Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Scrubs, "My Jerks" & "My Last Words": Comedy and tragedy

Spoilers for the first two episodes of "Scrubs" season eight coming up just as soon as I buy some flares...
"And now, on to our next patient. Let's go, bitches!" -Fun-Size Intern

"Did you deliver vaginally?" -JD

"No, I know what you guys are trying to do. I just can't get over the fact that one minute I'm here, and the next I am not." -George Valentine

"I'm over here dying! That's all you can come up with?" -George Valentine
I went with four quotes instead of one for a couple of reasons. First, I really couldn't choose between Fun-Size Intern (whom I guess is now Fun-Size Resident) and JD's obstetrical interest in Dr. Maddox. Second, I thought these four very neatly captured the depth and breadth of the "My Jerks"/"My Last Words" double feature. There were moments of extreme silliness and moments of great pathos -- and, in the last quote, more than a bit of both. These episodes -- "My Last Words" in particular -- are what "Scrubs" is capable of when the writers are focused and rein in their weirder impulses.

I wrote at length about the shift back to a slightly more realistic universe (where JD's fantasies are clearly delineated as such) in yesterday's column, so I'm going straight to the bullet points, bouncing back and forth between the two episodes:

• Taran Killam, one of the stars of "Nobody's Watching" (the twice-unsold pilot from top "Scrubs" writers Bill Lawrence, Neil Goldman and Garrett Donovan) pops up as Jimmy the Overly-Touchy Orderly, and his hands-on approach to the job was one of the premiere's better running gags, the sort of thing that actually gets funnier the more it keeps going.

• The entire "Facts of Life" sequence, with JD not wanting Turk to take credit for comparing Katie to Blair and Ed offering to be Tootie, neatly encapsulated both JD's late '70s/early '80s pop culture obsessions and his competitiveness with Turk. And I liked that JD continues to switch between Denise and Jo in the second episode, suggesting they're not done with that yet.

• Ed's rising popularity, and his ability to spread trends and catchphrases so quickly through the hospital was another great runner, and led to...

• Every word out of Sam Lloyd's mouth in both episodes just killed. In many weeks, I'd give first prize to "MY BALLOON!" or "NOT G!" But Ted's glee at George's praise of the fun font, and him incorporating Ed's new "Recognize!" chant takes the win.

• Because Glynn Turman's been doing a lot of great drama work recently (Mayor Royce on "The Wire," Blair Underwood's dad on "In Treatment"), it's easy to forget that he has a lot of comedy experience (notably several seasons on "A Different World"), and in between the sadness of George's death, he got a number of funny moments, whether it was his reaction to JD discussing his effeminate mascot outfit or the look of sheer terror on his face as Denise kept going and going with her one-night stand story. ("I think I just saw the Devil!") In that moment, it almost looked like he was ready for death to come immediately. Of course, he also was amazing in the dramatic moments, making a character JD and Turk (and the audience) had never met before into someone whose death we justifiably mourned.

• I'm sure The Janitor will be back soon, but I like that they were willing to keep him out of the second episode. (Then again, Cox, Kelso and Elliot were also completely absent, and Carla only turned up in the fantasy scenes, so this may have been a budget saver, or something to accommodate a modified shooting schedule.)

• Which is funnier: JD's vision of being stuffed in the apartment next to Rowdy, or his description of his first day in Heaven with Turk? ("When Carla dies, it is gonna suuuuuuuuck!")

• I like how it went completely unnoticed by Turk and JD that the convenience store guy could have very easily assumed that JD was buying all those condoms to use with his chocolate bear.

• Courteney Cox has a tendency to sometimes try too hard -- this was particularly obvious in the later years of "Friends" -- and I think we got a bit of flop sweat in "My Jerks." (Plus, the moment when she punches JD in the arm for thinking she and Mr. Hicks were lovers sounded exactly like she was playing Monica Gellar.) But I liked her frustration with Cox at the end of "My Jerks" and her interactions with fellow cougar (and chief slag-smacker) Jordan in "My Last Words."

• Still another good runner: the various shots of guys in the background of scenes carrying red balloons as they waited for HotGirl99. My favorite was the brief glimpse of Colonel Doctor.

