Rewatching The 'Scrubs' Pilot Proves The Zach Braff Comedy Was A New Kind Of Medical Show From Its First Episode
Medical dramas have been on television since, well, the beginning of television, but medical comedies? Those are a bit rarer. I mean, M*A*S*H* was classified as a comedy, but it seemed pretty dark to me. That's where Scrubs comes in. Bill Lawrence's half-hour comedy about doctors John "JD" Dorian, Chris "Turk" Turk, Elliot Reid, and Carla Espinosa broke a lot of the molds both of sitcoms and of medical shows. No guts or blood spilled onto the floor: it was just fun, save for the occasional heartfelt moment. I mean, there was even a musical. How could you hate the show that gave us "Guy Love?" Scrubs had the perfect combination of comedy and heart, which is one of Bill Lawrence's calling cards (the guy made Cougartown into a viable sitcom option, for chrissake). The actors made Scrubs what it was. It was the launching board Zach Braff needed for his career, and Scrubs has to live with that (jk, Zach. Jk.) It brought stars like Sarah Chalke and Christa Miller back to television, and gave us new ones to love, like John C. McGinley and Neil Flynn. (We've loved Donald Faison for years.) I adored Scrubs as a teen/young adult, but would I still feel for the schmaltzy flashbacks and the Janitor now? To find out, I re-watched the Scrubs pilot to see if it was a show I could get behind today. Here's what I noticed.
Zach Braff Is So Young
I mean, obviously, right? A show made so many years ago has a very young star at its core, but considering how long we’ve seen Zach Braff in hospital scrubs or wearing a shirt that matches the wallpaper in the guest bathroom (#GardenStatejokes), it’s sort of shocking to see him so green here. Whether or not this was method acting, Braff really embodies JD’s wide-eyed naïveté and nervousness, especially in the first episode of Scrubs.
The Flashbacks & Fantasies Are The Best Part
On a well-written show such as this one, it’s hard to choose just one scene or sequence to elevate among all of the other great ones. Well, for Scrubs, it’s easy. Of course, the real-time stories are compelling and hilarious, but the show’s one-off fantasies and flashbacks are truly the stars here. They’re just so ridiculous and heavy-handed that you can’t help but laugh every. single. time.
The One-Liners Were Strong From The Beginning
Like I said, a well-written show will always have its moments, but getting that perfect joke rhythm down right away (especially in the first episodes) is tough. This was no problem for Scrubs, who let out gems like “Your butt looks like two Pringles hugging,” and “If you push around a stiff, nobody will ask you to do anything,” in the pilot. This is why the show was able to stick around for as long as it did.
The Characters’ Personalities Are Bigger In The First Episode
JD is weirder, Carla is more hot-tempered, and Elliot is more competitive: The writers probably did this to prove that each character was a type and then mellowed it back as the characters became more familiar to the viewers, but it’s worth noting in the pilot that personalities are so big here.
Dr. Jeff Steadman Was A Mary-Kate & Ashley Fan
Did any other child of the 1990s recognize Dr. Jeff Steadman from Passport to Paris? Actor Matt Winston played Jeremy Bluff, the uptight right-hand man of the twins’ ambassador grandfather.
The Music Was Amazing
Braff always served as a de facto music supervisor on his show, introducing Scrubs viewers to musicians like Joshua Radin and Colin Hay (his solo work, at least). The music in the pilot episode of Scrubs is no exception to this, with “Please Forgive Me” by David Gray playing over the show near the end.
The Heart Made The Show
The stupidest comedies can make anyone laugh, but Scrubs touched viewers on a different level – it had heart. The passion and emotion that viewers felt for the characters on the show (and that the doctors felt for their patients) was palpable, and I believe this is why so many people tuned in week after week. You can feel this in the pilot, and it went on for the decade-long run of the show.
Could we have survived a television history without Scrubs? Sure, but why would we want to? This little-show-that-could revived a whole genre of medical comedies. It’s all on Netflix, too, ready for your streaming enjoyment.
Images: screengrab/ABC; Giphy (X)