‘Scrubs’ prescription for laughs

The half-hour television comedy format (or “sitcom”) is almost dead; in fact, it is on life support. Last year alone, TV audiences lost its good “Friends;” “Frasier” left the building; and the women of “Sex and the City” strolled off into the sunset. And in just a matter of months, viewers will be left unloved as “Everybody Loves Raymond” signs off from the air.

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By Allan Mendiola

By Allan Mendiola

The half-hour television comedy format (or “sitcom”) is almost dead; in fact, it is on life support. Last year alone, TV audiences lost its good “Friends;” “Frasier” left the building; and the women of “Sex and the City” strolled off into the sunset. And in just a matter of months, viewers will be left unloved as “Everybody Loves Raymond” signs off from the air. By all appearances, it looks as though TV is losing its sense of humor. But there is a glimmer of hope for the half-hour comedy format on television. There is still one show out there that is giving viewers a whole lot to laugh about on a weekly basis. The only problem is that not enough people are watching it to keep it alive.The Tuesday-night at 9, NBC half-hour comedy “Scrubs” is quite possibly the most consistently original and entertaining show on television today. But like many boldly different shows that are out there on the air, not very many people are watching it.The show (now in its fourth season) centers around the trials and tribulations of a young doctor named John Dorian (or J.D.), played winningly by Zach Braff. J.D. is the voice of the show, literally, in that we hear his amusing thoughts on his life, his friends and colleagues, and his work as a doctor. A lot of the show’s humor comes when J.D.’s mind wanders and we see his thoughts take on hilariously outrageous daydream form. Braff, who has emerged as a true talent thanks not only to “Scrubs” but also to his highly praised independent film “Garden State,” is terrifically engaging in the role. As J.D., Braff is likeable, loony and witty-the very characteristics a comedy star should possess. He would have made the late John Ritter (who previously guest starred on the show as his father) proud.Although Braff is considered the star of the show, “Scrubs” is really an ensemble comedy, and it has a winning ensemble at that. Braff’s co-stars are all just as wickedly entertaining as he is. In fact, many times they steal the show right from under him. The biggest standout has to be John C. McGinley, who plays the fast and furiously blunt Dr. Perry Cox. As J.D.’s mentor, Dr. Cox wittingly tells it like it is to the young up and coming doctor (or “Newbie” as Dr. Cox amusingly calls him.)A lot of the fun of the show comes from the interactions between J.D. and his “best bud” and fellow doc Turk, played by Donald Faison. J.D. and Turk just might be the most amusing best bud pair since Joey and Chandler of “Friends.” J.D. and Turk are so close that their friendship tends to humorously come in between Turk and his wife Carla (a nurse at the hospital where the two friends work,) played by Judy Reyes. There is a nice dynamic going on in the show between J.D., Turk and Carla, as well as another young doctor, Elliot, played by a charismatic Sarah Chalke. It is always a blast whenever the four of them are in a scene together because their chemistry is unmistakable; they really are the new “Friends.”Since most of the action of the show occurs in the hospital where J.D. works, the show has significant touches of drama to it as well. While it does tend to deal with illness and death in a lighthearted way, the show does nonetheless take dramatically realistic turns. People get sick and people die, and “Scrubs” does not always end on a happy note with a patient walking out of the hospital good and cured. Unlike most comedies, everything is not always neatly and happily resolved by the end of the show’s 30 minute run. A recent episode, titled “My Life in Four Cameras,” vividly illustrated this. In the episode, J.D. pictures the goings on of the hospital as if they were taped before a studio audience like a typical sitcom. In the end, though, the real world of life and death is not a happy, all is right with the world sitcom, and “Scrubs” fully embraces this fact. Perhaps this is what makes the show particularly special-it’s wacky and outrageous, and yet it is also surprisingly very real and powerful.”Scrubs” really is one of the best shows on television, and yet few people are watching it. After settling into a comfortable Thursday slot two years ago after “Friends,” “Scrubs” was banished away last year to Tuesday to make way for the reality show, “The Apprentice.” In its Tuesday timeslot, “Scrubs” is being pummeled by its competition, which includes ABC’s unoriginal family sitcom, “According to Jim.” It seems as though NBC just does not care enough about “Scrubs” to nurture it and now it is in danger of further obscurity, if not inevitable cancellation. A show so entertaining deserves so much better than this. Viewers who want quality, original shows should take a look at “Scrubs” before it is too late. If all we are left with is the same, routine, “canned laughter” sitcoms on TV, then the half-hour comedy format would not merely be on life support, it would flat-line. Good TV has been hard to find lately, thanks to the overwhelming dominance of mostly forgettable reality shows on television. Quality shows are indeed still out there, waiting anxiously to become “appointment” TV. “Scrubs” is one of those shows.

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