By: Aleks Chan
2009 was predetermined to be the year of change: Jay Leno will take over five hours of NBC programming this fall, PUSHING DAISIES will airs its final episode, and SCRUBS, the long-running medical comedy moves from its home of seven years at NBC to ABC. (Though at its core, SCRUBS was always an ABC show, seeing how the alphabet net’s ABC Studios produced it.) It was also announced last year that this eighth season would be Zac Braff’s final year, if there even is one after this.
Creator Bill Lawrence acknowledges this looming fate by helming a pseudo-creative renaissance for SCRUBS, which returns with two back-to-back episodes that manage to encapsulate the series’ breadth for juxtaposing irreverent humor with affecting emotional moments. It’s like a nostalgic retread for the auteur, one that’s completely aware of its age and doggedness: inner-monologuing and star doc J.D. (Braff) sports a ragged beard, lines growing thick and deep under his eyes. In a quieter moment with his longtime mentor/hero Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley), he airs how he’s weary of his work: “I’m just tired of it all.” Dr. Cox, with no contest, concedes the remark.
Tired, but willing to send itself off on in a way that appreciates its work rather than lament it. Lawrence, in a brief letter attached to the review screeners, said that he wanted to get back to how the show was in its initial seasons: charming, light, and soundingly effective in delivering morsels of heart and ease – and it largely lives up to this, including an inspired daydream bit where J.D. explains to best friend Turk (Donald Faison) how wants to be stuffed when he dies.
The premiere is screwy, introducing Courtney Cox’s character Dr. Maddox, the new Chief of Medicine, whom J.D. describes as “an odd combination of super-friendly, and soulless.” All this while she attempts to smother a patient with a pillow, sharing how she just tried windsurfing for the first time with a smile. (Cox is only signed on for four episodes, which is too bad – she seems so much more comfortable here than she was on FX’s short-lived DIRT.)
ABC will be double-pumping episodes for the remainder of its run – putting it up against THE MENTALIST (the season’s only hit) and FRINGE. (Also PRIVILEGED, but The CW isn’t much of a ratings threat.) I’d say go ahead and watch SCRUBS’ swan song: it may not be in the same vein as its NBC stepsisters, but it is consistent, completely in control of its zaniness – the goofy kid of sitcoms with a big heart.
SCRUBS airs Tuesdays at 9PM & 9:30PM (est) on ABC