Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Scrubs, "My ABC's" & "My Cookie Pants": Flash back to flash forward

Spoilers for last night's two episodes of "Scrubs" coming up just as soon as I give a spoken word performance of the theme to "Blossom"...

As I discussed yesterday, these were the last two original episodes to air until "Scrubs" moves to Wednesdays at 8 starting March 18. (Cue the Alanis as we discus the irony of ABC involving "Scrubs" in the same kind of scheduling shenanigans that everyone said they'd be free of once they left NBC.) And this was an odd -- but still good -- combination to go out on for a while.

A few months ago, the "Scrubs" producers sent me (and a few other critics) a couple of episodes from the new season to see how the back-to-basics approach was working. Those were "My Jerks" and "My Last Words," the first two episodes that aired this season, but which were originally produced as the third and fourth episodes. It's clear from both the producers' choices of which to send me, and of the networks' decision of which to air first, that everybody decided these were much stronger than the first one or two, which would be shelved and aired later.

And "My ABC's" was clearly written and produced as the originally-planned season premiere. They went back to add in a couple of more current continuity references (Elliot says she's dating JD, and claims that Katie isn't annoying anymore), but it's designed as an introduction to the interns, it explains why Kelso is still hanging around the hospital (which "My Jerks" didn't), and sets up various running gags (Katie is a backstabber, JD calls Denise "Jo" after the character from "Facts of Life") that we already saw introduced in "My Jerks."

So it was awkward to watch Elliot not realize that Katie was manipulating her when she's known for a while what a little conniver Katie is, or to have Denise react to the Jo nickname like it was the first time she'd heard it. Under different circumstances with regards to time and budget, maybe they'd have had time to fix more than just looping in a few of Sarah Chalke's lines -- maybe Katie convinces Elliot that she's changed, only to backslide again, or Denise points out that she's tiring of the nickname (which still leads into the "I like banging dudes" exchange, which was very funny) -- but I understand why they had to air it. After all, there are only 12 remaining episodes of "Scrubs" ever after this, plus they did go to all that trouble to get the "Sesame Street" Muppets. So it had to air, and the further away we got from the start of the season, the weirder it was going to be.

Elmo, Grover and friends translated well into the adult setting without losing their innate Muppet-ness. Yeah, Elmo was attracted to Denise, but not in a way that's going to destroy my ability to watch him with a straight face in the future. Oscar the Grouch seemed an apt partner for The Janitor, and Grover an appropriate victim for one of The Todd's over-exuberant high-fives (or high-fours, as the case may be).

"My ABC's" was also necessary, sort of, to set up the JD/Denise story in "My Cookie Pants." (The dead cancer patient story could have been JD describing a case we never saw, I suppose.) The second episode was another example of how scaling down the wackiness and letting the characters be human again has really benefited the show this year. JD and Elliot seemed like a real couple, which made some of the silliness (JD scarfing down all 12 cookies, Elliot pumping Turk for suggestions on how to satisfy JD) stand out better. And I don't know that the JD of seasons 6 or 7 would have been able to carry a straight dramatic scene like JD and Denise's heart-to-heart.

I have only one complaint about the second show (which also featured a Tina Two-Kids reference and the very promising prospect of a Kelso/Cox friendship): "endoscopy" is pronounced "end-ah-scup-ee," not "end-oh-scope-ee," and it drove me nuts when they used the second pronunciation every single time. For a show that prides itself on how much it consults with real doctors, they have one of these bizarre pronunciations every couple of seasons. Could their medical consultant be punking them?

What did everybody else think?

69 comments:

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, I'm loving the outtakes. Watching Neil Flynn riff was great.

bsangs said...

Enjoyed both episodes very much. And like you mentioned, the "banging dudes" line was hysterical. We rewound a couple times to hear it again. I think "Jo" has a lot of potential. And Elmo cuddling up to her, ahem, anatomy was worth it alone! Also Turk's reaction when he realized he knew EXACTLY what JD's ultimate sex fantasy would be - just fantastic.

Not that any of it matters. This stupid decision by ABC to basically pull an NBC -- shelving the show for more than a month, then move it to a new timeslot -- is probably the death knell. Too bad. I really feel like the creativity, humor and storytelling is back and that maybe it could have continued past this season.

Lane said...

I really liked the tone of these two episodes (and the one where the cancer patient died), and I have hope for the new interns if they decide to keep the show next year without Braff, if they keep Cox, Kelso, and most of the other regulars around.

