Wednesday, April 21, 2004

In praise of Scrubs: It took me a while to warm up to the charms of NBC's sitcom "Scrubs," but rave critical reviews and my former co-worker Rob (hey, Rob) persuaded me to start checking it out last year, and it's now firmly ensconced as my favorite comedy on TV today, beating out my sentimental-but-getting-old favorites "The Simpsons" and "Frasier."
At first glance "Scrubs" had the debit of being set in a hospital, which, to me, is almost as overused a television show setting as a law firm. It was also a "wacky" hospital, which wasn't particularly inspiring either.
But the quick, catchy wit, mixes of comedy and drama, humane characters and frequent doses of surrealism make "Scrubs" a one-of-a-kind treat. It's addictive and hugely funny. My wife Avril and I actually put off going to the hospital the night she was in labor back in February so we could watch the last 15 minutes of that week's episode (admittedly, her water hadn't broke yet).
Medical intern J.D. (Zach Braff) and his surgeon intern roommate Turk (Donald Faison) lead the cast at Sacred Heart hospital. We follow life at the hospital and its up and downs through J.D.'s eyes. The cast includes J.D.'s spacey on-and-off girlfriend Elliott, gruff hospital chief Dr. Kelso, the hospital's psychotic Janitor, and my favorite character, Dr. Cox. John C. McGinley gives an amazing performance as Dr. Cox, J.D.'s angry, sarcastic and irritable mentor. Cox has developed with surprising complexity over the show's three seasons and sometimes steals the entire program. There's also a ton of recurring bizarre characters and the show has had guest stars from Michael J. Fox to Dick Van Dyke.
"Scrubs" takes life with a surreal wink, throwing in J.D.'s mind's-eye view of things. The show has included musical numbers, bizarre imaginary fantasies and more. It's got lightning-quick jokes and writing, which frequently makes fans worry it's "too smart for TV." So far, it's still succeeding, although it's no smash hit. The show isn't afraid to get serious on occasion too, and in my mind it sometimes compares to the great early seasons of "M*A*S*H."
It's even got a great, eclectic soundtrack including music by The Old 97s, Sebadoh, The Shins, Guided By Voices and Colin Hay -- many of my personal favorites.
This fan Web site is also particularly good and gives as decent a quote as any to sum it all up: "Think of it as a mix of M*A*S*H and The Wonder Years with a dash of Malcolm in the Middle and a hint of Ally McBeal. "
This week is particularly sweet because it offers two new episodes, one Tuesday night as normal, one Thursday night as well. Check it out if you haven't -- it makes most of TV look even more like the wasteland it already is.

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