Here’s another television show that I would only recommend with some caveats. I’ll get those out of the way first. There is fat-shaming, and lots of juvenile humor, particularly when it comes to sexual situations. And some of the romantic relationships can be infuriating with the will-they, won’t-they; off-again, on-again dynamics worthy of a soap opera.
However. Having acknowledged that, I’ll also acknowledge that Scrubs is reliably hilarious, often heartfelt, and frequently as deep and meaningful as any drama. Many in the medical profession have said that for all its surreal and goofy humor, it’s one of the more accurate depictions of doctors and hospitals. Rather than creating increasingly bizarre medical situations as hospital dramas and mystery-based shows are wont to do, Scrubs focuses on the lives of the doctors, on the wild roller coaster that is working in a hospital.
Sitcoms were starting to change when the show first aired in 2001. There was no laugh track; it was filmed in a single camera style. There was no need for a “very special episode” to introduce serious topics. In any given episode, the mood could switch quite rapidly from a goofy gag to a life-and-death situation. For me, serious moments are easier to take when they’re surrounded by humor. When I think of the really powerful episodes like “My Screw-Up” or “My Lunch” dealing with the guilt of suddenly losing a patient, I find it comforting to remember the funny stuff alongside the drama.
The main character and narrator of the voiceovers is J.D., who begins as an intern at Sacred Heart hospital. Much of the silliest humor is found in his tendency to engage in elaborate daydreams. Of course, the rest of the main cast has their own absurd quirks and foibles to keep us entertained. There is a certain self-reflective, wry quality to the show’s structure, like when the 100th episode, “My Way Home” reveals itself as a Wizard of Oz story, or “My Musical,” when a patient’s brain condition makes her think everyone is singing around her. Sometimes it’s broad comedy; sometimes it’s subtle. Both are good.
And with all the soap opera-type relationships, I’m rather fond of the couple who gets together near the start of the show and stays together through the entire run, from dating to marriage to becoming parents. Because Turk and Carla were always intended to be a couple, the show can explore what happens after the point when a lot of love stories end. They have a serious rough patch during their first year of marriage, and it’s treated as a real problem that needs to be worked at — but also as something that can be dealt with, if both partners are willing to put in the effort. I didn’t love everything about their dynamic, but I really appreciated the portrayal of a committed couple from the beginning onward.
The show ran for eight seasons, and it’s true that it started to lag a little by the end, as long-running shows unfortunately tend to do. But the finishing scene is one of the sweetest endings I’ve seen, with loads of nostalgia and optimism for the future. When a story can make me laugh or get teary-eyed in equal measure, I call it a good story.