Sacred Heart is a hospital you may never really want to be admitted to, however the antics of the doctors of the fictional teaching hospital have kept audiences laughing for seven years and now we get what may very well be the last year of the show’s centerpiece, Dr. John Dorian (played by Zach Braff). It’s already been announced in several locations that Zach Braff will not return if the show comes back for a ninth season. And he’s not the only one. But, where did Scrubs go? It’s not being broadcast on NBC, it’s home since it premiered in 2001.
Scrubs had been broadcast on NBC since it premiered in October of 2001. It began in the Tuesday night line-up, being broadcast at 9:30pm Eastern Time. That first season show the show ranked as number 40 with an average of over 11 million viewers. The next season saw the show move to Thursday nights with an 8:30pm start time. That year saw the show’s highest ranking and the largest amount of viewers, with a rank of number 15 and average viewers of almost 16 million per week. Scrubs was then bounced back to Tuesdays, then back to Thursdays. Viewers dropped, but since season 4 the number of viewers have averaged over 6 million each week.
I won’t try to go into all the ins and outs of Scrubs. There are plenty of web-sites and places to find information about the plotlines and guest stars of this medical comedy. Instead, it is my intention to herald the return of the show with a review of the first two new episodes of the newest season. Quickly, however, for those who do not know, NBC decided to cancel the series but ABC brought new life to the show for it’s eighth season.
The new season sees the introduction of some new characters. With the announcement that central Scrubs star Zach Braff will not return for a ninth season, the show will have to change drastically. Each episode, with the exception of a small handful, has been narrated by Braff’s character of Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian. Some of the characters being introduced may be hanging on for the ninth season. One character, Katie (played by Betsy Beutler), comes off as a know-it-all and a suck up. Another character is Denise Mahoney, is played by Eliza Coupe. The final member of the new intern trio assigned to Dr. Dorian is Ed, played by Aziz Ansari. Another cast member to be added to the cast this season is Dr. Taylor Maddox, the new chief of medicine at Sacred Heart. This part is played by Courteney Cox. The addition of Courteney Cox to the cast is not a permanent one, however, as it has been released that she will stay for only four episodes of this season.
The first episode of the new season, “My Jerks”, introduces the new Chief of Medicine at Sacred Heart, and we get our first televised view of the new interns. The interns had previously appeared in webisode of the Scrubs: Interns series that was launched on January 1st, 2009. The episode also focuses on J.D.’s dilemma with his interns. Katie, nicknamed “Blair” by Turk (Dr. Christopher Duncan Turk, played by Donald Faison), J.D.’s best friend and former roommate, is a know-it-all. Denise, nicknamed “Jo” by J.D. after the “Facts of Life” character played by Nancy McKeon, is abrasive and has no tact when dealing with patients. The final intern, Ed, is a do nothing type person who probably shouldn’t be a doctor in the first place. J.D. gets tired for trying to teach this group of chuckleheads and wants to give up.
Another plotline running through this episode involves Dr. Elliot Reid, played by Sarah Chalke. Her character has had several boyfriends over the seasons but came close to getting married in season six. She dumped her boyfriend, Keith, and never really knew how much damage she had done to him. Turk’s wife, Nurse Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes), points this out to Elliot which forces her to recognize the damage done and apologize to her former fiance.
This episode sees Dr. Taylor Maddox as the new Chief of Medicine and she blows in all smiles and happiness, winning everyone over but Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley). Dr. Cox does not want to get to know the new Chief of Medicine of Sacred Heart, a position he temporarily filled after the resignation of Dr. Box Kelso (Ken Jenkins). During a heart to heart with J.D. about why he has stopped teaching his interns, Dr. Cox reveals that he too is tired of the same old game. He knows that the new Chief of Medicine will be a jerk and that will prompt him to be the jerk that must fight her in small battles every day and he’s tired of it. We learn by the end of the episode that Dr. Maddox is, in fact, a jerk just motivated by money. She actually has countless unnecessary tests performed on a patient because the patient has great insurance coverage. Dr. Cox learns this and knows that he will have to destroy her.
Actor Zach Braff wears a stubbly beard in the new season and it suits his character, although I wished he’d have grown it years ago. It makes his character look less childlike and respectable. It may be because of the imminent departure of the character, forcing him to grow up and move on from this hospital. Whatever the cause, he isn’t the only character that won’t be returning next season. Although Dr. Maddox fires the Janitor (Neil Flynn) in this first episode, we can guarantee that he will be back. He is one of the most popular characters on the show. He was added to the cast after he auditioned for the part of Dr. Cox. The decision was made to hire John C. McGinley for the part of Dr. Cox, but the creators so loved Neil Flynn that the character of the Janitor for the show. We know the Janitor will not be leaving, but Nurse Espinosa will not be back next season. There is talk that it is because of finances, as ABC doesn’t seem to be willing to continue to pay the salaries of some of the actors with the show. Other sources claim it is because this actor or that actor wants to go on to do other projects, Broadway, so some other reason.
The second episode, which was broadcast following the first, “My Last Words”, focused on Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian and Dr. Chris Turk’s involvement with a dying patient and trying to prepare him for death. This was by far the best of the new episodes. This episode reminded me of what I love the most about Scrubs. It harkens back to the Third Season episode, “My Screw Up”, when Dr. Cox’s brother-in-law, Ben Sullivan (Brendan Fraser) dies. The performance of John C. McGinley in this episode was simply outstanding as a man who refuses to accept the death of his brother-in-law and best friend. This episode made Scrubs a permanent favorite of mine. The comedy is great, in my opinion, with the fantasy sequences and the slapstick, but it was the drama that unexpectedly shows up that clinched it for me.
This episode reminded me of why I enjoy Scrubs. Scrubs runs in syndication across the country and across the world. It’s a great little show that has suffered from the constant schedule changes and the lack of promotion by NBC. It will be sad to see some of the characters leave, however any show that continues to run several years will invariably see characters come and go. In order for Scrubs to continue it will need a few characters from this original run to bridge the gap. Although Zack Braff’s character is leaving, John C. McGinley has already said he would return for a ninth season. His character, Dr. Perry Cox, is essential to continuing the show, as is Sarah Chalke, Dr. Elliot Reid. Her character has changed and matured over the course of the show until she is now a very confident private practice doctor working out of the hospital.
The future is bright for Scrubs and for the doctors of Sacred Heart, but as a patient, I don’t think I’d want to check in.