Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Return of Dr. Jan I. Tor

"Veronica Mars" isn't the only show from last night I haven't seen yet. Due to a need to sleep off this demon virus that's invaded our home, all I watched were "Idol" and "Scrubs." (I'll try to get through "Gilmore Girls," "House" and the first of the unaired "Love Monkey"s from VH1 later today, but my pace may be slower than that.)

Anyway, on to "Scrubs." At a press conference a few months back, Bill Lawrence joked that "when we find out when the show is ending, there will be an entire episode with (The Janitor's) voice over." Since our custodial pal took over narration duties last night, should we be scared for the show's future? Not yet, since, immediately after Bill made that prediction, Sarah Chalke reminded him that what he had always told them was, "He's going to be 'Janitor' until his name is revealed. And when his name is in the script, then we all have to be worried, because that's the last episode."

So with that load off our collective minds, I'll say that I had higher hopes for our eventual mop-centric episode. As weird as the show has been this season, an entire half-hour devoted to The Janitor could have been acid-trippingly weird. Instead, this may have been the most normal episode in months. I don't need to know that, deep down, The Janitor has feelings that can be hurt, that he really wants to fit in and contribute, etc., etc., etc. Why can't the show have just one major character who's goofy for the sake of being goofy? Are we going to get an episode next week where we discover that The Todd is just overcompensating for being a virgin?

Not a bad episode, though, just a disappointing one, given the possibilities. Cox mocking Turk's lack of blackness was the best, especially when he randomly snuck up on them as they test-drove the minivan. (And how can they afford a top of the line rig like that when Carla's on a nurse's salary and Turk's still a resident?) Also loved Cox's imitation of Elliot's walk, and Keith's panic at meeting Elliot's mom. The Dudemeister has quickly become a worthy addition to the show.

Off to hold my head over a pot of boiling water. I'll try to watch and write more later.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear you're still ill. Have some chicken soup, stat.

Rather enjoyed Scrubs - I got the feeling this was a "can we do an episode without Zach Braff being goofy" thing, and I thought it went pretty well. I like that the ensemble is strong enough to focus on a pretty wide variety of people, and that the Janitor is enjoyable even when he's not serving as the foil for JD. (I also like Ted-centric stuff.)

Why do so few people watch this show?

Alan Sepinwall said...

It wasn't so much "can we do an episode without Zach Braff being goofy" as "can we do an episode without Zach Braff?" I'm guessing Zach needed a few days off for one of his movies, and the show definitely got by without him okay.

I'm not sure this was ever going to be a mass-appeal show -- even in the earlier seasons, J.D. was too weird to work as an audience identification character (even The Office has Jim and Pam) -- but NBC did it no favors with the constant timeslot switches and, during its lone season on Thursdays after "Friends," pre-emptions.

As Bill Lawrence says, at the time, NBC was number one and needed to do everything they could to stay as number one, and he understands that, but in the process, they turned a potentially useful asset into damaged goods. But between NBC's need to hold onto anything that vaguely has an audience and Steve McPherson's willingness to snap the show up if NBC cancels it (he developed the show while he was at Touchstone, and ABC/Disney will make money on its continued existence), I don't think we have to worry about its future even with the cruddy ratings.

In between gulps of chicken soup, I've been writing up a joint interview I did with Bill and Zach back in January. These guys are such a well-honed comedy duo I'm surprised they don't take their act on the road. (When Zach insisted the success of Garden State hadn't changed him, Bill immediately quipped, "Well, there's the on-set facialist, but that's more of a perk than you changing."

Anonymous said...

Hee. My comment about "without Zach Braff being goofy" was redundant - I meant basically what you said.

I understand the "reasons" why this show had trouble finding a continuing audience. Hell as a big fan, I myself have been very annoyed at how hard it is to keep track of the show's many, many movements. But I have trouble understanding why people who like shows like The Office and Arrested Development haven't picked up the Scrubs ball and run with it.

I'm glad to hear it's safe - now that it's got enough episodes for syndication, I'm hoping to be able to have my TiVo catch it for years to come.

On a completely different topic - you don't happen to know if there are plans to rerun the Leo's funeral ep of TWW any time soon? We were in the middle of a thunderstorm here and most of the broadcast had a massive map of Illinois covering the left half of the screen. Made the opening very hard to watch and I really don't know who-all was at the funeral.

Matt said...


They rerun them on Bravo at least once during the week--I'm not sure of the exact schedule, though.

And I think Scrubs would/will find a niche next year, when I expect it'll move away from the murderer's row that is Tuesday at 9 and wind up on Thursdays, where I'm betting NBC's lineup is going to be Earl/Scrubs/Untitled Tina Fey Project/Office/ER, where it'll fit better.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I'm someone who started watching Scrubs after (1) AD left the airwaves and (2) it stopped being conflicted with TAR. I like it, but it's not AD, and I'm not running out to buy (or even rent) the DVDs.

Unknown said...

Hey, Alan, hope you're feeling better.
I suspect the punchline to the Janitor character, probably to be revealed in the eventual series finale, is that his name really is Jan Itor.

Hopefully the upcoming Dr. Cox storyline will lead to the long awaited Emmy nom for John C. McGinley.

PS I've been enjoying your blog!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I always thought the Todd was overcompensating for being gay, not being a virgin. Just a thought.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Pete, it's either virgin or gay; I had to pick one for the joke. (It could also be molested by camp counselor, but that's not funny.)

Marsha et al, the Scrubs vs. AD chatter gives me an idea for an entry down the road, maybe after next week's Scrubs.