The hotel's bandwidth is just good enough that I was able to Slingbox tonight's "Scrubs," which I thought continued the show's recent creative upswing - and was the first episode to do so while featuring Zach Braff. (It was also the last Braff episode of the season.) Rather than do a review, though, after the jump I'm going to run some quotes from an interview I did with "Scrubs" creator Bill Lawrence this afternoon at press tour.
Bill said there's still a chance, albeit not a great one, that the show could come back next season. ABC owns it, and it's a known quantity, and there's a chance an episode or two might get to air on Wednesday at 8 (alongside "The Middle," "Modern Family" and Bill's "Cougar Town," all of which were renewed for next season today) before the season is out.
But whether or not the show comes back, he acknowledged there were some creative missteps early this season, specifically in the way that he and his writers handled JD, and in the way the character wound up overshadowing the newbies. I asked if things might have gone differently had they kept JD out of the first few episodes to get more time to establish Drew, Lucy and Cole, but he said that wasn't possible.
"It wasn't a decision that was made creatively," he said. "I think even Zach, in a different world, as a producer with me and a guy who was helping me out a lot, would have approached it differently creatively. I'm not even disagreeing with the business of it. I know ABC's going to sell these episodes as, 'These are Scrubs! They've got Zach Braff in 'em!' My mistake was that I didn't view this as one continual show. I didn't think that people would go, 'Oh, he's regressed! This is so upsetting!' I was really believing my own mindset: 'This is new! This is new! This is new!' The stuff he was doing was the stuff that always made me laugh. But taking a step back, reading what you were saying, I could see, as a viewer it might disappoint me as well. But it didn't disappoint me when the gang from 'Cheers' showed up on 'Frasier' and they were doing old jokes, even though in the finale of 'Cheers' they had moved past their old gags."
And because, in Bill's mind, this was a new show and not a continuation of the series he brought to an end with "My Finale" last spring, some of the creative decisions - like doing multiple storylines where other characters told Denise she needed to soften and open up more to others - were made as if it were season one of "Scrubs Med School" and not season nine of "Scrubs."
"Maybe one of the mistakes of treating this as a new show is that I've always had a belief that in the first year of a new show, you drill home what somebody's about," he said. "You do the pilot over and over. You're not trying to be repetitive, but whether it was 'Scrubs' or 'Spin City' or whatever, you think you have to come out of those first 15 or 20 episodes with people going, 'I know this is the character who is too cold and impersonal. I know this is the character who has burned out before and is fighting to not get in his own way.' Because if people don't, then you can't really start the development. To me, the second year is when you go, 'Now that we know we have a chance to be on for a couple of years, how do we take baby steps?' It's like 'Cougar Town,' now that we've been picked up for next year, how is Bobby the ex-husband - he can't veer off into a dumber and dumber character or he'll be unsalvageable. How do we take steps so he's more of a responsible person without taking away his hillbilly logic that cracks me up so much?"
Whatever you call the series these days, Bill feels - and based on what we've seen the last few weeks, I'm inclined to agree - that "the show gets more and more solid as it goes on. I think if the show did go forward, I can guarantee it would be better, because I know what's working and what has to be fixed. And that's almost the same arc for any show for me. I feel like 'Cougar Town,' we started to find it after five or six episodes. And on the original 'Scrubs,' I felt the same thing. And here I'm finding things I'm starting to enjoy. I really enjoy that Mike Mosley, and I say, 'Hey, even though the show's been on for nine years, we've found a character we haven't done before that we as writers are responding to.' And Eliza Coupe, that's a type of girl I haven't seen a lot of on TV before: not cookie-cutter, but still strong. Once you focus on stuff like that, the people that need to grow and get stronger will."
Finally, I asked him whether, given the low ratings and improbability of another year, he had written a second conclusion for the series, or if he was satisfied with "My Finale."
"No, no, no. This show has no finale. This show to me is a brand-new, 13-episode order of a series that actually got on TV, which puts me ahead of 99 percent of the people. And if it has a chance to move forward, the writers will get together and we'll say, 'We found the things people don't like, and the things they do, so how do we move forward?' At the end of the year, some characters are well-rounded, some need more work. I like Johnny C. and Donald as anchors in the patrician roles, and I like Ken Jenkins floating back through there almost in the way The Janitor used to. I think I could write an interesting show. I don't know if we'll get a shot or not. The only thing that bugs me is when people go, 'Oh, you've killed the legacy of Scrubs!' I don't want to belittle the fact that they loved the show enough to think it had a legacy worth protecting. It's just not the way my personal brain works. I loved the ending of 'Scrubs.' I didn't end this."