Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Scrubs" Retooled Continuation Review

I had been torn ever since I heard that ABC was doing a Scrubs reboot. After a solid eighth season – and tremendous “series finale” – on the Alphabet net this past spring, half of me was terrified of an impending After MASH or Joey spinoff situation, but the half was just happy to have J.D. and the Sacred Heart gang in the world again no matter the circumstance.

I have been a Scrubs fan since the first night it aired and have written extensively about the show throughout the years. To quickly recap, it was always one of those shows that flew under everyone’s radar because NBC never truly cared about it (because it was produced by ABC Studios) The series was shuffled around the Peacock’s lineup so many times it could never gain any real traction and was on the cancelation bubble every spring. Somehow it always survived and when the show’s producers (led by Bill Lawrence) realized that they were forever going to be treated as the red-headed step child of the network, they stopped trying to make a NBC-type show and just started to do whatever they wanted in Season 5 (I’ll be the first to admit that the series dipped for a while).

After the seventh season, NBC didn’t cancel Scrubs but just decided not to pick it up again thereby basically making the series a free agent to any other interested networks. ABC (where it should have been all along) agreed to give the show a limited eighth season run so it could have a proper send-off.

But a funny thing happened during that limited run: being backed by a supportive network, Scrubs suddenly started pulling in decent ratings for ABC so they wanted to see if they could milk a potential cash cow for all it was worth and keep the show going into a ninth season.

This was only a little awkward because series lead Zach Braff had already announced that he was ready to move on and they had already filmed the show’s series finale (which aired this past May) so to keep the show going, there would have to be some re-tooling (a major red flag word in the TV industry).

John C. McGinley (Dr. Cox) and Donald Faison (Turk) signed on to reprise their roles for the... what is it even called? Spinoff? Retooled continuation? and Braff agreed to appear in six episodes to ease the transition from old to new. The new premise would center around Dr. Cox and Turk leaving their plum positions at Sacred Heart hospital to teach med students.

This just felt like a train wreck waiting to happen.

The moment of truth came finally came Tuesday night. I had to record the first two episodes of the Scrubs retooled continuation because I was at the Nuggets game downtown, but breathed a sigh of relief when I got the following text message from my buddy Gray who was watching the new incarnation live:

“LOVE this so far! It’s Scrubs meets (new NBC hit comedy) Community.”

I had to agree with Gray when I finally got home and watched the first two eps on the DVR. It was nothing groundbreaking but it did find a way to feel fresh and unique while at the same time familiar and comfortable.

I’m not going to pass any judgments on the new cast members because they’re in a terribly unfair position. We’re going to automatically try to compare them to J.D., Elliot, Carla, and the Janitor but you can’t do that. You have to let their characters grow naturally just like we did with the original cast.

My only gripe: I get that the show needed a change of scenery to continue but my brain just could not accept Perry and Turk leaving such prestigious (and well-paying careers) to bother teaching new newbies at a medical school.

The best part of this experiment is that this didn’t necessarily feel like a one season-and-done situation for Scrubs on ABC. Hopefully the new cast will step up as Braff fades out and if that happens, it could enjoy a healthy extended run under the Scrubs name as a new series.

If NOTHING else, I’m just happy to finally have something decent to watch on Tuesday nights.

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