fb-pixelA look back at the fantasy — and humanity — of ‘Scrubs’ - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

A look back at the fantasy — and humanity — of ‘Scrubs’

From left: Judy Reyes, Zach Braff, and Donald Faison in "Scrubs."Paul Drinkwater/NBC

A lot of viewers enjoyed “Shrinking,” and now they are savoring the third and likely last season of “Ted Lasso.” Both Apple TV+ shows share common DNA: “Shrinking” was co-created by both “Lasso” co-creator Bill Lawrence and “Lasso” star and writer Brett Goldstein.

Lawrence has long been a favorite of mine because he created one of my all-time favorite comedies. That would be “Scrubs,” the hospital comedy that ran from 2001 to 2010 (let’s forget about those last two or three of the nine seasons, shall we?). I still get annoyed when I recall how the series, so giddily inventive, failed to become an Emmy magnet. Not a single member of the supporting cast, a pitch-perfect ensemble from Donald Faison and Sarah Chalke to Neil Flynn and Ken Jenkins, was ever nominated for an Emmy; only Zach Braff got the nod, once, for lead actor.


It didn’t help the chances for “Scrubs” that NBC confused viewers by shuffling the show around its schedule, in the way it made “Freaks and Geeks” so hard for fans to find in 1999-2000.

For me, “Scrubs” was a revelation. It took the fantasy sequences that David E. Kelley pioneered on ‘’Ally McBeal” and ran with them, so that each episode — each scene, at times — was crammed with surreal flashes. In a way, it was a hard-core TV product, since much of it was put together in post-production, unlike the more theatrical live-audience format of, say, “The Conners.” It was as if the ego and the id of lead character J.D. Dorian was being loosed upon us, as his every weird thought became literal.

But while those flashes were fun, they weren’t there to distract us from a lack of humanity or character development. Yes, the characters toyed with one another, and irony was in the air, and there were plenty of pop cultural references. But “Scrubs” — much like that more celebrated doctor comedy, “M*A*S*H” — could be quite moving. It’s still there for us, by the way; the whole series is available to stream on Hulu.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him @MatthewGilbert.