Monday, November 30, 2009

Reviewing the revamped 'Scrubs' - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I look at the new season of "Scrubs":
You can look at the new season of "Scrubs" either as a continuation of the series that aired its alleged finale last spring, or as a spin-off with the same name and many of the same faces.

I prefer the latter view, and not just because creator Bill Lawrence lost a fight with ABC to rename the show "Scrubs Med" to clearly delineate between the two. If we treat the new season - which relocates Sacred Heart Hospital to its nearby medical school campus - as a separate show, then we don't have to take anything away from the resurgent final season, or from the funny and poignant finale. Nor do we have to worry about the new incarnation threatening the legacy of the original show, any more than "AfterM*A*S*H" or "The Golden Palace" sullied the reputations of "M*A*S*H" and "Golden Girls."

Which isn't to say that "Scrubs Med" (whether ABC calls it that or not) is an abomination on the level of either of those shows. It's a solid little comedy, in which "Scrubs" fans can recognize the spirit of the show they loved, even if it's not "Scrubs" at its best.
You can read the full "Scrubs" review here. I'll have a post tomorrow night on the first two episodes.

32 comments:

purpletoonlink said...

I'm comfortable with everything about this show - except Zach Braff's return. I understand the reasoning behind using JD to morph one show into another, but I just don't think it's necessary. Turk and Cox are both fan favourite characters, I think they could have done the job on their own.

Ben said...

I would have accepted this show if Lawrence had succeeded in changing the name of the show.

But the fact is it may be Scrubs: Med or Scrubs 2.0, it isn't actually 'Scrubs'. That ended last season and it ended well and on a good note.

Marc said...

According to the NYtimes, Bill Lawrence won the battle and "Medical School" will appear after SCRUBS on the title card

Billiam said...

I generally have enjoyed the non-Braff narrations better than you have (the original His Story, featuring Dr. Cox, is a personal favorite episode of mine). So I'm hoping I will also enjoy the new show a tad bit more than you, though it is weird to have it back at all.

On a related note, I really liked the Scrubs promo that spoofs V, but am unable to find it on youtube (also, it's really hard to search for anything to do with "V," since the title consists of a single letter).

Anonymous said...

Judy Reyes won't appear on the show because she wanted to be a regular, not just an occasional guest. Lawrence said he couldn't figure out a way to have a nurse at a med school. This from a guy who kept Ken Jenkins in the final year of Scrubs by making him "the guy who hangs around the coffee shop because he likes the muffins."

In other words you can find a way when you want to, you just chose not to this time.

Christian said...

@Billiam Somebody just uploaded the Scrubs-V spoof to youtube. It's not a very good quality since it's filmed off a TV screen, but better than nothing, I guess:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBD-bplRAyw

Alan Sepinwall said...

In other words you can find a way when you want to, you just chose not to this time.

Or, more likely, there wasn't enough money in the budget to bring back three regulars full time plus Braff part time, and Bill is being diplomatic about why he chose the ones he did. ABC agreed to another year in large part because the revamp would bringcosts way down.

Mark said...

This is more of a technical question, but I'm curious to know the answer. One of the main reasons for renewing Scrubs is the syndication money. If the show is re-named, or is considered a spin-off, would these new episodes no longer be included in the syndication package?

Alan Sepinwall said...

One of the main reasons for renewing Scrubs is the syndication money.

It really isn't, though. They produced nearly 170 episodes over the last eight seasons, which is nearly twice what you need for a syndication package. Except in rare cases (like The Simpsons) where a show is such a syndication monster that the stations will keep paying and paying for extra episodes, you reach a point where more shows doesn't really add much to that part of the equation.

The real reason Lawrence wanted to bring Scrubs back was because he wanted to keep as much of the crew employed as possible in what's a down economy in general and not a great market for comedies in particular.

Christian said...

Plus, as far as I know the single reason why Zach Braff is in the first 6 episodes, besides him probably being the most expensive, is, that this was the most important condition for ABC to renew the show.

Anonymous said...