I don't think people who may be coming to the show now if they hadn't watched it on NBC or hadn't watched it in a long time would "get" the show now.

Also, we all need to incorporate Zwa! into our daily repetoire, and Ed is a hilarious addition.
(I refuse to use "an" for words that start with H - like hilarious and historic... sorry if it's wrong, English majors)

Alan Sepinwall said...

This stupid decision by ABC to basically pull an NBC -- shelving the show for more than a month, then move it to a new timeslot -- is probably the death knell.

Here's the thing: the show was basically dead. ABC brought it back to life to give it a proper farewell. For a while, they were discussing this explicitly as the final season, and it wasn't until after the upfront that anyone even suggested the show could run for more than a year on ABC. And even then, Zach Braff is definitely leaving. Bill Lawrence is definitely leaving. No one else is under contract, and Aziz Ansari is already committed to the Amy Poehler show on NBC.

The chances of the show returning at all were extremely slim even before ABC decided to move it to Wednesdays, and if it does return, it could be unrecognizable.

So while I can understand being annoyed with what ABC is doing here, schedule-wise, you can't really call it a "death knell," given that this entire season is about the show living on borrowed time.

Bobman said...

As I erroneously mentioned in the other thread, I LOVED the "dream sequence" (or whatever we call JD's fantasies) where "Jo"/Denise did the muppet dance along with Elmo. She is definitely my favorite new character.

Also, agreed about the mini gag reels. How everyone works around Neil Flynn without breaking into laughter all the time is amazing. (Also, Neil Flynn is TALL. He was standing next to Cox and seemed like he had a good 18 inches on the guy.)

amitytv said...

Alan, it felt like you weren't as happy with these episodes as the first set, and if that is the case, I have to disagree with you. I thought they were just as good, in fact, there were at least half a dozen points in each episode where we laughed so hard we had to back it up so we could watch it again.
The cancer patient JD was refering to in Cookie Pants was the father that died in My ABC's which Jo was supposed to get the DNR for.
Also, since I didn't know these episodes were out of order, I didn't notice any of the stuff you pointed out. They felt like natural progressions to me.
I really liked these two. Oh, and I especially liked JD getting to have the last word with Cox for once!

bsangs said...

Fair enough (re: the death knell comment).

But to start the old switcheroo so quickly on the heels of hearing/reading all this, "We're going to treat Scrubs much better than NBC" bs is annoying.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, it felt like you weren't as happy with these episodes as the first set,

No, I liked them -- the second one in particular. It was just very distracting in "My ABC's" to see things like JD acting surprised by Denise's insensitivity and masculine tendencies when that was such a big part of the first few episodes.

Bryan said...

Overall I thought the shows were pretty decent as well- I especially liked the second one - but ABC being out of sequence really annoyed me. I understand the show is pretty much dead already but it doesn't make sense to me. If your convinced the show is already gone why worry so much about showing your first strongest episodes first? A

lso they did the same thing at the end of the season last year when they forced Kelso to retire in the second to last episode and then he was back in the last episode. Never did hear an explanation for that one.

Ben said...

As a loyal Scrubs fan, I have to say I didn't catch the fact the episodes were out of order.

I guess when JD was "surprised" that Jo was insensitive, I just took it that it was an ongoing surprise, similar to Dr. Cox being miffed at everything JD and Elliott did when they were interns.

Haven't we all been shocked when someone we know says or does something something that was shocking even if you already knew they already had a predisposition to act in such a way?

Also, I took it that the docs had a few weeks to get to know the kids and based on that, they officially decided who to pick.

Anyway, good episodes and I love the blog Alan.

Anonymous said...

Since no one else has reacted to this, I'll just say that the 'endoscopy' pronunciation drove me nuts, too -- every single time. In fact, I meant to look it up this morning to see if I (and everyone I've ever heard say it) has been wrong all these years. But nah, your backup is good enough for me, Alan.

Enjoyed both episodes, though.

Bryan said...

Maybe their medical consultant is Dr. Spaceman (dee-a-bee-tees?)

David said...

I am disappointed. I enjoyed the episodes, and thought they were just as good as the two they chose to run first. I would have been even happier if they'd shown them in order. Did they learn nothing from the fantasy episode last year? It's even more noticeable on re-watching, too. But, overall, I'm glad it's back and will take it in this form over nothing.

Jordan said...