• So where does the use of Death Cab for Cutie's beautiful and sad "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" over George's final moments on this earth fall on the list of all-time great "Scrubs" musical choices? As if the episode wasn't already going to inspire a run on Kleenex, they go and play that delicate ode to an eternity of nothingness. Bastards.

• Turk dances! As always, I need little excuse to link to the greatest Turk dance ever, and if there was a disappointment to the Steak Night shuffle, it was that it obviously had to be choreographed so the funk-impaired Zach Braff could keep up with Donald Faison.

• Even though the wackiness has been toned down, I'm okay with Turk and JD still being able to read each other like they had telepathy, whether it was JD kicking Turk in the leg at the end of the riff about lying to George about the tree falling on the restaurant or Turk knowing why JD was trying to touch his face.

• One thing that was definitely different from the NBC days: no way, no how does Ben Silverman let a perfect product integration like George praising his last can of beer go by without cutting a deal with Bud or Coor's or PBR or somebody. Instead, George and Turk's hands were always covering up most of the label.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

At this moment, in Firefox, I see no link, and in IE7 the entire front page of the blog ends here.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Should work now. A bit of the HTML code got left out by mistake.

Anonymous said...

All I could think of during the entire second episode was:

"Mr. Mayor, that's a good strong dick you got there, and I see you know how to use it."

God, I miss "The Wire".

Anonymous said...

All clear, thanks.

Anonymous said...

The first episode was good, but that second episode was fantastic. Glynn Turman and "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." That's great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Then again, Cox, Kelso and Elliot were also completely absent, and Carla only turned up in the fantasy scenes, so this may have been a budget saver, or something to accommodate a modified shooting schedule.

It is. Lawrence said in some interview from a few months back that in order cut the budget, each castmember will only appear in 16 out of 18 episodes this season. It'll be interesting to see how they keep Braff completely out of an episode.

Anonymous said...

No comment on the episode, but I wanted to give kudos to Courtney Cox for being way, way, way hotter in her 40's than she was in her 20's.

Anonymous said...

I love this show. I've always loved this show. Still, I'm surprised by how much I missed it and how glad I am to have it back. I think it was because, in spite of hanging in there during last season when things went south quickly, the last season made it feel less like something I needed to watch and more like something to fill the DVR for when there was nothing else on. And now that it's back and it's better than it's been in awhile I'm just very happy to have those idiots on my television again.

And good grief Glynn Turman was fantastic.

And with Death Cab they are officially trying to kill me. That was as good as "Hold on Hope" in the first Brendan Fraser ep. And "Hallelujah" in "My Old Lady". And...yeah...it's up there with the greatest music choices on this show.

Unknown said...

It'll be interesting to see how they keep Braff completely out of an episode.

Same way they always do it: with one of the "His Story/Her Story/ Their Story" episodes where he's merely there to hand-off the narration. My money's on a Ted story.

Great start to the season, but man does "My Last Words" just nails it. Beer, a flare gun, and Death Cab for Cutie. Perfect.

Mads said...

Wow, I really missed this show. And I have to say, I was a bit worried before about the new interns, but so far, so good. Jo/Denise is my favorite.

I rewatched the snippet at the end of the second episode about 5 times. "Cut. We can't use that."

Pamela Jaye said...

> Glynn Turman

that's who that was!

thanks for the song title too.

Duck was distracting us during the show, and then we realized that that head tilt she always does - she's just having fantasies like JD! (So we're expecting to need a whole lot of gnomes any day now).

Loved the second ep, despite the pain my DVR caused by eating 90210 and recording both eps of Scrubs on a crappier tuner than I'd asked it to.

I also had some probs with Firefox, but they were at Bill Lawrence's blog (2 of my 4 posts went to the big board in the sky)

also the duck distracted by trying to eat our chocolate wrappers (but totally ignoring the Aflac ad)

Liked the tossing of bloopers at the end.

I disagree with the critic from Chicago, whoever he/she was.

Anonymous said...

@Mads: Loved that. And the possibly too cute but I still loved it moment over the credits of the first ep, too. That bastard Dr. Shalhoub bogarting all the awards!

It was weird actually seeing things at the end of this show after all those years of ads for bad NBC shows with the credits squeezed to the side.

Anonymous said...

My Last Words was a brilliant episode. I think Turman should just get a guest starring Emmy *now*. The music made me cry harder than I already was...and the flare at the end. Perfect.

