In the interest of full and fair disclosure, I watched a lot of TV growing up. From Alf to Blossom to The Charmings to Designing Women to Enos to... well, you get the idea. I don't really regret it-- I'm a bit of a fiend at 80s trivia because of it. Another long-term affect, though, is that I have very little interest in network television anymore. No, I'm not one of those MPR-listening, granola-munching intellects that rarely turns on his tele. I watch my share of baseball games, VH1 specials, Cosby, and Celebrity Poker Showdown episodes. (Oh, and I like MPR and granola too-- but let's not confuse the issue.)
Basically, I rarely watch anything on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN, or (God forbid) the WB. And I really don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. With the dreck that's being slopped out under the guise of reality television, I feel like my IQ is actually intact. I don't care for lawyer shows much (sorry Sara), despise gratuitous violence, and feel like sitcoms that need a laugh track don't quite get the point. Oh, and don't get me started on Jay Leno.
From time to time there's a show that makes me take notice on weeknights. Seinfeld. Gilmore Girls. Moesha. (Ok, just kidding.) And lately, Scrubs.
If you've never watched, here's a quick summary. Zach Braff plays Dr. John (JD) Dorian, an intern at Sacred Heart Hospital. He joins two others-- Sarah Chalke as Elliot Reed and Donald Faison as Chris Turk-- learning the ropes of hospital life. You may remember Chalke as the second and fourth Becky from Roseanne. They suffer under the tutelage of Dr. Perry Cox, played by John McGinley. You may remember him as the thinner Bob from Office Space. I could regale you with more cast members and where you may have seen them before, but that's what IMDB is for.
JD and Turk. Cold chillin.
Why does it work for me? Mostly because of its wit. The humor is crisp, intelligent, and lets you decide what's funny by not supplying the dreaded laugh track. It's subtle humor, a little off-beat... kinda like mine, I guess. :) From time to time things go way over the top with a fantasy scene, but it's not cheesy. Also, a lot of the time you get to hear JD's inner monologue, always good for a guffaw / knee slap combo.
McGinley's character is stellar. Whether his quips are short (always calling JD by a different girl's name) or long (usually 75-word rants crammed into 10 seconds or less) they're humorous. The interplay between JD and Dr. Cox is easily the best feature of the show. What works less well: the romantic interplay between JD and Elliot. It's forced and transparent. Also, the friendship between JD and Turk seems a bit unnatural also.
"So.. what is it you do here..."
But the show's high points easily outshine the low ones. Not to sound like Tom Kelly, but it's the intangibles that take you over the top. Scrubs offers great music behind its scenes: U2, R.E.M., Tom Petty, Simple Minds, Barenaked Ladies, Howie Day, just to name a few. Why is it that so few shows use popular songs as background? Another plus for the show is its impressive list of guests. Michael J. Fox made two appearances as a guest doctor, dealing with his Parkinson's instead of just talking about it. Tara Reid and Amy Smart have made brief appearances as JD's love interests. Heather Locklear, Erik Estrada, even Ted Lange. And Brendan Fraser made an appearance as Cox's dead brother in an episode that was a literal tear-jerker.
And maybe that's main reason why Scrubs is my favorite. I love to laugh, and Scrubs handles that nicely. But I also appreciate drama when it's well done, and not over the top. The show works these moments in during each episode-- not like the Brady Bunch when you knew "the lesson" was coming. Throw in appropriate music, top-notch acting, and you've got a show that I'll schedule my week around.
Scrubs recently moved from NBC's powerful Thursday night lineup to Tuesday night. I hope that's a sign that the network wants the show to take the anchor position when Frasier goes off the air this year, not the last step to cancellation. Regardless, I'm waiting for the day that "Scrubs - Season One" is available on DVD. Check it out sometime.