"And, as you can see, the ass is on the front."
Scrubs (created by Bill Lawrence, written by Angela Nissel and, presumably, a big conference room full of writers) is a hospital-based sitcom shown on NBC in the US, and Sky One (digital) and Channel Four (terrestrial) in syndication in the UK. The show is based around the lives of a group of young
doctors (interns in the first series, residents in the second) and other staff at The Sacred Heart
Hospital. The show has a rapid pace and a fantastical streak, rather like Police
Squad might have turned out at the hands of the Fast Show team. As mustard_monkey points out, there are
frequent, 'gimmicky' daydream sequences and the like, but for the most part these are carried off
far better than the shoddy-looking, incongruous, self-indulgent, flow-breaking excesses of that skeleton/lawyer show.
The lead character is John "J.D." Dorian (Zach Braff), whose guileless nature and poorly-concealed
inexperience frequently land him in trouble with his friends and his superiors. Braff delivers a
frenetic, rubber-faced performance (and Wonder Years-esque voiceover) and is
seldom called upon to bring much depth to the character. This isn't too much of a problem as the
'nervous, struggling junior doctor with a heart of gold' archetype is familiar enough a concept to
set up J.D. as a sympathetic fall guy. Threepwood-esque, if you like.
Every sitcom needs a group of comrades brought together by circumstance, and in Scrubs we have
J.D.'s friends and 'allies' at Sacred Heart: Turk, Elliot and Carla. Surgeon Chris Turk
(Donald Faison) and his girlfriend Nurse Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes) seem to be continually on the
verge of breaking up. The ditzy Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke) is desperate to win approval but tends
to rub people up the wrong way (especially Carla). So far, so 'Friends' and a million other sugary
Here we get to the good stuff. The show's greatest strength is the gallery of stroppy, sarky and surly characters who delight in tripping up and bawling out the squeaky-clean newbies. On the shop floor we have Dr. Perry Cox, a jaded senior doctor (played with pop-eyed, acidic relish by John C. McGinley) who acts as their mentor, to stretch the definition to breaking point. Cox is given at least two opportunities per show to deliver a sarcastic tirade, labelling each of his charges with disparaging nicknames and personality traits not unlike an angry drill seargeant. His mood is not lightened by the revelation during the first series that J.D. slept with his ex-wife.
Cox's ego is deflated by the occasional appearance of Dr. Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), an evil and sadistic man. Kelso is an aging administrator, willfully oblivious to any complaints, who can be relied on to fly into rages, and call anyone younger than him 'sport'.
However, the real star of Scrubs has to be the janitor (played by Neil Flynn). The janitor (never given a proper name) delights in tormenting J.D., interpreting the most innocent remarks as terribly arrogant slights against himself and his profession. He will then proceed to toy with J.D. throughout the day, only ending the game when he tires of it. The writing of these confrontations is always unpredictable and a highlight of the show.
Other (minor) characters include the libidinous surgeon Todd, sorry, THE Todd, authoritarian Nurse Roberts, and the nervous wreck lawyer.
Overall, Scrubs is a very funny, if unashamedly lightweight and formulaic piece of entertainment. It is impressive that they've managed to get the balance just about right- the show could easily have turned out too self-consciously wacky, or too schmaltzy, or just had really annoying characters. So far the performances and the writing have managed to keep it on course. It is rather a shame that the makers have seen fit to append each episode with a 'moral of the story' montage sequence set to music, the only purpose of which seems to be to sell soundtrack albums. But even with this parenthetical cheesiness, Scrubs is worth watching for the janitor alone.
Cast, schedules and alarmingly airbrushed publicity shots here: