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 ever heard anything 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 chuffing brilliant? Well obviously we all have different concepts of what 'absolutely chuffing brilliant' means, but many people would say:
Scrubs, take a bow.
It kind of crept up unannounced, did Scrubs. Many viewers in the UK probably only watched it because it was on after Buffy and Angel, and were too bone idle to change it. But lo didst they watch Scrubs, and they saw that it was good.
A lazy reviewer might would describe Scrubs as 'a comedy version of ER.'1
Scrubs is a comedy version of ER. The first series follows the lives of three interns2 during the first year of their careers. During this time there are many lessons for a young doctor in his or her journey to residency. Even after this, of course, they still have much to learn, which is just as well, since it allows the secound series to continue in a similar vein.
A large number of the later episodes start dealing with the character's love lives. These can be a bit soapy, which is fine if you like that sort of thing, but it diminishes Scrubs' distinctiveness.
Thus far there have been two seasons of Scrubs, totalling 46 episodes. There is no official news yet on a possible season three, but it is considered quite likely.
These young go-getters are:
John Michael Dorian
Played by Zach Braff, J.D. 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 as in camera angles, but meaning that the events are filtered through his imagination, sometimes resulting in full-blown Ally McBeal fantasy sequences, sometimes something more subtle. The moral of the story is often delivered by J.D. 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: J.D., Bambi, Newbie, Susan, Nancy, Charlotte... Actually, most of those are just what Dr. Cox calls him, but again we'll be coming to that later.
Turk is a surgical intern, and J.D.'s best buddy. They grew up together, went to medical school together and share a flat, whoops, apartment. He's a more outgoing, cocky foil to J.D.'s sheepishness. Turk is played by Donald Faison.
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 also 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. And second impression... She really fancies the pants off J.D.
Friends, Enemies and Sparring Partners
The cast is rounded out by the people who already work at the hospital who include:
This mysterious handyman becomes the bane of J.D.'s very existence when the erstwhile Dr Dorian makes the mistake of getting him angry on his first day. The cranky ol' Janitor is played by Neil Flynn.
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, ahem Highlander 2: The Quickening. Dr. Cox is J.D.'s mentor and hero and J.D. is sure he sees him as a protégé, whereas Dr. Cox maintains that he sees J.D. 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 J.D. by a girl's name. He also refers to Elliot as Barbie and Turk as Ghandi. 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 is the firey Latino nurse who ends up dating and falling in love with Turk. Ahhh, ain't that nice? 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 dang hospital, but just think of him as your friend, sport. 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 cares not 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.
Uh-oh. This is Doctor 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 upset 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. To the Todd, as he sometimes styles himself, every victory, from the successful completion of a heart by-pass to catching a glimpse of Eliot's underwear deserves a high-five, which he will demand from anyone in the vicinity and deliver with whiplash ferocity. Speaks fluent innuendo. Incessantly. Especially if there's a good-looking woman around. For some unknown reason has not 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 bring up Jesus' name to make people feel guilty. Also adept at going 'Mm-hmm'.
A dog. Despite the fact that he's stuffed, both J.D. and Turk, who own him, speak as if he's alive, attempt to get him to do tricks and admonish him for bad behaviour (e.g. shagging J.D.'s leg - these are sophisticated boys).
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 J.D. and one not. That's pretty typical.
The main plot
J.D. and Turk resuscitate a collapsed TV cameraman, a deed that catapults them to fame. Dr. Kelso milks this situation for all the publicity the hospital can get, to Turk's great annoyance. The ersatz ebonics accompanying his face on posters are the last straw. J.D. 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. 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 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 the man?'
Ted is unsure, 'Is it me?'
'Damn right it's you!' 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 J.D., 'Oh, gosh, it's in the 'J' family; but if you get in trouble, just ask the nurses for help.'
However, J.D.'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 J.D. to do his own review. 'You only have to answer to one guy, Newbie, and that's you!' J.D. is certain he's let himself down, but in fact Cox tells the hospital board that J.D. is going to be a good doctor. Of course, he doesn't tell J.D. that.
The janitor plot
J.D. 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 J.D. has stolen somthing 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. J.D. protests that he doesn't even know what 'it' is. The janitor is confused, 'Then why take it?'
The missing item does reappear. J.D. identifies it as cleaning fluid. No, it's amonia, the cleaning fluid is right over... But it isn't. The janitor turns to J.D. and asks 'Why?'
The non-J.D. plot
Elliot manages to worm her way in to 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 girl.
Later Carla apologises and an initially beligerent 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, they all go off to a bar. Happy happy what a soppy storyline, sorry, but you get some of this stuff. It's generally worth putting up with, though.
- Official Scrubs site - Cast bios, episode summaries, links to fansites3.
- Scrubs: My Fansite - Bunch of stuff. Working on transcripts of every episode, only a dozen or so done so far.