I've really enjoyed these episodes. I loved the penny in the door callback. Cox's reason for hating Ed was the kind of thing we'd see in the first couple seasons, but not since. Also, anything involving Jo/Denise is hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Who is the actress playing Denise, and where else have I seen her recently?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, it felt like you weren't as happy with these episodes as the first set,

Her name is Eliza Coupe. You can look her up on IMDb. The one thing I know her from is something that never aired: HBO's "12 Miles of Bad Road," in which she was one of the few reasons I kept watching.

Alan Sepinwall said...

To clarify, I believe only "My ABC's" was shown out of order. "My Cookie Pants" clearly takes place after Dr. Maddox was ousted as chief of medicine.

If I'm remembering the initial numbering on "My Jerks" and "My Last Words" correctly, then we may still have one unaired, out-of-order episode left to go. But there also won't be enough weeks remaining in the season when the show moves to Wednesday to air them all (unless "Better Off Ted" is pulled quickly and ABC goes back to the double-headers), so we may or may not get around to airing that one in season.

I smell a DVD bonus feature...

Jim said...

Jo/Denise would've been a great recurring character if they had thought her up a while back. Katie is annoying whether she's being a manipulative junior Elliot or a hypocritical wussgirl. Don't like that character. Ed rocks.

Rick said...

I thought next week, at least, would be original episodes - or so that's what my DVR tells me, anyway. That would solve the enough-weeks-in-the-season problem, would it not?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I thought next week, at least, would be original episodes - or so that's what my DVR tells me, anyway. That would solve the enough-weeks-in-the-season problem, would it not?

I was told otherwise by ABC. The TV listings services may not have been given the new info at this point. But the current plan is to just rerun these six episodes (ABC doesn't have the broadcast rights to any of the NBC seasons), then return with new ones in late March.

Granola Mom said...

Besides the weird issues that momentarily made me think I had already seen the first episode, I really liked these two.

I am actually really starting to like JD again. And I'm loving "Jo"!

dez said...

Yeah, Elmo was attracted to Denise, but not in a way that's going to destroy my ability to watch him with a straight face in the future.

I normally can't stand Elmo, but I liked him here. First time I didn't want to punch the little red bastige in the face. Loved seeing Grover and Oscar, too.

I'm another one who didn't notice that "My Jerks" was out of order. Some "Scrubs" fan I am! Loved both eps, though, especially Jo/Denise's "I like banging dudes" line and Turk the Cookie Monster.

LA said...

I *thought* My ABCs felt like a season opener! Clever that they named their season opener after their new network.

I've had the pleasure of seeing Flynn's improv show, and the man stands a good 6'5" if not 6'6". I'm loving the outtakes running with the credits.

I loved both episodes and will follow Scrubs whenever it's aired, medical mispronunciations and all.

Amy said...

Who is the actress playing Denise, and where else have I seen her recently?

She was also on Flight of the Conchords as Bret's pastry chef-slash-sniper girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone catch the song JD played briefly on his step piano? I couldn't make it out, but am guessing it was either the beginning of Superman by Lazlo Bane or ABC's network jingle. Something along those lines.

Omagus said...

I thought that "My ABCs" felt a little bit anachronistic but not to the point where I thought that it was obviously the season opener. Possibly because "My Jerks" did so many things right to feel like a season opener.

And show of hands: how many other guys have a strange attraction to Denise/Jo? C'mon...I can't be the only one.

Pamela Jaye said...

was that just last night? I had to actually look to say what day it is.

I don't remember much, but re:the endoscopy, remember JD's annoying mispronunciation of porphyria? any self respecting House fan would have noticed that one. And LA noted that Scrubs had previously used porphyria and got it right the first time...

perhaps the out of orderness is why something seemed odd last night. i don't remember a lot. i'll check when my brother watches them (cause I don't think Dennis will notice)

I remember saying Oh! about the muffins but I still don't know the why of the lifetime supply. Did I miss it?

Also, where in season 7 should My Princess have fallen? I like things in order, even if the etworks don't (my first season House homemade DVDs are in production number order)

Anonymous said...

Alan, is it possible ABC is running one new episode Tues at 9pm, followed by a rerun? That way they will finish the current run sometime in nearly May

Zack Smith said...

At the start of the second episode, did anyone else think for a second it was going to be the Cookie Monster going after Elliot and JD's cookies?

Enjoyable, but I wish they'd show the episodes in order (they did a similar thing a few years back on NBC, where Dr. Cox's hair went up and down for a few eps). Also, I feel bad for Bill Lawrence, seeing the finale delayed AGAIN. The poor man's head must look like SCANNERS by now.

Bobman said...

And show of hands: how many other guys have a strange attraction to Denise/Jo? C'mon...I can't be the only one.