As for which was funnier I guess I'll go with when Carla gets to Heaven it's gonna suuuuck b/c that one made me laugh out loud hard (b/c it so will!) whereas the JD stuffed was a great sight gag but only made me giggle, but giggle a lot.

I miss the Janitor already. ;)

I also like that Scrubs now has what we call "end blips". The stuffing one was fantastic!

I hope it gets better and better since I've stuck by its side all this time.

Welcome back, Scrubs!

Anonymous said...

I have loved this show FOREVER and I am so happy it has a (temporary??) home on ABC. "Scrubs" was totally disprescted on NBC. Let's hope it get's better treatment at its new home

Pamela Jaye said...

Amy, thanks for the reminder on Hold on Hope and - this show used Hallelujah too? When I hard it on House I asked evreyone and my final guess was that I remembered it from the West Wing ep it was on. Which I only managed to get my hands on October 27. finally. (and now we have the DVD set, but DVR is so much easier!)

(and for the record, tonight "we" meant me and the roomie (Dennis -it's the only show I like that he likes) Jay is... somewhere, not answering the phone)

Anonymous said...

It's probably easier to just list off the shows that *haven't* used some version of "Hallelujah".

Bobman said...

God I missed this s how.

And what, no mention of hot dog pen?? I had to pause the DVR after that one.

Pamela Jaye said...

is it someone other than Jeff Buckley in that one? watching that clip now as it's on the machine

Pamela Jaye said...

by "that one" I meant My Old Lady

Anonymous said...

I am soooo glad we got this one on DVR! I was literally in tears from laughing at Denise's story about the guy she picked up (and headbutted!!). This could possibly be my new favorite episode.

Anonymous said...

@pam: iirc, the version in MOL was the john cale version.

Omagus said...

Like several people have already said, it took me watching again to realize how much I've missed the show. I'm glad they've toned done much of the over the top stuff.

The look on Glynn Turman's face hearing about the one night stand was classic.

Pamela Jaye said...

did NBC start the ep early? not sure I got all of the open

*Now* I get the fun captcha words

Myles said...

I dunno.

I liked both episodes, and like having the show back, but they both felt enormously rote: it was like the writers were getting back on the bike of making well-balanced episodes, so everything felt like a test run to see if the parts still worked.

I felt like there was nothing new in "My Last Words" - well acted, well executed, but highly derivative. That's fine, for now, but I want more than a "Scrubs' Greatest Hits."

In my review of the episode, I compare it to Friday Night Lights - its third season (no spoilers) has to make up for the second season's mistakes, so it leans heavily on the first season's work as a foundation to build on. If Scrubs is planning on doing the same thing, that's fine, but it felt really weird (especially with the skeleton cast) to get almost no sign of long term storylines.

A+ for Effort, B for Outlook - certainly better than anything from Seasons 6 and 7, though.

Pamela Jaye said...

Janitor tortured JD and got fired and I was *upset* about it?


Pamela Jaye said...

did you mention the fourth wall breakage at the end of the first ep or did I just miss it?

Pamela Jaye said...

oh, Amy did
anyway, it was very Boston Legal

arrabbiata said...

This got the new tv season off to a nice start. Enjoyed both, but the second a little more. (wouldn't want to see too many drama oriented episodes in a season, however, as it would make ones like this one less special)

So far the new interns aren't impressing me much. Each had good gags, but they seem kind of one-note. If there is a plan to build a possible future season around them, the characters will have to be fleshed out considerably.

Unknown said...

I really loved these two episodes but I have to disagree with something you seemed to love, Alan. I thought Ted was way too over the top especially in contrast to the more toned down version of the rest of the Scrubs world.

However, I think my biggest laugh was his description of what the smiley face button and revolver were doing in his briefcase.

Overall, enjoyed them very much.

Mo Ryan said...

what you said. Plus every time Turk said "You're welcome!" off camera, I laughed. I know, it's an old one but a good one.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I've missed this show. :D Not sure what to say that hasn't been said yet, but I love that you keep linking Turk's greatest dance ever.

And not that I care about the ratings, but I am interested to know how it did last night? Did they manage to rub NBC in at all?

I love the extra bits at the end for both episodes - will this be an ongoing thing?

Anonymous said...

Loved 'em both, so happy to see Scrubs back.

