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Scrubs: Season 1 DVD Review

Scrubs: Season 1

November 23, 2005

Director: Adam Bernstein, Marc Buckland, Michael Spiller,
Starring: Zach Braff, John C. McGinley, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, Ken Jenkins, Judy Reyes, Neil Flynn, Sam Lloyd, Robert Maschio, Christa Miller, Aloma Wright, ,

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DVD Review

Scrubs is a medical comedy about a group of new interns who are adjusting to the demands of working on the front lines of a busy hospital. There’s J.D. (Braff), the idealistic one who also narrates the show, Turk (Faison), the cocky surgical intern and Elliot (Chalke), the goofy ditz whom J.D. has is attracted to, while Turk is drawn to Carla (Reyes), a sarcastic nurse. In his day-to-day routine, J.D. has to deal with the tough and demanding Dr. Cox (McGinley), the gleefully pompous Dr. Kelso (Jenkins) and a mean janitor (Flynn) who delights in tormenting the young intern.

As the season progresses, the show fleshes out these archetypes and the relationships between the characters as they deal with their parents, loved ones with a disease and the dangers of looking up to someone as your mentor only to have that belief shattered. We are also introduced to colourful supporting characters, like Todd (Maschio), the macho, alpha-male surgical intern (and one of Turk’s buddies) and Ted (Lloyd), the meek lawyer with perpetual flop-sweat and toady to Dr. Kelso.

Each episode deals with the trials and tribulations that these interns face on a daily basis in a predominantly humourous way but with the occasional dose of pathos derived from the interns having to deal with their own shortcomings or from certain cases, like the death of a patient, one with an incurable disease, or just the daily grind of the job.

The show has an engaging zany sense of humour reminiscent of early Zucker Abrams and Zucker movies (Airplane!, Top Secret), complete with snappy dialogue and visualizing what J.D. imagines in any given situation. For example, in a moment of complete exasperation and frustration J.D.’s head quite literally explodes. Or, to illustrate the competitive nature with Elliot, we see the two race down a hallway like something out of track and field meet complete with Cheap Trick blasting away on the soundtrack.

Like The Simpsons, Scrubs contains many popular culture references and has fun with them. For example, it pays homage to past medical shows, like St. Elsewhere, while even including a song and dance routine right out of West Side Story (1961). In one episode, J.D. imagines himself as the Fonz from Happy Days, able to fix a patient just like the Fonz did with a juke box. In another choice moment, J.D. fantasizes about a beautiful nurse that quotes the famous pool scene with Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).

Zach Braff and Donald Faison work well together, excelling at goofy facial expressions and reaction shots while Sarah Chalke is excellent at physical comedy. But it is Oliver Stone regular, John C. McGinley who delivers some of the show’s funniest dialogue with his monologues berating J.D. as he constantly refers to him by girl’s names. Every time McGinley is on screen, the show gets a much-needed shot of adrenaline as he epitomizes the essence of tough love.

Looking back at this season after the success of Garden State (2004) launched Braff’s career, it is interesting to watch him as he pulls off being the audience surrogate, our guide into this wacky world. It also showcases his considerable comedic chops and his ability to work in a talented ensemble. First and foremost Scrubs is an ensemble comedy with elements of drama and this gives the writers the freedom to go wherever they want and should ensure the show’s longevity so long as the ratings continue to be strong.

Special Features:

The first disc starts off with “Newbies,” a featurette where the show’s creator, Bill Lawrence talks briefly about how he created Scrubs and incorporated real stories from friends who were doctors. The writers talk about how a season and an episode are constructed. The writers work closely with the actors and play to their strengths. The cast talk about their roles with input from Lawrence.

There is an audio commentary on “My First Day” by Bill Lawrence. Like Arrested Development, Scrubs is a sitcom that only uses one camera which made the network nervous. He touches upon the evolution of the characters and offers some good observations.

Lawrence returns on the commentary for “My Old Lady” with Zach Braff along for the ride. The network didn’t like the dramatic elements of this episode so early on in the show’s first season but that is what made the two men want to do it. They joke around in this light and engaging track.

Lawrence and actor Neil Flynn provide commentary on “My Fifteen Minutes.” Flynn dispels the myth that he adlibs all of his lines and they talk about the colourful extras and reoccurring supporting cast that appear in this episode.

The second DVD features a music video for the show’s jaunty theme song, “Superman” by Lazlo Bane in its entirety with behind-the-scenes clips of the show mixed with footage of the band performing.

“The Doctor is In” is a brief featurette with Braff talking about he got on the show despite an awful audition. After he did five more before he finally got the job! Braff talks about meeting the rest of the cast and his impressions of them in this entertaining extra.

“Alternate Lines: A Second Opinion” is a nine minute reel of different takes from various scenes by Flynn, Braff and the very funny John C. McGinley.

Also included is an audio commentary on “My Blind Date” by Lawrence and Braff once again. They comment on the performances of the supporting cast and talk about the network’s insistence that J.D.’s girlfriend in the episode had to be beautiful.

The third disc features “Not Just Another Medical Show,” a featurette that examines how Lawrence wanted to avoid shooting in a studio in favour of on location in a converted, run-down hospital. The show’s technical advisors talk about how they try to keep the show’s medical jargon and situations authentic.

“Favorite Moments” sees the cast and crew recounting their cherished bits from the show. They talk about how it also deals with real issues in between comedic set pieces and the guest stars that graced the first season.

There is also a four minute “Outtakes Reel,” a montage of blown lines and goofy takes that give a little insight into how much fun the cast and crew must have working on the show.

Also included is ten minutes worth of deleted scenes. Sadly, they aren’t put in any context so it’s hard to figure out what episode they’re from. However, there are some really funny bits and it’s a shame that they were cut.

There is an audio commentary on “My Sacrificial Clam” by Lawrence and actors Sam Lloyd and Robert Maschio. Not surprisingly, the actors talk about their characters and laugh along with the episode. Maschio provides a lot of the humour on this amusing track.

Finally, there is a commentary for “My Hero” by Lawrence and John C. McGinley. This episode shows Dr. Cox’s vulnerable side and fleshes out his character. Contrary to his on-screen persona, McGinley is pretty low-key on this solid track.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 89%

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