I can't do this all on my own,
No, I know,
I'm no superman,
I'm no superman.
- Scrubs theme tune
You know sometimes when just by sheer chance you try watching something on telly? Something you've never heard of, or heard about? You watch it anyway, out of boredom, to pass the time or due to sheer laziness? And then it turns out to be absolutely brilliant? Well opinions may differ, but Scrubs fits this perfectly: 'absolutely brilliant'.
Scrubs, take a bow
Scrubs1 crept up on British viewers unannounced. Many viewers in the UK probably only watched it because it was first broadcast on Sky One after Buffy and Angel, and they were too lazy to change channels. But they did watch it, and they found it wasn't too bad after all.
A lazy reviewer might describe Scrubs as 'a comedy version of ER', and they'd be right: Scrubs is a comedy version of ER. The first series follows the lives of three newly-qualified doctors during the first year of their careers. During this time there are many lessons for a young doctor in their journey to residency. Even after this, of course, they still have much to learn, which is just as well, since it allows the second series to continue in a similar vein.
A large number of the later episodes tackle the thorny subject of the characters' love lives. These can be a bit soapy, which is fine if you like that sort of thing, but arguably it diminishes the show's distinctiveness.
So far there have been two series of Scrubs, totalling 46 episodes. There is no official news at the time of writing on a possible season three, but it is considered quite likely.
The Three Doctors
John Michael Dorian
Played by Zach Braff, 'JD' is the main character and narrator of the series. In fact, he can be considered as more than a mere narrator, as events are generally shown from his point of view - not by the use of camera angles, but showing events 'filtered' through his imagination, sometimes resulting in full-blown Ally McBeal2 fantasy sequences or sometimes by more subtle means. The moral of the story is often delivered by JD as part of the voiceover, though subsequent events have an unfortunate habit of contradicting him.
He's a kind of awkward, likeable guy who is often his own worst enemy. Well actually, the Janitor is his worst enemy but more on that later. Almost nobody calls him 'John', rather he is known by many different names: JD, Bambi, Newbie, Susan, Nancy, Charlotte, and so on. Actually, most of those are just what Dr. Cox calls him, but again we'll be coming to that later.
Turk, played by Donald Faison, is a surgical intern, and JD's best buddy. They grew up together, went to medical school together and share an apartment. He's an outgoing, cocky foil to JD's sheepishness.
She may have a bloke's name, but Elliot, played by Sarah Chalke, is all woman - and she's got the neuroses to prove it. She has a tendency to talk at an astonishingly fast rate, often without thinking first, which can mean people get a poor first impression of her. She also fancies JD.
Friends, Enemies and Sparring Partners
The cast is rounded off by the people who already work at the hospital, who include:
This mysterious handyman, played by Neil Flynn, becomes the bane of JD's existence when the erstwhile Dr Dorian makes the mistake of getting him angry on his first day.
Dr Perry Cox
Dr Cox is played by one of those actors who you know from a bunch of films but can't think of what those films were, let alone his name. In this case, the actor is John C McGinley, who's been in The Rock, Platoon and Highlander 2: The Quickening. Dr Cox is JD's mentor and hero, and JD is sure he sees him as a protégé, whereas Dr Cox maintains that he sees JD as an annoyance. Nevertheless, he is always willing to help out with a few hilarious put-downs.
He is somewhat condescending to those of lower status than him, regularly calling JD by a girl's name. He also refers to Elliot as Barbie and Turk as Gandhi. In a bad mood he can drop to the level of a bully. He is capable of keeping up sarcasm for extended periods of time.
Dr Cox has been compared to Homer Simpson as an American comic creation. Both are superficially uncaring, but can reveal hidden depths. The character's popularity is indicated by the fact that he was made the main character and narrator of the 40-minute special 'His Story' (the other episodes are all entitled 'My' something).
Nurse Carla Espinosa
Judy Reyes plays this fiery Latino nurse who ends up dating and falling in love with Turk. Confident and direct, Carla is the person to turn to if you've got a problem. If people don't turn to her, one way or another they'll probably wish they had.
Dr Bob Kelso
Played by Ken Jenkins, Dr Kelso is the boss of the whole hospital, but just think of him as your friend. An incredibly scary man, he terrorises interns and residents alike with his hilarious put-downs.
Kelso's main concern is money. In fact, pretty much his only concern is money. He doesn't care who hates him, as long as it's not the hospital's benefactors. This emphasis on cash rather than patients brings him into conflict with Dr Cox who sees him as some sort of embodiment of evil. Pretty much everyone else hates him, too.
This is Dr Cox's ex-wife and seeing her goes some way towards understanding why Dr Cox is how he is. Jordan is direct and often insulting, caring little about whom she might upset - unless she might risk upsetting Dr Cox himself, in which case she tries extra-hard. In many ways they're made for each other.