:Raises hand:

And the good news is, given her proclivity for the chubbies, I could give up all this diet and exercise nonsense!

Mark B said...

Also, we all need to incorporate Zwa! into our daily repetoire.

Oh, we assuredly do NOT.

the song JD played briefly on his step piano?

I couldn't make it out either, but the closed captioning said it was "I'm No Superman."

And show of hands: how many other guys have a strange attraction to Denise/Jo? C'mon...I can't be the only one.

It's mostly because she doesn't look like everyone else on TV.

T-Boz said...

Also, where in season 7 should My Princess have fallen?

As episode 9, between My Manhood and My Dumb Luck.

In other news, the outtakes are awesome, and although there were a few things jarring about the continuity issues, that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the show. Kelso continues to rock, even in his retirement.

Also, re: the lifetime supply, I thought it had something to do with correctly guessing the number of something in something (like coffee beans in a jar), but I could be way off.

dave s said...

Okay, I've watched the scene over and over because Denise & JD dancing with Elmo is the funniest thing I've seen on TV in a long while, but I can't make out the last sentence Elmo says. Can anyone help?

By the way, loved both of these episodes, and continue to be pleased by the high level my once-beloved show gets to go out on.

MCB said...

Phew! I'm not crazy! I suspected the episodes were a bit out of order. "My ABCs" definitely felt like a rewind on the character arcs we've seen for the interns. Turk and JD's emphatic nodding when their patient likened Jo/Denise to the Devil in "My Last Words" made it seem like her quirky brand of evil was well-known, so it puzzled me to see JD acting so shocked at her callousness. Glad to know I wasn't imagining things!

Overall, two strong episodes, though. I'm really enjoying this season. I can't believe we're back on Scrubs hiatus until March! (Oh well, at least Chuck returns next week.)

Kensington said...

I had to consult the captioning to understand Elmo's last line during the dance fantasy. JD tells Elmo to cool it on snuggling up to Denise, and Elmo says "What? She your woman?"

Hilarious! And as for being strangely attracted to Denise, count me in! At this point, I think I'll miss her the most when Scrubs ends.

Anonymous said...

"And show of hands: how many other guys have a strange attraction to Denise/Jo? C'mon...I can't be the only one."

Yes, but why is this strange?

Kensington said...

"Yes, but why is this strange?"

It's only strange because she's kind of mean. That shouldn't be attractive, but it is.

Anonymous said...

The ABC website shows new episodes airing next Tuesday. Did they change their minds again? Or is that an internal goof?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Again, TV listings -- even internal listings -- tend to be slow at catching up to this stuff.

If it turns out that ABC changed its mind (or recalculated the math), I'll post something on the blog about it, but everything I've been told is that we don't get another new episode until the move to Wednesdays.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know who did the excellent cover of the Sesame Street theme?

Brian said...

1. Joshua Radin did the Sesame Street thing

2. The Tina Two Kids call back was genius. The penny was more obvious, but still awesome.

3. I love the outtakes.

4. The piano was Superman. I caught it when we rewatched it this morning. I love when my wife falls asleep and I get to watch again. :)

Jim said...

It's only strange because she's kind of mean. That shouldn't be attractive, but it is.

Like Jordan?

jcpdiesel21 said...

I'm a regular Scrubs viewer, but what is Tina Two-Kids? I don't remember it from a previous episode.

Pamela Jaye said...

I loved the penny in the door callback.

Me too. I thought of it right before he said it.

Alan - someday when we're bored can we do Best Callbacks (or Dropping The Other Shoe 5 Seasons Later - Buffy had a real winner)?

Omagus said...

It's only strange because she's kind of mean. That shouldn't be attractive, but it is.

Like Jordan?
--

Yeah, but I'm not attracted to Jordan.

Aaron said...

Alan, was flipping through Wikipedia and stumbled across a Scrubs article you had written in 2003 about Neil Flynn. NJ.com doesn't seem to have it anymore, any chance of reposting it?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Okay, I have it on relatively good authority that the only episodes that got switched around were "My ABC's" and "My Jerks." "My Last Words" was always going to be the second episode.

Anonymous said...

Having things out of order was really annoying. By the end of Tuesday's first episode, I was so thoroughly sick of the new interns that I was debating not watching the rest of the season. Now that I know that was intended to be their introduction it's a little more reasonable.

That said, I did start to enjoy Jo a little more in the second ep. She seems the least annoying of the three of them.

Lane said...

Zwa!

Anonymous said...