"The real reason Lawrence wanted to bring Scrubs back was because he wanted to keep as much of the crew employed as possible.."

This reasoning gave us 8 seasons of According to Jim.

There has actually been an increase in sitcoms on the air this season.

alynch said...

Or, more likely, there wasn't enough money in the budget to bring back three regulars full time plus Braff part time

I'm not sure that's true. They signed Faison, McGinley, and Neill Flynn to conditional contracts where they'd be back full time if their pilots weren't picked up, so he was definitely prepared to bring along as many as three regulars.

As for this show, I have no qualms about it still be Scrubs. Having the show continue on in no way changes the episodes from last season. They still exist. People harp too much about "legacy."

Alan Sepinwall said...

This reasoning gave us 8 seasons of According to Jim.

And, of course, the previous 8 seasons of "Scrubs" are in so many ways comparable in quality to those 8 seasons of "According to Jim."

Alan Sepinwall said...

They signed Faison, McGinley, and Neill Flynn to conditional contracts where they'd be back full time if their pilots weren't picked up, so he was definitely prepared to bring along as many as three regulars.

But at that time, there wasn't any talk of Braff coming back at all. Braff made a lot of money under his old contract; even though he's doing half as many episodes as Faison and McGinley, he's still likely making enough coin that there wouldn't have been room in the budget for Flynn, or Reyes, or anyone else once it was agreed he would come back.

Christian said...

But I'm pretty sure they would have brought back Neil Flynn too if his new show hadn't been picked up.
While I'd love to see more Janitor on Scrubs, I must say that his new show "The Middle" actually is pretty funny too, so I can't complain.

alynch said...

But at that time, there wasn't any talk of Braff coming back at all.

You sure about that?

Alan Sepinwall said...

You sure about that?

Fairly. Yes, ABC/Scrubs did have Flynn signed to a contract for this season at the time Braff's return was announced, but that was only days before ABC unveiled a fall schedule that had The Middle on it. By that point in the process, I suspect they knew for sure that The Middle would be picked up, which meant Flynn's salary could be removed from the Scrubs budget, which allowed for Braff's return, etc., etc.

I have no inside information here. Looking at it from the outside, I would assume the chronology was more or less this:

1)Bill Lawrence decides he wants to do another season, and convinces ABC to let him try if he can give them a reduced budget, a fresh start, etc.

2)Bill has enough money in the smaller budget to bring back three regulars. McGinley is a natural, given how well Cox would fit in the new format, Faison had more or less become the show's co-lead in the later seasons, and Flynn was a great crutch for the writers. (If a scene wasn't working, they could always throw in the Janitor and tell Flynn to improvise.) All three deals were contingent on those actors' pilots not being picked up.

3)In the weeks leading up to the upfront, Faison and McGinley's shows were not picked up, while it became clear that Flynn's would be.

4)ABC agreed to a ninth season contingent on Zach Braff appearing for at least some of the episodes. Whatever money they were paying him eliminated the possibility of bringing back a third regular, whether it was Judy Reyes or somebody else.

The point being, I don't think there was ever a juncture in this plan where Reyes was going to be part of this cast as a regular, and any explanation Bill has given publicly is just his polite way of saying, "Judy wasn't as funny as the people we wanted to bring back ahead of her."

Anonymous said...

"Judy wasn't as funny as the people we wanted to bring back ahead of her."

There you go. You finally got there.

"Couldn't think of a reason for a nurse" was Bill's diplomatic response.

"Couldn't afford 3 old regulars and Braff" was your diplomatic response.

I would like "According to Scrubs" as the new name.

Craig Ranapia said...

I'm as glad as anyone that Scrubs: The Next Generation isn't a quantum singularity of suck... but, I still wish there wasn't the sour after-taste of pimping out a lot of good will attached to a "final season" of Scrubs 1.0 that marked a very serious return to form after a serious slump.

And I've got to agree with you that if they had to bring back JD, it would have been nice if they'd been imaginative enough not to regress him all the way back to needy man-child after putting so much effort into making him grow up into a (IMO) more interesting and less annoying character. It's bit like OCD Man-Ho Barney on HIMYM -- you can write and perform that in your sleep, and it seems like they do, but if you're going to the effort of developing and deeping a character you've got to stick it.