Ted is the hospital's resident lawyer. Originally he was only seen travelling in Dr Kelso's wake when a breach of rules was spotted, but later the writers gave him his own office and surname. Ted is cowardly, generally stressed-out and occasionally near-suicidal. This is probably attributable to either the job or the amount of time he spends with Dr Kelso.
A surgeon and friend of Turk's. 'The Todd', as he sometimes styles himself, celebrates every victory - from the successful completion of a heart by-pass to catching a glimpse of Elliot's underwear - with a high-five, which he will demand from anyone in the vicinity and deliver with whiplash ferocity. He speaks fluent innuendo - incessantly - especially if there's a good-looking woman around. For some unknown reason he hasn't been fired for sexual harassment.
Nurse Laverne Roberts
Played by Aloma Wright, Nurse Roberts is something of a gossip and often ready to lend her opinion. She's particularly good at bringing up Jesus's name to make people feel guilty. Also adept at going 'Mm-hmm'.
A dog, who despite the fact that he's stuffed, has both JD and Turk, his owners, speaking as if he's alive, attempting to get him to do tricks and admonishing him for bad behaviour.
Here we have a summary of the eighth episode, 'My 15 Minutes'. This shows most of the character interactions, and also how the show deals with 'issues' - racism in this case, albeit obliquely. There are four loosely-connected storylines happening at the same time, three involving JD and one not, which is pretty typical.
The Main Plot
JD and Turk resuscitate a collapsed TV cameraman, a deed that catapults them to fame. Dr Kelso milks this situation for the publicity, to Turk's great annoyance. The ersatz ebonics accompanying his face on posters are the last straw, and so JD apologises to Turk for his part in this débâcle, but by then things have gained a momentum of their own.
Turk threatens to sue Dr Kelso unless the posters are removed, but Kelso maintains that he can, if he so wishes:
... manufacture tiny little 'Dr Turk' action figures - it'll cost $12.95, and when you pull the string it'll say, 'I don't like these posters of me!
... and asks Ted to back him up. According to Ted, though, Kelso is on very shaky legal ground, in fact:
... that lawsuit would be over so quickly, I'd advise you to bring the cab fare to the courthouse, since Dr Turk will be driving your Beemer home to his place.
Turk is impressed with the normally timid lawyer, and when the worried-looking Dr Kelso has left, he compliments Ted, 'Who [sic] da man?!'
Ted is unsure, 'Is it me?'
'Damn right it's you!' And Turk offers a high-five.
The Cox Plot
JD is concerned about his imminent intern's evaluation. He doesn't find it any easier when Dr Cox hands the form to him and asks him to fill it in himself. Cox hasn't even filled in the name, and after a couple of guesses tells JD, 'Oh, gosh, it's in the "J" family; but if you get in trouble, just ask the nurses for help.'
However, JD's attempts to get help with his performance evaluation get nowhere; eventually he gives up on it and tells Cox to do it. At the end, Dr Cox explains why he told JD to do his own review. 'You only have to answer to one guy, Newbie, and that's you!' JD is certain he's let himself down, but in fact Cox tells the hospital board that JD is going to be a good doctor. Of course, he doesn't tell JD that.
The Janitor Plot
JD sees the janitor searching through the stuff in his trolley and innocently asks if he's lost anything. The suspicious cleaner jumps to the conclusion that JD has stolen something and badgers him for it a couple of times throughout the day and later gives an offer - the cleaning cupboard will be left unlocked and if it should reappear, there will be no questions asked. JD protests that he doesn't even know what 'it' is. The janitor is confused: 'Then why take it?'
JD finally guesses that the missing item might be cleaning fluid, but the janitor corrects him, pointing out that the liquid he's found is ammonia and that 'the cleaning fluid is right over-' only to find a space where the cleaning fluid should be. Convinced that JD is deliberately mentally torturing him, the janitor cries out 'Why?!'
The Non-JD plot
Elliot manages to worm her way into joining Carla (who doesn't like her at this point) when she takes an old friend to dinner. After a phonecall, Carla apologetically cancels the meal, but later she and her friend run into Elliot in a bar, upsetting the doctor.
Later Carla apologises and an initially belligerent Elliot turns morose. She never fits in anywhere. Then Carla's old friend's son comes in with a stab wound. Elliot helps save him and they all go off to a bar. It's a soppy storyline, but that's all part of the series. It's generally worth putting up with, though.
Official Scrubs site - Cast biographies, episode summaries, and links to fan sites (listed on the page labelled 'Fanfare').
Scrubs: My Fansite - There are a dozen or so transcripts of the TV show, for those who haven't seen it.
Related BBCi Links
It might have started well before its American counterpart, but for many overseas viewers, it's known as 'The British ER' (the cheek of it!) - Casualty.