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?