I haven't read any of this, but has anyone noticed that the picture on Denise's badge is a dude?

Anonymous said...

My DVR shows 4 new episodes for the next two weeks, complete with titles and descriptions. Given the annoucement, two weeks of shows is unlikely so my guess is they just haven't updated it yet.

Mads said...

Thank you, Scrubs, for getting the Sesame Street theme song stuck in my head.

Sunny day, everything is A'ok...

Jennifer J. said...

I get endoscopies regularly (as I have GERD) so the mispronunciation was really throwing me and my husband. Plus, it's not *that* painful...unless you don't follow instructions well.

Anonymous said...

mabye, when ABC re-airs the episodes, they will do so in the intended order?

Also, I'm loving the new interns. You can see a Wire-esque (although I know they weren't the first to go with the idea) circle of life thing playing out. Ed is Turk, Katie is Elliot, but Denise is the exact opposite of JD - both good doctors just emotionally opposite.

I'm really loving Ed and Denise.

Matthew L said...

I have it on relatively good authority that the only episodes that got switched around were "My ABC's" and "My Jerks." "My Last Words" was always going to be the second episode.

How would that work? Wasn't Courtney Cox introduced in My Jerks, and then present in My Last Words?

The other obvious indication Mt ABC's was the season opener - the episode title. Having the first episode to air on ABC being called "My ABCs", as well as the use of the characters from the alphabet-oriented Sesame Street works well as the first episode on the alphabet network.

The use of the Sesame Street characters worked really well - they even made Elmo adoraable rather than the abhomination he usually is.

Anonymous said...

The voiceovers on the show would make it easier to re-order episodes, I imagine.

Anonymous said...

I've had several endoscopies over the past couple of years. My hospital does it under general anesthesia - which is a good answer for the "I don't want my patient to suffer under a painful procedure."

Anonymous said...

I have to second the question about Tina Two-kids. Don't remember that reference. Anyone?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Tina Two-Kids was one of a long list of nicknames for JD's ex-girlfriends that Turk rattled off sometime in season five. Others included Gift Shop Girl (Sarah Lancaster), Mole Butt (Elliot) and, my favorite, Rumple-Fugly.

Alan Sepinwall said...

How would that work? Wasn't Courtney Cox introduced in My Jerks, and then present in My Last Words?

They knew that Dr. Maddox was going to be stunt-cast, but not who they could get, and because of the long lead time in production, they were able to shoot most of the rest of the season before doubling back to film anything with Maddox in it. So by the time it was decided to air "My Jerks" first, they had the ability to go back and plug a Maddox scene into "My Last Words."

Brian said...

Tina Two Kids is from Her Story II when the staff does an intervention to help JD not screw things up with Julie (That's so funny).

Turk: Lets go over some of the great women you let get away; Kylie, Jamie, Gift Shop girl, Minnie Mc Skinny, Mole Butt, Tina Two Kids, Rumple Fugly... I feel like I'm forgetting one... Heidi Horseface!"

Matthew L said...

They knew that Dr. Maddox was going to be stunt-cast, but not who they could get, and because of the long lead time in production, they were able to shoot most of the rest of the season before doubling back to film anything with Maddox in it. So by the time it was decided to air "My Jerks" first, they had the ability to go back and plug a Maddox scene into "My Last Words."

Interesting. Thanks for that.

Pamela Jaye said...

Alan, they didn't tell the promo runnners either - i just saw an ad for Scrubs next Tuesday
during Grey's

Pamela Jaye said...

PS - thanks T-Boz

Anonymous said...

About Elmo's appearance: Can't really make out two lines he's saying. One's already been posted here ("What? She your woman?"). And the other one starts with "Elmos knows(?)..." and ends "...we can get through this."

By the way, loved that scene and the "banging dudes" line, too. :) Denise is a bitch, but I kinda like her.

Mac

Edward Copeland said...

I didn't realize they were holding new episodes until the move but on the plus side for me, when Reaper finally returns in March, it and Scrubs won't be opposite each other on the same night.

Pamela Jaye said...

there's an update in a more recent post - more Scrubs on Tuesdays, double header, for this week and next.

Anonymous said...


About Elmo's appearance: Can't really make out two lines he's saying. [...] And the other one starts with "Elmos knows(?)..." and ends "...we can get through this."


Can anybody tell me, what exactly Elmo's saying there. It seems this sentence has not been referred to in recent comments (in case you, Pamela Jaye, were addressing my post).

Cheers,
Mac

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I got it. :)
"Elmo knows that together we can get through this."

Mac