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On Oct. 2, 2001, NBC premiered a half-hour medical comedy, Scrubs, that went on to run for nine seasons and nab 17 Emmy nominations. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
Scrubs is more than just a well-written, emotionally honest and slyly appealing comedy — though that, in itself, is no small accomplishment. It’s also a unique blend of traditional and contemporary comedy elements that suggests the future direction for TV sitcoms.
A medical comedy in the tradition of M*A*S*H, this creation of Bill Lawrence (Spin City) focuses on a new crop of medical interns eager yet afraid to put into practice all that they learned after four years of med school. At the center of this group is J.D. (Zach Braff of The Broken Hearts Club), who has lost none of the idealism that inspired him to pursue medicine but is absolutely intimidated by his lack of practical experience.
Fellow interns include best friend and roommate Chris Turk (Donald Faison of Remember the Titans) and attractive and competitive Elliott (Sarah Chalke of Roseanne), the newest M.D. in a family brimming with doctors. Helping them and their patients survive is confident and capable nurse Carla (Judy Reyes of Oz).
Lawrence’s script sends an early message that, unlike most sitcoms, characters in this show are not only multidimensional but also not always who they appear to be. Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins of Courage Under Fire), the seemingly benign and affable chief of medicine, is revealed as a two-faced bean counter. At the same time, cynical and abrasive Dr. Phil Cox (John C. McGinley of Wall Street) is unable to conceal his caring and compassionate side.
Scrubs effectively embraces the new conventions of comedy, including voiceovers, fantasy scenes and the blessed absence of a laugh track, but these devices never become ends in themselves. Instead, Lawrence uses them as means to find more humor and reveal more heart in each story. They are incorporated into the script so seamlessly that, instead of calling attention to themselves, they help Scrubs reveal the humanity and universal truths that distinguish the very best sitcoms from all the rest.
Scrubs takes another step forward in the area of diversity, that being the close friendship between J.D., who is white, and Chris, who is black. A lot of networks and producers have responded to complaints about too many mostly white casts by inserting actors of various ethnicities. What’s different here is that the friendship between the two interns is taken for granted and not explored as some unusual and positive example of racial harmony. Now that’s diversity.
Scrubs will premiere in its regular time slot at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and get additional exposure with the broadcast of the second episode at 9:30 p.m. Thursday. Although Scrubs would be a worthy addition to the NBC Thursday night lineup, it should also be an effective way of keeping the Frasier audience from migrating elsewhere on the dial. — Barry Garron
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