One thing that pleased me is that they finally gave the Keith story some closure and acknowledged what an annoyance Elliot had turned into for the last season and a half. I didn't miss her in My Last Words.

I also dug the Nielsen metacommentary at the end of ep 1.

Anonymous said...

"See you tomorrow." "We'll see."

I loved Ted, too. I am glad I'm not the only one who cried at George's death. I thought there were just too many people in the first episode and really appreciated the smaller cast on the second.

I am afraid I missed the blooper on the second one; could someone fill me in on what they couldn't use?

Anonymous said...

Something small that I loved was during J.D.'s fantasy walking-in-the-wind with the elderly woman, he comes out of it with two hot dogs in his pocket where his pens used to be, and they never drew your attention to it. Just a funny sight gag there for fun.

oyaguy said...

Nice return to form for Scrubs. I still hate Keith. He's a poor man's Captain Awesome and I knew this before I knew Captain Awesome even existed. Other wise fine episodes.

Pamela Jaye said...

>He's a poor man's Captain Awesome

tonight i was thinking this. why?

does he just say it a lot?

Anonymous said...

Totally loved it!

And I am really glad that they give Keith some closure too.

Paul F said...

">He's a poor man's Captain Awesome

tonight i was thinking this. why?

does he just say it a lot?"

I remember thinking Awesome reminded me a lot of Keith, back when Chuck started.

Anonymous said...

Awesome and Keith do look quite similar in appearance, I remember when I first watched Chuck I thought it was the same actor.

Great eps. Great, great eps. Like many, I dearly missed Scrubs while it was gone. It's sad to think there are only 16 episodes left. I'm not actually in the US, I'm in Australia, but can someone tell me if they're going to air the rest of them in lots of 2?

Another great musical moment that no-one's mentioned is Ben's (Brendan Fraser) death.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid I missed the blooper on the second one; could someone fill me in on what they couldn't use?

According to the TV Times, the show's repeating tonight, so you can catch it then :-) From what I remember, I think it was the joke about stuffing Carla after she dies and placing her next to Turk in the closet or something. I was laughing pretty hard at that point, so may have jumbled it.

Anonymous said...

Scrubs is back! Both episodes can easily be put up against the good stuff from the first 3-4 seasons.

"I think I just saw the devil!" I am still laughing at that one!

Unknown said...

not the funniest line in the ep but worth menitoning I think -

"cougars drink free"

"what about milfs?"

"I forgot I had kids"

Also I literally did a spit take when Janitor got a second look at the baby picture.

Dan said...

">He's a poor man's Captain Awesome

tonight i was thinking this. why?

does he just say it a lot?"

I remember thinking Awesome reminded me a lot of Keith, back when Chuck started.

It's because in the original pilot for "Chuck", Travis Schuldt played Captain Awesome.

Anonymous said...

I only caught the first episode, but I really liked it. It more than made up for the disappointing, overly wacky past three seasons. And Ted was so hilarious. Based on the praise for the second episode, it sounds like I have a treat awaiting me.

Pamela Jaye, what's this about a duck? Your posts are very stream-of-consciousness.

Anonymous said...

The brought the funny with the premiere. I missed this show! For the record, I think stuffed JD next to Rowdy was funnier. Rowdy has always been funny to me.

Ted is funny as always. I love that he's such a sad sack. I personally loved the conversation he has with Dr. Maddox (great addition, by the way) about what's in his briefcase: a smiley face button and a revolver.

Anonymous said...

the overly touchy orderly is robin scherbatsky's babydaddy!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.

The line about how when Carla gets to heaven it's going to suuuuck was hilarious.

I also loved in the very beginning where JD was non-verbally telling his inner monologue to hurry up.

Glynn Turman was fantastic.

Aziz Ansari should be a great addition to the cast... he was very funny.

The end blip of the first episode with the jokes about awards was also great... oh that Dr. Shalhoub

Anonymous said...

thanks for the Nobody's Watching link. I have never heard of the show before, but I just watched the pilot... it was hilarious.

I wish the show got picked up. I'm not sure if it would have gotten old, but it was great for an episode.

Anonymous said...

NBC should be kicking themselves. The shows touched me and made me happy. I loved the ending too, with Death Cab, making me both cry over Valentine and the fact I still cannot get the strumming right on that song and remembering their sad bunny video. My god Scrubs, you really know how to play with my emotions.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever instantly loved a character like I've instantly come to love Denise/Jo. I keep rewatching her scenes just to marvel at how delightful she is at being absolutely appalling.

