Scrubs Season 1 Review
We’ve all been there, the first day on the big new job, one minute you’re full of yourself thinking about how great you must be to have got the job in the first place, and then it hits you, you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing and at this point even the janitor would be more confident in your job than you are. It’s easy to be intimidated, but just imagine how terrifying it must be when decisions that will decide whether people live or die are yours to make as soon as you walk in the door.
That’s exactly the position J.D. (Zach Braff) finds himself in as he walks through the doors of Sacred Heart, he may be a doctor, but ten minutes ago he’d never stuck a needle in a live patient. Actually, he still hasn’t, as the pressure is proving a bit much for him and there’s a little performance anxiety going around, so J.D is relying more than a little heavily on the nurses. It’s not a problem his best friend is sharing though. You see J.D. is a medical intern, he gets the patients to diagnose, to spend time with, to get to know. J.D. very much sees the human face of his patients. Turk (Donald Faison) is a surgical intern, he doesn’t have to deal with running IVs or alleviating compacted colons, he just gets to cut people open, and he’s loving it. Which naturally makes things even harder on J.D. as, despite being a fantastic doctor on paper, doesn’t know if he can make it in practice. What he really needs is a mentor, a kind, affectionate doctor to guide him through, take his first medical steps and push him to being the best doctor he can be - so he’s not exactly over the moon to find out his attending doctor appears to be anything but. Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) is a man who speaks his mind, and that mind is a mean, mean, sarcastic one - you’d be hard pushed to find a more acerbic and demoralising mentor. The chief resident isn’t much better, as - despite giving all the interns a lovely welcoming speech - couldn’t care less about them, all he cares about is the bottom line, and if that means he has to throw dying people out on the street to make the books balance then so be it, people too poor to pay for doctors don’t deserve treatment anyway. J.D.’s one glimmer of hope is Elliot (Sarah Chalke) a fellow medical intern who seems just as book smart as he is, and is having an equally difficult time - though for very different reasons. Elliot seems to lack some basic common sense that would prevent her from putting her foot in her mouth at a rate that should leave her requiring major orthodontic attention near daily. This could be the person that gets J.D. through his days, and it doesn’t hurt that he happens to think she’s smokin hot.
Scrubs has just finished its fourth season, and it’s easy to see - even from its very first steps - how the series has managed such a run in the cut-throat world of US sitcoms. The pilot episode manages the near impossible by instantly making you feel familiar with the characters, everyone is so relaxed in their roles it makes it easy to be absorbed, and it’s strange to see the characters change so little over the course of the series. It usually takes a pretty hefty chunk of the season for actors to find their stride, and for writers to really decide which direction they’re going to take people, but Scrubs has a feeling of vision about it, like everyone on board knew exactly where they were going before the first day of shooting. This has to be credited to the writing, which is often razor sharp, but also filled with heartwarming human moments. Most of these come from J.D., as the centre of the show its his dilemmas that are most often the focus, and it’s his doubts about his abilities as a doctor - and the way he finds his feet - which make up the major story arc of the first season. Insecurity is something that plays a major role in Scrubs, much of the inspiration for the show came from the stories told to creator Bill Lawrence by his friends in the medical profession, and it’s both comforting and terrifying to know these people have just as many problems starting out in their new jobs as the rest of us.
Sadly it is still a show with a major weakness - the lazy formula trap. It doesn’t take long to realise that every week we’re watching a version of the same show, where one of the characters - most often J.D. - has a crisis of confidence and has to be helped through it - most often by the character they thought the least likely to be there for them. Throw in a handful of Ally McBeal-esque strange fantasy sequences and you’ve got yourself an episode. It’s a strange dichotomy, on the one hand we have a clever script and a slew of sharp jokes, on the other, the standard formula - surely the biggest hinderance to creativity. Yet somehow Scrubs still works, and doesn’t feel tired. Maybe it’s an extension of the familiarity with the characters, not only do you feel comfortable with them, but you feel comfortable with the show, knowing how things are going to work out. Which is probably why such a witty program has managed to survive four seasons and still stay strong in the ratings.
Ultimately, I couldn’t help but like Scrubs, it’s a show filled with such great characters any one of them would make a show watchable, but together they make a show so good that the three discs present in this set will probably be played back to back, and I for one have been given a thirst for this show that won’t be quenched until the rest of the seasons have made their way into my collection (whenever the powers that be see fit to release them that is.)
The Picture and Sound
You can’t help feeling cheated with this set, because as good as the show is, the presentation leaves an awful lot to be desired. The image quality is very shoddy, I’m not sure how good it looked on its first run, but I’d be willing to wager a lot better than this. The current season looks very slick indeed, and although earlier seasons often have poorer image quality, what’s presented here is incredibly grainy, and the transfer often has trouble coping - leaving some noticeable artifacting - and the colours don’t seem as strong as they should be. The soundtrack is underwhelming, but that’s not surprising and completely forgivable for a TV show, where a 5.1 sound mix is a luxury not a necessity.
The extras contained on the first disc act as an introduction to the series, thankfully presented with an option to play them all, as for the most part they’re little more than soundbites. Season One, The Writers, and The Cast, (which is broken down into eleven segments) are all pretty much as they sound, the cast and crew sit down to sing the praises of their co-workers, and are naturally regularly interrupted by snippets of the show’s funniest moments. Thankfully moving on to the second disc provides more entertainment, and something a little different. First we’re presented with the music video for the show’s theme Superman - which I’ll admit I didn’t even know existed - it isn’t the most elaborate of videos but it’s good to have it included here. Next The Doctor Is In is a conversation with Zach Braff that’s a bit more fun and in-depth than the first disc had prepared us for, but not much, as he really only has time to tell two extended anecdotes. You get the feeling he’d have no trouble providing us with an awful lot more, so it’s a shame someone seems happy providing us with the minimum. Alternate Lines: A Second Opinion is a fantastic little feature full of the cast’s ad-libbing attempts. The takes that didn’t make it into the show are just as funny as the ones that did, and it’s easy to see how the show ends up being so funny if this is the stuff they can throw away. The Third disc also has a good selection of features, starting out with Not Just Another Medical Show is another collection of talking heads where the cast try to tell us what sets Scrubs out from the crowd of medical shows out there, which to be honest they don’t really manage, because Scrubs really is a lot like most medical shows these days - which is one of its strengths, as they put just as much effort into the details as the big medical dramas. They do seem to make the show somewhat differently, simply because - largely through luck - they get to make the show without much interference from the studio, and that always seems to be something that allows talented people to come up with something great. Favorite Moments is a title that speaks for itself, but it’s actually rather nice to hear what the people that make the show really love about it, and there are actually some pretty surprising selections. The Outtakes Reel is sadly not as funny as the alternate takes, though the Deleted Scenes offer quite a few laughs, which is clearly the product of things being cut due to time restrictions on the show. Further to those all three discs carry commentary tracks, which are rather less that in depth - sadly the short running time doesn’t really allow people to settle into things and get down to the nitty gritty. Instead the atmosphere is more that of a reunion, which make these well worth listening to for a bit of further entertainment.
Scrubs is a show that follows the rules, but still manages to be original, and most importantly, very, very funny. The DVD doesn’t do the show many favours, but at least the poor AV quality is offset by some nice extras. The low price of this American release certainly won’t do it any harm either, but let’s hope we don’t have to wait as long for the remaining seasons to make their way to DVD.