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Reviewed by Jamey Codding
fter 169 episodes, the time has finally come to say goodbye to “Scrubs.” The question of just how much the quality of those 169 episodes tapered off during the show’s latter seasons is up for debate, but even after acknowledging that the back half of the series doesn’t quite stack up to its earlier excellence, “Scrubs” certainly deserves consideration as one of this decade’s finest sitcoms, a show that nimbly moved from gut-busting comedy to heart-wrenching drama to off-the-wall slapstick, often within a single episode. And through it all, “Scrubs” had the kind of cavernous depth that most of its peers could never touch. How fitting, then, that the show ended with a memorable series finale that hit all the right emotional notes and sent its star off in style.
Wait…that wasn’t a series finale? “Scrubs” is coming back for a ninth season in November? Ah, but as creator Bill Lawrence explains, the ninth season actually “is a new show” rather than a continuation of the old series, an offshoot of sorts that will follow Dr. Chris Turk (Donald Faison) and Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley) as they teach a slew of med students in a new hospital (Sacred Heart apparently has been torn down in this reincarnation). Zach Braff will return as Dr. John "J.D." Dorian for the first six episodes of the season and Lawrence says other past regulars – like Judy Reyes’ Carla Espinosa and Neil Flynn’s The Janitor – will occasionally pop up, but Faison and McGinley will be the only full-time holdovers. So, in a sense, “Scrubs: The Complete Eighth Season” does mark the end of the series, at least as we’ve come to know it.
Courteney Cox kicks off the set with a three-episode stint as Dr. Taylor Maddox, the new Chief of Medicine who, as J.D. explains in the episode “My Last Words,” “is an odd combination of super friendly…and soulless.” It seems Maddox is every bit as callous as her predecessor, the retired Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), which of course means that Maddox and Dr. Cox butt heads repeatedly, with Maddox caring more about the hospital’s bottom line and Dr. Cox (along with the rest of the staff) focused on patient care. The guest spot served as a nice lead-in for Courteney’s starring gig in Lawrence’s new series, “Cougar Town,” but when watching the first five episodes of this season in succession, it seems apparent that she came into the fold after filming had already begun. Her three episodes feel tacked on to the beginning of the season, with the hospital’s new batch of interns (and J.D.’s new beard, which he claims makes him look like “a young Kenny Loggins”) being introduced a second time during the fifth episode. Consequently, it takes some time for the show to hit any sort of groove.
Things begin to settle in, though, as J.D. and Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke) rekindle their on-again/off-again relationship, Dr. Cox struggles to adjust to his new position when he replaces Maddox as the Chief of Medicine, and Turk and Carla get ready to welcome a second baby into their family. Love also is in the air for two of the show’s best secondary characters: The Janitor gets married in the Bahamas during a two-episode arc (“My Soul on Fire,” Parts 1 and 2), and Ted Buckland (Sam Lloyd), the hospital’s hilariously pathetic in-house attorney, finally finds a mate in the form of adorable singer Stephanie Gooch, played by singing comedian Kate Micucci.
Fittingly, the aforementioned interns are given a fairly significant chunk of screen time throughout the season, most notably when Turk and Elliot babysit four of the interns during a slow night at the hospital in “My Full Moon.” Unfortunately for Lawrence, the episode falls flat because, to be blunt, the interns just aren’t very interesting, at least not as characters within the established “Scrubs” universe. Even more foreboding is that perhaps the least likable intern of the bunch – the acerbic Denise Mahoney, played by Eliza Coupe (whom “Flight of the Conchords” fans may recognize as one of the “Foux Da Fa Fa” girls) – will be a primary character next season. Uh oh.
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to write off this modified version of “Scrubs” months before it even hits the air. Instead, it’s time to bid adieu to a show that managed to find its own quirky niche in the overcrowded medical series genre. Sure, the name and some of the characters will carry over to this fall’s reboot, and with Lawrence at the helm, it wouldn’t at all be a surprise if the ninth season was a smashing success. But for all intents and purposes, “Scrubs” ended when J.D. finally got the heartfelt sendoff from Dr. Cox he’d been yearning for and walked out of Sacred Heart for the final time. Goodbye “Scrubs 1.0.” Hello “Scrubs 2.0.”
Special Features: You’ll find the standard bloopers and deleted scenes on the third disc, along with the “My Bahamas Vacation” featurette. This behind-the-scenes look at the cast and crew’s time spent in the Bahamas filming The Janitor’s two-part wedding episode, “My Soul on Fire,” is highlighted by footage of Robert Maschio (AKA, The Todd) surfing in – you guessed it – a nut-hugging Speedo. Of course. Finally, there are 12 “Scrubs Intern Webisodes,” a video diary series that follows the four main interns during their early days at Sacred Heart. They’re entertaining enough, thanks in large part to substantial contributions from Ted, Dr. Cox, J.D. and The Janitor, and they serve as a natural bridge to the upcoming ninth season.