After writing what seemed to be a very fitting series finale in the spring, Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence surprised many with his announcement that the zany hospital sitcom would be back for a ninth season on its new home, ABC. Upon hearing that news, I (like many fans of the show) was torn as to whether or not I felt it was the right decision. Could a new reincarnation of the show recapture the magic Scrubs had when it first debuted? As of yet, that question remains without a definite answer, but for now it stands at a tentative “maybe.”

Lawrence lets us know he’s fully aware of the difficulties he faces in bringing Scrubs back during the opening narration which has J.D. (Zach Braff) reflecting that “part of me hates how familiar this seems. I hope I can find a way to make this all seem new.” To accomplish this feat, the setting and cast have each received a makeover of sorts. The old hospital, Sacred Heart, has been torn down and rebuilt into a medical school on a nearby university campus. Of the original cast, only Donald Faison and John C. McGinley (as Dr. Turk and Dr. Cox, respectively) return as series regulars to teach the new crop of medical students, though Braff appears in the first six episodes to help ease the transition. Elliot, Kelso, and the Todd have all made appearances so far as well, but piling on the past favorites can only get this reboot so far. If the show is to succeed, it is going to need a new group of quirky characters to root for, and it is going to need them fast.

Unfortunately, that crucial area is where the writers seem to have invested little of their energy. Three newbies join Eliza Coupe, who reprises her role from last season as Denise, as the show’s new focus. Lucy, played by Kerry Bishe, seems prepped to take over J.D.’s role, which is disappointing, because of the three she is the least interesting. Sweet but utterly naïve, Lucy arrives on campus excited and hopeful only to have her dreams crushed by an annoyed Dr. Cox, partially because he’s still his same old cruel self and partially because she seems completely inept as a doctor. More interesting is Michael Mosley as Drew, an older student returning to medical school after dropping out the first time around who Cox seems to take an interest in, much to the dismay of his protege J.D. Rounding out the group is the cocky Cole played by James Franco’s younger brother Dave, who thinks he can do no wrong because of the large sum of money his parents donated to the school.

Not only do these additions show few signs of any character development beyond the one-note eccentricity that each was introduced with, but there has also been little effort to establish any sense of camaraderie among them. Perhaps this is only temporary and will change once Braff’s arc ends and the show completes its transition from the old to the new. I just hope by then it is not already too late.

What made “Scrubs” great was its seamless blend of comedy and tragedy. The surreal fantasy sequences and self-referential dialogue only made the show endearing because they were balanced by moments of honest heartbreak and true sentiment. Right now, trying desperately to win us over with a never-ending stream of one-liners (some of which were very funny), the show lacks heart. The second and third episodes gave us glimpses of sincerity, but they came from J.D. and Dr. Cox and did little to make the new characters relatable. For the new Scrubs to find its footing, it needs to say goodbye to J.D. (though it pains me to say that), and commit itself to creating original characters and storylines as it did when it first arrived in 2001. Without that, the things that made these first few episodes watchable (the Turk and J.D. “bromance,” Dr. Kelso’s jabs) will no longer be able to save the show, and its ninth life is sure to be its last.

Read more about:

Leave a comment