Ben said...

I am more intrigued about Zach Braff's return than the show for this reason; what other TV Star that was thought to be on the verge of movie fame and fortune stays on the small screen in such a manner.

My take - his window closed. The Garden State momentum faded and this is a way to keep his face in front of folks for now.

As for the show, Dr. Cox is one of my all-time fav characters so thrilled he remains. Just hoping the interns are interesting enough to care about...

Jim said...

I must confess that I'm not getting all the love for the last season of Scrubs. It's look was darker. By that I mean it looks like they used fewer lights to light the show.

I still found JD insufferable, but now he was insufferable with a child. (I have a colleague who hates it when a character has a kid and then the child is essentially neglected. See Rachel on Friends, Roz on Fraiser. He actually liked it when Mad About You had a kid and that changed how all the characters interacted. That was real to him).

I found most of the new interns to be unmemorable, the plots forgettable and overall, it was a subpar season. The staying with the dying guy seemed to be a rehash of the season 1 show about 1in three patients die. (To be fair, that's the problem when you do 170 shows. The plots get used up. See the Simpsons).

I didn't think the show redeemed itself, it just showed by NBC cancelled it.

Craig Ranapia said...

My take - his window closed. The Garden State momentum faded and this is a way to keep his face in front of folks for now.

Or a less cynical possibility is that he actually gets along with Bill Lawrence and the cast, the pitch was interesting, and six episodes hardly prevents him from taking on other work?

In the current environment (and with television not being seen as the bastard stepchild of 'real' acting in films or theatre like it used to), I can't imagine any sane actor passing on work without a good reason. And I've seen no evidence that Braff is that kind of crazy.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Or a less cynical possibility is that he actually gets along with Bill Lawrence and the cast, the pitch was interesting, and six episodes hardly prevents him from taking on other work?

Yes, this.

No, Braff's film career hasn't blown up the way some people assumed it would after Garden State, but he is good friends with all these people, it's guaranteed work, it won't put a huge crimp in his schedule, and there's not the TV stigma there used to be - particularly since it's him continuing with the show that made him famous in the first place.

Pamela Jaye said...
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Pamela Jaye said...
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Pamela Jaye said...

According to the NYtimes, Bill Lawrence won the battle and "Medical School" will appear after SCRUBS on the title card

which brings back the eternal question: is that other show actually titled House, or House MD.
I still think it's House. My brother says it's not. What is the source document that must contain the correct title?

Dave T said...

My take - his window closed. The Garden State momentum faded and this is a way to keep his face in front of folks for now.

He could have rejected the offer ... and then we'd be reading complaints about "oh, he made a movie and now he thinks he's TOO GOOD to come back to the show that put him on the map in the first place? What a bastard!" and the like.

Pamela Jaye said...

by the time the baby came along on Mad About You, all the fun cast was gone, Paul and Jamie had no friends left and were forcerd to hang out with Ira.
To be honest, by then *I* had basically stopped watching it.

Pamela Jaye said...

before I was distracted by Mad About You (and apparently my brain, like my clipboard, can only hold one thing) I was thinking about the episodes on the season 8 DVD which I finally got around to watching over the weekend. (3 eps, 2 commentaries)
It's fascinating to listen to Bill and Zach commenting on an ep, as Zach seems to know a lot more about what's going on than Bill does (which I find amusing, as Bill is the creator and show runner). I am, of course, chalking this up to Zach having written and directed (has Bill directed more than once? or ever?) but it's odd since Bill had at least one entire series before this one (even though I had never heard of him all the time I watched Spin City (which was "till it conflicted with something I wanted to see more"))

Anonymous said...

Is Jo (Eliza Coupe) still in this one?

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Is Jo (Eliza Coupe) still in this one?

She's the den mother to the new students.

Stav said...

Keeping the old name was bad news for TiVoer's. Dozens of Scrubs reruns every night. Makes it hard to find the one first-run ep.