|Scrubs: Season Four (2004)
Starring: Zach Braff, John C. McGinley, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke, Judy Reyes, Ken Jenkins, Neil Flynn, Robert Maschio, Sam Lloyd
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Expectations suck. Take the fourth season of “Scrubs,” for example. By themselves, these 25 episodes trump just about anything that any other sitcom on TV can offer. And yet, this season of the Emmy-winning series doesn’t quite stack up to the three that preceded it, nor does it match the excellence of the fifth season, which concluded earlier this year. There’s good stuff here, no doubt; it’s just that we’ve come to expect a lot from “Scrubs,” a show that, from the opening bell, connected with us in so many ways and on so many different emotional levels. Unfortunately, this fourth season just doesn’t deliver as consistently or as compellingly as we’re used to. Call it a slump, if you will, though admittedly most shows would kill for a slump like this.
One of the biggest problems is there aren’t any true standout episodes in this set. The first season had “My Old Lady,” the second season had “My Overkill,” and the third had “My Screw Up” and “My Porcelain God.” But while “My Best Moment,” “My Boss’s Free Haircut” and “My Cake” are all very good, they all nonetheless lack the strong emotional undercurrent that makes the show so endearing. The laughs are still there, but the payoffs are flatter and a bit diluted. Maybe the writers spent too much time on the lukewarm chemistry between J.D. (Zach Braff) and Dr. Molly Clock (guest star Heather Graham), or maybe Turk (Donald Faison) and Carla’s (Judy Reyes) marital problems dragged everything down a notch or two. Even the finale, while setting things up nicely for the fifth season, stands as a ho-hum end to a relatively ho-hum season.
On second thought, perhaps it’d be more accurate to describe this season as a transition instead of a slump. That seems to be the running theme throughout these episodes, with J.D., Turk and Elliot (Sarah Chalke) finishing up their residencies and becoming full-fledged doctors, Elliot accepting a fellowship at another hospital at season’s end, Turk and Carla battling through their newlywed problems, and J.D. moving out to give the couple their space. Even The Janitor (Neil Flynn) gets a snazzy new uniform and develops a crush on “Blonde Doctor” (Elliot). With so much turnover in the storylines, this fourth season never seems to really get a foothold, at least not as deep as in seasons past. Even the guest stars, which have always been one of the show’s calling cards, are lacking. Heather Graham looks great but, judging by the way the producers flaunt her, um…assets throughout the season, it’s clear she was cast for the considerable style and not the mediocre substance. Matthew Perry appears in and directs “My Unicorn,” but like Graham, his guest turn is flat and forgettable. Julianna Margulies, however, absolutely kills in her role as ruthless (and incredibly sexy) malpractice lawyer Neena Broderick. In fact, the bit with her walking down the hallway giving every guy she sees a shot to the groin with a cane she just swiped from an old man, thus demonstrating just how much of a “ball buster” she is, stands as perhaps the comedic highlight of the season.
One thing you can always count on with a “Scrubs” set is a hefty supply of quality extras, and this time around is no different. “Will You Ever Be My Mentor” dissects the flawed relationship between J.D. and the ever-charming Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley), “The Sweethearts of Sacred Heart” looks at the show’s romantic pairings over the years, and “Who’s That Man?” is a mock exposé on The Janitor. Each featurette is supplemented with cast and crew interviews, including conversations with Braff, Faison (“Donald Keeps Talking”), McGinley and creator Bill Lawrence. And, of course, you’ll find deleted scenes (“Scrubbed Out”) and alternate lines, as well as a music video for G. Tom Mac’s “Half.”
It’s amazing (not to mention a tad disconcerting) that even the worst season of “Scrubs” is better than almost anything else on network television. All the elements that made “Scrubs” great its first three seasons are still here, they just don’t show up as consistently, which leads to a certain level of disconnect fans of the quirky series aren’t used to. Up until this point, “Scrubs” had raised the bar each and every year, and while the series didn’t exactly fall on its face in season four, it didn’t reach new heights either. Of course, when the bar is already set at a dizzying level, falling a bit short isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Scrubs” fans have just come to expect a little more.