|Scrubs: Season One (2001)
Starring: Zach Braff, John C. McGinley, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke, Judy Reyes, Ken Jenkins, Neil Flynn, Robert Maschio, Sam Lloyd
Setting yourself apart from all the other crap on television often is hard enough, but carving out your own little niche in the oversaturated hospital show genre is an even tougher task. Nonetheless, the NBC comedy “Scrubs” has done just that, distinguishing itself from mainstays like “ER” and newcomers like “Grey’s Anatomy” with its crisp writing, fresh humor and spectacular cast. But what ultimately makes “Scrubs” more than just your average disposable sitcom is its ability to crack you up one minute and break your heart the next.
Zach Braff (“Garden State”) is Dr. John Dorian, or J.D. to his longtime buddy Chris Turk (Donald Faison, “Clueless”). In the show’s first season, J.D. and Turk are “newbie” interns at Sacred Heart hospital. Turk, a surgeon, has no trouble getting acclimated, adopting the “learn by doing” adage on his first day. J.D., on the other hand, is so overwhelmed that the nurses start doing his procedures for him and, when paged for his first code, he finds himself hiding in a supply closet next to his beautiful but socially inept fellow intern Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke).
J.D.’s primary guidance comes from Carla (Judy Reyes), a veteran nurse who affectionately starts calling him “Bambi,” and Dr. Cox (John. C. McGinley, “Office Space”), who prefers calling J.D. by various girls’ names. Rounding out the staff are Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins), the coldhearted Chief of Medicine, Todd (Robert Maschio), Turk’s high-fiving surgeon comrade, and The Janitor (Neil Flynn), whose sole ambition each day is to torment J.D.
Each character is enjoyable alone but it’s the relationships formed between everyone on staff that makes “Scrubs” so endearing. J.D. and Elliot hook up and break up, Turk and Carla start dating, Carla and Elliot initially hate each other but end up becoming good friends, Janitor refuses to cut J.D. any slack, Kelso and Cox butt heads constantly over hospital policy, and Todd creeps out every last one of his female coworkers with his warped sense of humor and complete lack of tact. Braff and Faison, meanwhile, have undeniable chemistry onscreen, so good that it’s hard to believe they didn’t know each other before filming started. But at the core of the show lies the eager student/reluctant teacher relationship between J.D. and Dr. Cox. At times, Cox seems every bit as callous as Kelso, calling an annoying patient “a big fat cup of crazy” in the "My Nickname" episode" and telling Elliot that he wanted her “punted” out of the hospital when her test results come back negative. But then he turns around and helps J.D. cope with the loss of a patient in the incredibly touching "My Old Lady," telling him that he can’t be afraid of death: “Everything we do here – everything – is a stall,” he says. “We’re just trying to keep the game going.” Playing both the good guy and the bad guy is delicate work but McGinley handles it brilliantly, giving Cox vibrant life while also delivering many of the show’s funniest moments.
Fortunately, there are more than enough funny season-one moments for everyone to contribute their fair share. The show’s most effective comic vehicle is its cutaways, brief asides (think “Family Guy”) that often feature pop-culture references or simply off-the-wall fantasy sequences, like J.D. losing to Death in a game of Connect Four and Elliot actually digging her own grave while telling Carla that she screwed up. But the writing is so naturally funny that while many of the show’s true laugh-out-loud instances evolve from these cutaways, the comedy certainly isn’t limited to them.
As great as these 24 first season episodes are, the DVD release is even better thanks to a slew of quality extras that any “Scrubs” fan will gobble up. “Newbies” features fantastic one-on-one interviews with creator Bill Lawrence and everyone in the cast talking about the show’s roots and the paths they all walked before and leading up to their roles on “Scrubs.” The cast and crew members reflect on season one in the “Favorite Moments” featurette while Braff discusses his auditions, the first cast party and early recordings in “The Doctor is In.” And to top it all off, there are the old DVD stand-bys: deleted scenes, outtakes, alternate lines (which basically function as another set of outtakes) and select audio commentary.
The bottom line is, if you like “Scrubs” you’ll absolutely love this loaded DVD release, and if you’ve never seen the show, now’s the perfect time to introduce yourself to one of the best things going on TV. Hospital shows may be a dime a dozen but sitcoms with depth, ones that have heart and elicit true emotion from their audience, those are too rare to dismiss. “Scrubs” may not be in NBC’s “Must See TV” lineup but this is one DVD set you just don’t want to miss.