Sitcoms by definition are interested almost exclusively in making the audience laugh. Comedy is the core of their existence, but the best ones are capable of adding something more to the mix. Something a bit more serious, a bit more emotional, and a bit more concerned with their characters’ hearts. Scrubs is one of the best examples of a show that earned an audience for being both incredibly humorous and capable of working the tear ducts with storylines and characters that connect with our own hopes, fears, and emotions. And yes, I am talking about seasons one through seven only… we can all agree the final two seasons (8/9) need never be mentioned again.
Scrubs is a hospital-themed sitcom that follows the daily lives of several employees at Sacred Heart Hospital. The show has a pretty good-sized cast for a sitcom, but the main players consist of a central seven. John “J.D.” Dorian (Zach Braff) is the show’s heart and soul and narrates almost every episode. Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke) is his primary love interest and a neurotic and emotionally fragile hot-mess. Christopher Turk (Donald Faison) is J.D.’s best-friend and platonic partner in guy love. Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes) is head nurse and eventual wife for Turk. Dr Cox (John C. McGinley) is a dick with a purpose, and that purpose is to be J.D.’s mentor and father figure. Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins) is the head of the hospital and a terrible, terrible man. And lastly, The Janitor (Neil Flynn) is J.D’s constant and ever present foil.
The show is known for a few elements in particular… a strong use of music, a common theme that brings the characters together at the end, and a series of imagined fantasy sequences emanating from a simple head tilt. The fantasy bits are a constant stream of visual gags including people exploding, engaging in musical numbers, appearing in costume, traveling through time, and more. The show is also loaded with guest stars in both fleeting and recurring roles. Some guest stars featured in multiple episode story-lines include Brendan Fraser, John Ritter, Elizabeth Banks, Heather Graham, Dave Foley, Tom Cavanagh, Rick Schroder, Amy Smart, Mandy Moore, and more. Michael Learned is particularly memorable as a recurring patient who wins the hearts of characters and viewers alike only to catch a fatal infection in a particularly well done and sincere fifth season episode.
Season One sees the arrival of J.D., Turk, and Elliot as interns and follows them through a turbulent year of laughs, oddball patients, and failed romances. Season Two continues with them as residents and Turk and Carla getting engaged. Season Three’s biggest change is Elliot’s makeover into hot doctor and the arrival of Tara Reid as J.D.’s new lady. Season Four sees residencies end and careers as doctors truly begin, and it also features Heather Graham in a role that showcases her fantastic comedic chops. Season Five sees the arrival of Elliot’s new boy-toy Keith Dudemeister and J.D.’s baby mama Kim (the hilarious and gorgeous Elizabeth Banks). Season Six finds J.D. as a father, the death of the hospital’s resident Jesus freak, and a strong episode on Carla suffering post-partum. Season Seven shows the series’ first real signs of weakness, but that may be due to the writer’s strike that resulted in the season only seeing eleven produced episodes. Season Eight is where the show becomes an unfunny mess as it moves from NBC to ABC and also sees the arrival of Courtney Cox-Arquette as the new head of the hospital. And then Season Nine happens. Ugh… J.D. basically (and wisely) disappears leaving behind a partial cast working alongside several new interns.
There are way too many high points throughout the series to highlight, but a small sampling would include the infamous backwards x-ray, a Wizard Of Oz episode, an episode focused on the innocuous stat that one in three patients will die, Dr. Acula, the World’s Most Giant Black Doctor, a story arc following a depressed Dr. Cox drowning himself in alcohol, a long fantasy involving Turk and Carla raising a pumpkin as a child, a musical episode, several episodes dealing with loss in beautiful and touching fashion, and… so many more.
As is visible in the pic above the packaging for The Complete Collection is more concerned with style than practicality. The box flips open, like a medical chart presumably, to reveal a binder with pages color-coded to each of the nine seasons, and the DVDs are held in pocket sleeves on the pages. In the grand history of terrible box-set designs this one is far from the worst, but it will still be a challenge fitting it onto a standard DVD shelf. The ideal for any TV series set is to have the big, fancy box themed to your show, but inside find a way to include actual, individual season cases. This set is not ideal. The little physical extras include a fake photo-strip of the cast, a fake x-ray of the cast, and a fake hospital badge that won’t actually get you into a hospital’s restricted areas. (To be fair, the badge will get you laid at really seedy bars around 2am.)
The less than impressive physical extras aside, the special features included on the discs are plentiful… even if most of them aren’t necessarily new. All of the featurettes, commentaries, and deleted scenes available in the individual season releases are repeated here, and much of the material is well worth watching/listening to. Lawrence and his cast truly cared about their show, and their love and enthusiasm for it and each other are visible in the behind the scenes segments and in the often humorous commentaries.
The new bonus material in this set comes on a separate disc, but sadly it’s coupled with an arduous process required to actually view the extras. It’s a Scrubs trivia game hosted by The Todd, but being a DVD the game is saddled with load times between screens and questions. Answer enough questions correctly from each season and you get access to seven brand-new featurettes… but you can only choose one to watch. When that ends you have to play through the game again to watch another featurette. I searched the disc for an ‘easter-egg’ to go straight to the new extras but couldn’t find one. (I suggest playing the two player game… you only need 18 correct answers at most compared to a whopping 36 in the single player game.) If you do make it through the game the available extras include a two part behind the scenes look at the Muppet episode, a two part look at the series’ many guest stars, Lawrence answering fan questions, and… Lawrence revealing the janitor’s real name.
If you’re a fan of the show and don’t currently own any of the individual season sets this Complete Collection is a pretty solid buy. It contains all the extras across all nine seven seasons as well as some entertaining new material, and cost wise it’s actually less than buying the individual box sets. Scrubs is a fantastic and funny show for much of its run, and thanks to sharp writing, great visual gags, and an underlying heart many of the series’ episodes can be re-watched and enjoyed again and again.