I especially enjoyed the sound of her elderly patient responding "Hell, yeah it does!" in the background when she says "Yo, Mr. Harris -- sucks you'll never walk again."

She is a treasure, and I hope she'll get a lot of focus this year.

Anonymous said...

is it just me, or is anyone else having a problem linking to the Turk dance? When I tried to hit the link, it took me to You Tube, with a message over the top that the video was no longer available as it was now property of the Disney company.
Alan, any thoughts?
Have fun in LA LA land.

Anonymous said...

Does Christa Miller botox up to play the part? The last few years she can't move her eye brows, I swear now she can't move her mouth?

I saw Aloma Wright in the credits (as Nurse Roberts), but didn't notice her in the show. Anybody else spot Laverne?

And let me join the Ted fan club. Love that guy.

Anonymous said...

I've often wondered what's up with Christa Miller's face. I mean, I've never seen her in person, but based on more recent candid pics and vids of her, she appears to have had some done, but, not Jordan level work. At least it doesn't appear that way. I mean, her face moves semi-appropriately. I've just assumed that they slather on thicker makeup and she consciously attempts the least amount of face movement possible.

Elwood said...

ABC also is shooting/airing the show in High Def.

NBC *never* did that.

Welcome back, Scrubs.

Anonymous said...

I'm excited Aziz Ansari is on the show. He's hilarious on Human Giant. And Denise/Jo is the best! "I will cut your throat."

Anonymous said...

The end blip of the first episode with the jokes about awards was also great... oh that Dr. Shalhoub

The Dr. Shalhoub line was priceless! Thanks for the reminder. I'm going to rewatch them both tonight at 8:00.

Anonymous said...

I remember hearing a while ago that she had Bell's Palsy

DA1MLP said...

Alan, what happened to "The Todd"

Amy said...

You've got to love not one, but two Flight of the Conchords alums as interns: the racist fruit vendor, and Bret's aggressive sniper/baker girlfriend... hope they both stick around as they made up some of the funniest parts of both episodes.

Anonymous said...

Clearly, the beer he was drinking was a natty boh.

The land of pleasant living, B-more represent!

Pamela Jaye said...

Pamela Jaye, what's this about a duck? Your posts are very stream-of-consciousness.

I know. always have been.but it's the 16 levels of digression that'll kill you. (it's a wonder my parenthesis keys haven't popped off)

I have a pet duck. She frequently cocks her head, as if she was thinking of something. It wasn't till I saw her going it *during Scrubs* than the light came on. Then I remembered Their Story, where the Todd (who really was missing. not my imagination! thanks) saying something like "oh no, now JD has gone off to his fantasy world again and i'll have to wait, until he comes back with some weird comment" (cue the gnomes)

I was telling my brother about this on the phone - he's seen her do it a lot, but his light never went off either, till I said "duck tilting head" and "Scrubs" in the same sentence.
He startd laughing and said "we're gonna need a whole lot of gnomes!" (if you missed that ep it would make even less sense)

@ Dan, thanks for the info on Travis.

Pamela Jaye said...

also - wish I'd known about thr reairs yesterday! darn.

Pamela Jaye said...

Ducky head tilt

Apparently I don't have any pictures of Snuggles with her common "JD head tilt." This one is somewhat posed (look, Ducky!)-

Ordinarily she tilts a little higher (and more at an angle), but it's really hard to catch her at it with a slow camera (that also shuts off to save battery)

We've always though she was having deep thoughts, though (no, not the SNL kind)

Pamela Jaye said...

@LA - here's the answer from Bill's post

. No more soundtracks but I'll always post song titles

he was answering a batch of questions in one post

CM said...

Maybe "My Last Words," which I haven't seen yet, made "My Jerks" seem better. I just watched "My Jerks" by itself, and thought it was awful. From the first two minutes, with Courteney Cox introducing herself by going on a rant about how she hates spiders, it seemed like the same old overly wacky Scrubs. I just don't see any difference from last season.

Anonymous said...

Courtney Cox will probably give Scrubs a big PR boost, and she's pretty funny as well

Pamela Jaye said...

oh goodness! how did I miss that her name was *Cox*?