Looking back at the 2000s most underrated show
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
When asked what some of the greatest comedies of the 2000s are, many will likely mention The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm. But, one that is not mentioned often is a comedy that broke the mold for broadcast television and went on to be called the most accurate scripted medical show on television. That show was Scrubs; a medical comedy that chronicled the life of John “JD” Dorian as he went through his medical career at the fictional Sacred Heart Hospital.
While Scrubs was a show consisting of many zany characters and over the top jokes propelled by the star character’s overactive imagination, the show was very capable of tackling the serious nature of the sad reality of watching people die. Ending in 2010 after nine seasons, the show does not seem to be remembered as the landmark of 2000s’ television as it should be. With the show going off the air 10 years ago, and two of the members of the show beginning a series rewatch podcast this month, now is as good of a time as any to talk about what made Scrubs great.
A great comedy lives and dies by its cast, and Scrubs had one of television’s best casts. Whether it was the lacking in self confidence Elliott Reid, the over the top rebel and rant dispenser Perry Cox, or the vengeful annoyances of the vindictive (and at one point possibly imaginary) Janitor, the Scrubs cast was filled with creative characters that consistently delivered for the show’s entire nine season run. Along with this, the show also had a bevvy of side characters including the inappropriate surgeon Todd “The Todd” Quinlan, sad sack lawyer Ted Buckland, and battle-axe wife of Dr. Cox, Jordan Sullivan, who gave the show a feeling that the hospital wasn’t just a hospital, but a town of unique characters.
While Scrubs is often remembered for its humour brought on by JD’s overactive imagination leading to flashbacks, the show’s most beloved episodes are often ones that deal with serious drama. Like the episode “My Screwup,” which many fans view as the best episode in the series. It revolves around the character of Ben Sullivan, Jordan’s brother and Dr. Cox’s best friend, who comes in for an evaluation of his leukemia. And, spoiler, it is revealed that while Ben has been hanging around Dr. Cox and having fun all day, in truth Ben had died earlier in the episode. The event that Dr. Cox was looking forward to, which was disguised as his son’s birthday party, is actually Ben’s funeral—which Dr Cox was suppressing due to his unwillingness to deal with the loss of his friend. Despite being given clues throughout the episode, it was a shocking reveal that highlighted the show’s ability to perform dramatic moments, and also showed the emotional nuance of its characters.
One episode that I have always loved is “My Last Words” where characters JD and his “guy love” surgeon friend Turk are counselling a dying man who is set to pass away on the night they are going to a traditional celebration they call “steak night.” While the episode contains the zaniness that Scrubs is known for—between JD and Turk’s steak night dance and a fantasy in which JD daydreams that he gets himself stuffed when he dies so he can be with Turk forever—
the episode is a very sweet and somber look at death and the fear that doctors must suppress.
With all the great things Scrubs has going for it, why is it not remembered or celebrated as fondly as other shows? One reason I can think is that the great comedies that are still popular today like Seinfeld, Friends, and The Office are all shows that were extremely popular during their initial runs. Scrubs however was more of a niche show with a small fan base. Because of that, the show holds the same status as shows like Community and Malcolm in the Middle. The shows are good, but the fanbase just isn’t large enough to keep it in the zeitgeist.
Another problem may stem from the fact that the cast has not been able to find game changing success after the show’s run. While star Zach Braff did direct an Oscar winning film with Garden State in 2004, today he is more known for his (unfairly) controversial dating life as he is dating up and coming actress Florence Pugh who is 20 years his junior. Others like Donald Faison, John C. McGinley, and Sarah Chalke have appeared on other programs, but no one in the cast has seen prolonged success that could really draw people into watching Scrubs and seeing what the actors were like back then.
In the end though, Scrubs is still one of the best comedies of the 2000s. A zany program that showcased some stand out comedy which strived and succeeded in becoming a truly unique show. If readers have the time, especially if there is some sort of reason that you can’t leave the house due to a social distancing ordinance or something, considering searching out this gem of a comedy. Doctor’s orders!