TV Review: Scrubs

Here it is, season eight of "Scrubs" -- the one that never was supposed to happen. Like "Diff'rent Strokes" more than 20 years ago, the hospital sitcom has defected from NBC to ABC for what is presumed to be its final season. Or maybe not.

One never knows what the show's irrepressible creator/exec producer/showrunner Bill Lawrence might have up his sleeve, and to be sure he's pulled off quite a feat to land this 18-episode stay of execution. Of course, the fact that "Scrubs" is produced by ABC Studios might have had a little something to do with it. No matter the reason, it's pretty terrific to see the return of a half-hour this charmingly performed and superbly written, particularly when we're suffering such a primetime network comedy shortage.

The show hits the ground in midseason form after eight months and one change of venue, integrating a new crop of interns with seamless aplomb and again demonstrating how to fuse dramatic elements into a sitcom without breaking a sweat.

The show rolls onto ABC with a double-barreled (aka two-episode) premiere assault that impressively showcases its range, which has proved to be a "Scrubs" strength from the get-go. First up is a seg penned by Angela Nissel that introduces the heartless and unethical Dr. Maddox, played by none other than new recurring player Courteney Cox (who surely knows her way around a comedy series and turns in sharply over-the-top work here). She's surrounding by the usual cast of returning "Scrubs" players led by the underrated Zach Braff along with Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, the incomparable John C. McGinley and Judy Reyes -- long one of TV's most talented and colorful casts. The opening installment sputters a bit before finding a rhythm in Episode 2 that guest stars Glynn Turman as a dying patient coming to terms with his mortality.

What remains great about "Scrubs" is its politically incorrect tone, one that's so smooth the offending line is already in the rear-view mirror before you have a chance to work up a good dose of outrage. ABC is smart to have picked it up, as the show's loyal following likely will move with it a few ticks up the dial. While universal health care may still be a political pipe dream, laughter remains a medicine we not only all can afford but desperately need. And "Scrubs" continues to supply plenty of that without demanding so much as a co-pay.

Airdate: 9-10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6 (ABC)
Production: ABC Studios
Creator: Bill Lawrence
Executive producers: Bill Lawrence, Garrett Donovan, Neil Goldman, Bill Callahan
Co-executive producers: Janae Bakken, Angela Nissel
Producers: Liz Newman, Randall Winston
Co-producers: Danny Rose, Clarence Livingston
Writer: Angela Nissel
Director: Michael Spiller
Director of photography: Andy Rawson
Production designer: Cabot McMullen
Costume designer: Carey Bennet
Editor: Rick Blue
Music: Jan Stevens
Sound mixer: Eric Pierce
Casting: Brett Benner, Debby Romano
Cast: Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Courteney Cox, Donald Faison, Neil Flynn, Ken Jenkins, John C. McGinley, Judy Reyes, Aziz Ansari, Betsy Beutler, Eliza Coupe, Taran Killam, Sam Lloyd, Travis Schuldt