TV Review: ‘Scrubs’ Returns For Awkward Season-Nine Premiere

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CHICAGO – With great comedies often being cancelled before their time, how many TV writers and producers look at the trajectory of “Scrubs” with awe? Zach Braff’s sitcom has become the show that wouldn’t die, avoiding one network’s cancellation axe to be rescued by another and now coming back for another season after it aired its impressive series finale. Like the undead, this version of “Scrubs” almost looks the same, but isn’t quite right. Television Rating: 2.0/5.0
Television Rating: 2.0/5.0

When “Scrubs” ended, with a bittersweet and beautiful series finale earlier this year, creator Bill Lawrence was stunned to learn that ABC wanted more. Of course, a lot of the cast had moved on to other projects, and it would be difficult to bring even the regulars back for a true renewal. Consequently, Lawrence wanted to rename the show “Med School” and bring on new cast members with occasional supporting work by familiar faces for “Scrubs” fans. Lawrence’s concept sounds more like a spin-off, something closer to “After-MASH” or “Archie Bunker’s Place”. TV viewers of the right age will remember how those turned out. “Scrubs” 2.0 isn’t quite that level of a disaster, but it’s a ghost of what this show used to be.

Eliza Coupe, Donald Faison, Zach Braff
Photo credit: Karen Neal/ABC

At least in the first two episodes, J.D.(Zach Braff) is still around, returned to Sacred Heart to teach at its medical school alongside Turk (Donald Faison) and Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley). The bitter-and-cynical Denise (Eliza Coupe), a familiar face from last season, pops up as a student advisor and Kelso (Ken Jenkins) even makes a few cameo appearances with one-liners. The Todd (Robert Maschio) is still there but Sarah Chalke appears in only a cameo in the first episode and Judy Reyes, Neil Flynn, and Christa Miller are gone.

Replacing them (and, clearly, eventually replacing even Braff, Faison, and McGinley as the leads of the show) are a group of new students including the wide-eyed and sweet Lucy (Kerry Bishe), med school drop out Drew (Michael Mosley), and cocky Cole (Dave Franco). It’s an interesting idea to switch the genders and take the naive J.D. of the first few seasons and turn him into the naive Lucy of this new iteration of the show, but it’s a lot to ask of an audience to not only wave goodbye to their favorite characters but present them with new ones who remind them so much of what they first liked about the series. It’s like breaking up with someone and dating a new person who looks exactly the same. It’s not going to work.

Kerry Bishe
Kerry Bishe
Photo credit: Karen Neal/ABC

The writing has been in steady decline on “Scrubs” for years, but the talented and underrated cast of the show often elevated the material. Losing Chalke, Reyes, and Flynn is like remaking “Cheers” without Carla, Norm, and Woody. Yes, there would still be a few talented actors, but the show would feel empty, like something crucial was missing.

Consequently, this places a lot of weight on the shoulders of the new cast. Relatively new Coupe is getting better. I found her cynical routine last season more annoying than funny, but now that she’s a lead, she shows potential. Bishe is the most promising of the new crew, a beautiful young lady with solid comic timing. Mosley and Franco, at least in the first two episodes, are playing archetype sitcom characters (“the tough guy who’s really nice,” “the cute guy who’s really a jerk”) and aren’t memorable.

The ninth season of “Scrubs” is clearly an experiment. If they were truly confident in the new cast, they wouldn’t have the all-stars like Braff and Faison sticking around to support them. And if the network was truly confident in the show overall, they wouldn’t have waited until the last minute to renew it and would have the original cast back in the first place. Finally, even with all of the cast shuffling, if the writing was stronger, all of the changes would be easier to overlook.

As I watched the first two episodes of “Scrubs,” I kept wondering how I would feel about the show without the baggage of eight seasons and two cancellations. The problem is that those elements are impossible to ignore. The desperation inherent in bringing back something that ended so beautifully for one more season permeates every element of the series with the new cast members under amazing pressure to bring back some of the “Scrubs” charm. If the NBC cancellation was strike one and the series finale earlier this year was strike two, I have a feeling this season will be a clear strike three. Though, with “Scrubs,” you can never say die.

‘Scrubs’ returns on ABC on Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 at 8pm CST. It stars Zach Braff, Donald Faison, John C. McGinley, Eliza Coupe, Michael Mosley, Kerry Bishe, Dave Franco, Ken Jenkins, and Robert Maschio. It was created by Bill Lawrence. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Anonymous's picture

I dont agreewith Mr.

I dont agreewith Mr. Tallerico - the mood and the vibe of the show is intact - Lucy is nothing close to Zach Braff - its like comparing a Ferrari with a Lamborghini - both are really “something” in their own right - and its still just a matter of taste.

Season 9 is a spinoff’esque version of Scrubs, but its well written, a lovely vibe, and making the old cast have some features before giving way to the new newbies (Only Dr. Cox and Turk will feature for the full season) - really smoothens out the transition. Cole initially makes it as a “hunk” version of Todd - and really offers a great platform for future development of the character. same goes for Drew and Lucy, they arent just shallow cardboard images of people - they really can grow if ABC decides to keep this show on the road)

finally, Eliza/Denise is not a teacher she’s a student advisor afterall taking the new timeframe in mind (this takes place about a year after end of Season 8) there is no way she’d be in a teaching position.

Veronica       's picture

I have been very

I have been very disappointed with the new show. I saw three episodes and dropped it. I wanted to like it (that’s why I gave it three episodes) but I just don’t. I would rather watch an older episode ten times than continue watching the new one. Now that there’s no Carla or the Janitor I realize how much I actually liked those characters. As for the “new Todd”, I find him obnoxious and a real jerk. I can’t stand him. The Todd was at least humorous as the hospital’s resident pervert. I can’t see this show lasting very long as it is now.

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