The Laughs Are Back as MUST SEE TV returns
There was a time when Thursday night TV meant only one thing: NBC’s Must-See line-up, which featured such powerhouse hits as SEINFELD and THE COSBY SHOW. But somewhere along the line, things took a very unfunny turn as the classic sitcoms faded away and were replaced by dreck such as VERONICA’S CLOSET and THE SINGLE GUY. This Thursday, however, the network does its darndest to reclaim the night from such stiff competition as GREY’S ANATOMY and UGLY BETTY by presenting a two-hour comedy block filled with shows that are actually funny.
That’s right, for the first time in many years, NBC may once again claim (and truthfully, this time) that its Thursday night lineup — MY NAME IS EARL, THE OFFICE, SCRUBS and 30 ROCK — is Must-See TV.
And the only person happier about that than we are is SCRUB’s creator Bill Lawrence. “I love that we’re on Thursdays on NBC in the midst of the entire industry crapping on comedy,” he says. “We’re part of a night of four great comedies, and I think it’s cool to be there. Sure it’s our 150th time slot, but I’m psyched about it”.
While the show’s latest time slot puts the comedic docs up against the bed-hopping surgeons of GREY’S ANATOMY and CSI’s morgue squad, Lawrence isn’t complaining. “We used to wake up and look at the ratings for the first three years. But after six years in this creepy deserted hospital, the networks are down to ten live-action comedies. Frankly, I’m surprised and happy that we still have jobs.”
Star Zach Braff is more than ready to see his alter ego take on McDreamy and company. “No matter where they move us — Saturday before cartoons or Sunday after the preacher — we’re always going to have the same loyal core audience,” he says.
Those fans needn’t worry that the recent baby-to-be boom which found three (count ‘em… three!) characters pregnant at the same time will result in the show morphing into a hospital-bound version of FULL HOUSE. “In the beginning,” explains Lawrence, “we really were going to have two characters be pregnant. But then my wife [Crista Miller, who plays Jordan] got pregnant, so we said ‘Screw it, we’ll have three babies.’” But don’t expect the show to suddenly focus on the hospital’s maternity. “People say kids always change a show, but on EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, I think I saw those kids eight times in seven years.”
Instead, expect to see more of the same… including the return of such popular past guest stars as Tom Cavanaugh, Freddie Rodriguez, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Weston and Cheryl Hines. Lawrence would also love to see Scott Foley return to throw a monkey wrench into the love life of Sarah Chalke’s Dr. Reid. And don’t be surprised if Masi Oka — better known as the aptly named time-travelling Hiro on a little show you may have heard of called HEROES — slips back into the lab coat he wore as SCRUBS’ lab tech, Franklyn.
One thing Lawrence says fans shouldn’t look for is a revolving door of big-name stars. “Stunt casting is a sham,” he declares, citing one of his own network’s past hits as an example. “This week on WILL & GRACE: Osama Bin Laden! The [networks] feel that when they have a ‘name’ they have to promote it with a thousand commercials,” he explains. “I think the reality is that people would watch the show if they just ran the thousand commercials without touting Special Guest Star Carrot Top.”
In the end, neither Lawrence nor Braff have any delusions about taking down the competition, insisting that attracting a new audience isn’t their number-one priority. “We pretty much make the show for ourselves and for our fans,” Braff concludes. “Bill could very easily write more sex or love triangles, and the ratings might go up. But it’s really about staying true to the vision, not catering to what everybody wants.” But should the network suddenly apply pressure to make the show a bit more like its rival, the actor has a very ANATOMY-like triangle in mind. “J.D., the lawyer and the janitor,” he says with a smile. “Stay tuned!”
Be sure to check back all this week as theTVaddict.com celebrates the return of TV’s best comedy. Tuesday — Thursday will feature more questions and answers with creator Bill Lawrence and star Zach Braff.