning themselves to some degree with the diagnostic value of bodily functions.
Most amazing to the composers was the speed at which the production came together. It took us five years to write Avenue Q, Mr. Marx said. There were a million readings and previews and staged readings. With this thing, we wrote the songs in a week. They rehearsed for a week. They filmed it in a week, and it was done. It was liberating, and a collaborative effort that created a much more feel-good way of working.
NBC gave its approval for the episode, Mr. Lawrence said, and Touchstone Television and its parent, Disney, spent nearly twice the normal amount to produce the episode, including hiring a 50-piece orchestra to punch up the musical numbers.
Mr. Marx was so enamored of the process, in fact, that he has decided to move to Los Angeles. During a telephone interview last week, he said he was packing his things, giving up his New York rental apartment and dreaming of more television song-and-dance numbers.
He is nothing if not confident. I got a one-way ticket, he added.
An Article from The New York Times
TV Review | 'Scrubs'
Here Comes Rhymin Kelso and the Dancin Scrubs Gang
By GINIA BELLAFANTE
Published: January 18, 2007
There is something about the urgent pace of technological progress that, no matter how welcome, seems to navigate our tastes in historical reverse. It didn't seem long before the fashion for vacuum-cooked salmon redounded to another fad for meatloaf and macaroni and cheese. The arrival of sleek, heat-retaining microfibers never sent fur on its way, it only seemed to heighten a demand for everything ermine, sable and pouffy. YouTube certainly exists in no small part to indulge our nostalgic affinities. And television, for its part, has displayed a recent interest in what some have long considered entertainment's hoariest form, the musical.
The Disney Channel has experienced tremendous success with High School Musical and its follow-up, Jump In!, which made its debut over the weekend. The casting of a new Broadway production of Grease is taking place on an NBC reality show. I don't know how long it will be before Lesley Stahl is persuaded to conduct interviews in melodic couplets, but until then we have an episode of NBC's Scrubs called My Musical this evening.
The episode revolves around the arrival of a female patient at Sacred Heart who imagines that everyone around her is not speaking but singing. For the entire show, all heard through her ears, the hospital staff converses in show tunes created by the songwriters of Avenue Q, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. (The gambit produces moments like this: Hello I'm Dr. Kelso!/I'm delighted that you came!/The doctors said you fainted and you don't know who to blame! Or: We're running a test that's a waste of our time!/But at least she'll accept that she's medically fine! )
A show in its sixth season is often pressed to take extreme measures. The show's producers have asked Zach Braff and the rest of the cast to sing but the cleverness of the songs, which mock patient paranoia, the process of diagnosis and doctors apparent fascination with all things scatological make up for the ineptness of vocal talent. There are worse ways to spend a half-hour.
NBC, tonight at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time.
Bill Lawrence, executive producer and creator. Produced by Touchstone Television.
WITH: Zach Braff (J. D.), Donald Faison (Turk), Sarah Chalke (Elliot Reid), Ken Jenkins (Dr. Bob Kelso), John C. McGinley (Dr. Perry Cox), Judy Reyes (Nurse Carla Espinosa) and Neil Flynn (the janitor).
To watch some clips of Scrubs go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=scrubs+tv+show+episodes
For more on Scrubs go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrubs_(TV_series)
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20100601055528/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/scrubs.html
For the Donald Faison Fan Club go to http://www.fanpop.com/spots/donald-faison
For an article on Scrubs go to https://tv.avclub.com/scrubs-was-goofy-profound-and-a-key-link-in-the-evolu-1798252849
For some Scrubs-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/scrubs
For a review of Scrubs go to https://www.popmatters.com/scrubs-2496225244.html
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBz1vvlkzSw and for the full theme song go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKksHmgqFi0
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