Sunday, April 15, 2007

Scrubs: It's JD in a box!

Belated "Scrubs" spoilers coming up just as soon as I get a ruling on whether "It's my (blank) in a box" subject lines are as played out as my old "Is that something you might be interested in?" references...

I've always had an ambivalent relationship with the heavier elements of "Scrubs." When they work, as in "My Old Lady" or "My Lunch," then this show can hold its own with any straight-up hospital drama. A lot of the time, though, the emotional moments feel tacked on, part of what I've joked is Bill Lawrence's "Wonder Years" obsession where J.D. has to learn a life lesson, whether it's interesting or not. So when the show made its shift into unapologetic wackiness last season, I embraced it, since the comedy has always been much more consistent than the tears.

But I think this season has shown that there can be too much of a wacky thing, and I welcome this shift back to a more human show, even if it's just temporary. ("My Lunch" and "My Fallen Hero," after all, came at the tail end of last year, and then we went right back to randomness.) I wouldn't put this Laverne three-parter up there with the best of dramatic "Scrubs" (other than Carla's farewell last week, which was as touching as intended), and I had specific problems with the deaf storyline this week, but it's good to have all the characters seeming like actual people now and then, which in turn will make future departures into weirdo world funnier.

On the flip side, though, the Cochlear implant subplot was a quintessential example of when the more serious approach doesn't work. The story felt rushed and simplistic, especially since so many other medical shows have dealt with this exact same debate in the last decade or so (notably "ER," where Benton had to decide if his son should get the implant) while managing to look at both sides of the issue fairly. I'm not saying you have to turn over an entire episode of "Scrubs" to the subject, but this didn't work. They were borrowing a much more complicated issue to help make a poignant ending, and they dumbed it down and acted like no one ( (not the audience and certainly not J.D. and Turk) would have thought of it before. Ah, well, at least that story had The Janitor using Marg Helgenberger as a punchline.

I liked the rest of the episode, especially Elliott trying so hard not to screw things up with the Dudemeister that she almost screwed it up anyway. That is one kinky (Britney and K-Fed?), messed-up woman, but funny. J.D.'s fantasy funeral was also great, especially the picture and the choice of "Party All the Time" as choir music (though my wife though Fantasy Cox snapping Fantasy J.D.'s neck was too much), and I enjoyed Cox's exasperation at having his soundproof bubble burst so often. And Kelso's blunt psychoanalysis of why Cox was protesting too much worked in a way that the deaf subplot didn't because it played on what we know about both characters, instead of trying to hang the emotion on a flimsily-written guest star.

What did everybody else think? Do you feel the show's back on the right track?


Anonymous said...

Alan, nothing is as tired and played out as your "as soon as I..." schtick. Sorry. Thems the facts.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Anonymous, that would imply that it was ever funny or fresh in the first place, as opposed to something I've just been doing for a long time because I couldn't think of anything better.

BF said...

Can we get a ruling on whether this episode was filmed before or after South Park?

Anonymous said...

I dunno. On the one hand the " a box" is always funny. On the other hand, can anything top "It's My Dad in a Box!!" from Lost?

I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or has Ken Jenkins been the standout this season. He has been absolutely hysterical. It seems that he has had more punch lines than just the comebacks and retorts.

I loved the sign language joke, and Kelso sitting in with Keith/Elliot in the cafeteria... "bitches"

Anonymous said...

Alan, I love your tired, played out schtick. Almost as much as I love the way you deal with comments like that. You're my hero.

Another great Scrubs "sad" moment was at Ben's funeral. That episode just killed me. (

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know why they killed off Nurse Roberts? It seemed pretty unnecessary- but I don't know if there were some personal/career issues the actress wanted to pursue.

Isabel said...

Scrubs always makes me laugh. I just have to remind myself that it's just a silly show and not take it too serious!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering as well. Today I had to use iTunes for something (to hear a song from a Grey's Anatomy ep from last year) and I saw i had some podcasts to download.

The Scrubs podcasts are apparently intended to be played as a commentary to the show, so I don't listen to them a lot, but I did take a peek into the one with Aloma Wright and Dave ? Tennant, the ep's writer.

What I got was that they wanted to kill off a character this year, but they couldn't kill the main cast of course (this isn't Buffy) and a lot of their second string wouldn't inspire the kind of emotion that Laverne would (for example, imagine if they killed the Todd), so Laverne it was. (then I got bored and got work and went back to it)


Anonymous said...

I have to agree that Ken Jenkins has been the standout this season. Loved his POV episode.
Skidalah-dee skidalah-doo .. gold!
His POV ep and last weeks one with Laverne in a coma and Jordan giving birth have been the best this season so far.
JD and Elliot have just been tiresome at times. Turk continues to be 'all that and more' tho.

Anonymous said...

I was so incredibly angry about the way they portrayed the deaf storyline!!!! Deafness does not have to be "fixed" (language they used), and while CI's help many people, they are not without their own risks. Frustrating!!!!!