Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lazy Sunday # 398: Scrubs

“Scrubs”, a half hour TV comedy ran for 7 seasons on NBC and then two on ABC from 2001 to 2010. I missed the first season or two and then only watched from time to time (although I liked what I saw) but was mostly busy with projects of my own –- and more’s the pity.

Because “Scrubs” was one of the most innovative shows of its time.

Created by Bill Lawrence based on the memoirs of his college roomate Dr. John Dorris, “Scrubs” would earn 117 award nominations including 17 Emmys, 3 Golden Globes and 4 Humanitas Awards winning 31 times.

A few weeks ago, I called up the first season of the series on Netflix and started watching it. That led to binge watching and a realization that, more than any other series I’m familiar with, “Scrubs” reflects what life is really like around the production of a television series.

It’s always been my opinion that a series is never fully formed in development and that no matter where the showrunners and scripts intend it to go, it’s the chemistry of the cast and crew that really dictates the finished products.

Actors have unknown talents and skills that writers begin to incorporate into story lines allowing characters to grow in unintended directions.

Audiences “like” some characters more than expected, shifting bit players into major roles and massaging major players into dimensions of character nobody delineated in the bible.

Producers and directors add bits that become running gags and then structural boilerplate. Everything about “Scrubs” reveals a creative intent less locked to format than dependent on finding something that hadn’t been tried before.

In these and so many other ways “Scrubs” distanced itself from the standard sitcom format. Storylines often skewed dark or into the realm of TV drama. Problems were left unresolved.

The gap between “Scrubs” and other sitcoms was never more stark than a Season Four episode entitled “My Life in Four Cameras” in which a dark storyline about a famous television writer diagnosed with lung cancer transforms mid-show into the way the same story would be told as a sitcom.

Suddenly the lights are brighter, the costumes tailored. All the female characters have cleavage and all the guys have signature shtick, and the “live” studio audience overwhelms everything.

Whether you are new to creating television or have been doing it all your life, “Scrubs” remains a touchstone to the way good television is made.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

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