This past Thursday NBC unceremoniously said goodbye to the medical sitcom Scrubs after seven seasons. The series, which introduced Zach Braff to most of the world (before he moped his way through Garden State), gave John C. McGinley the fame he so well deserves, and resurrected the career of Sarah Chalke, has been a critical darling since it went on the air in 2001. For a brief time, it gained a mass audience — that is, until NBC began shuffling its time slots. Pretty soon, that mass audience became a small, loyal group of fans. Seriously, when are executives going to learn that people follow routines when they watch television? They are called viewing habits for a reason. When you move a show around two or three times, people are going to give up trying to find it, even if they do have a DVR. I do give NBC credit for keeping the show on the air for so long. Scrubs lost some of its charm as it evolved from a dramedy with some cartoonish elements into a silly sitcom trying to make us laugh every 30 seconds. By trying too hard for zaniness, the writing became inconsistent and predictable. This inconsistency was frustrating for those of us who latched on to the show in the early seasons.
This past winter, during the writers’ strike, NBC had the perfect opportunity to lure more viewers back into Sacred Heart Hospital; they promoted new episodes and aired them back to back. With nothing but reruns on the other channels, you’d think people would have tuned in. They didn’t. When NBC announced their new schedule for the coming year, Scrubs was … scrubbed. A couple weeks ago, NBC switched time slots between Scrubs and Tina Fey’s 30 Rock, giving the latter the choice placement behind The Office at 9:30 pm. When the season finale rolled around last week, there was little fanfare and little sentiment from the network. What a shame. Even if Scrubs wasn’t as great as it once was, it still deserved a nice sendoff after seven years.
However, fair viewers, this is not the end of the show. Production has begun on an eighth season of Scrubs. Although the cast and crew are legally bound to be tight-lipped, it appears that ABC (whose ABC Studios actually produced the show) will air one final season of Scrubs (we’ll find out this week when ABC announces their fall lineup). For show creator Bill Lawrence, this is a return to the network where he got his first big break, co-creating Spin City. Before the writers’ strike Lawrence promised that he would wrap up the series in a proper fashion. It sounds to me like he saw the writing on the wall before the 2007-08 TV season and realized that he wouldn’t have time (with the strike looming) to really complete the story he wanted to tell with these characters. Even if it’s just 18 episodes, as reported by Braff on his blog, it will allow us loyal TV addicts an opportunity to say goodbye. While it is rare for a TV series to jump networks and succeed (for every Buffy there is a Golden Palace… You all remember that Golden Girls spin-off, right?), this move seems like a no-brainer for ABC, as they are in dire need of comedies. Carpoolers and (especially) Cavemen failed so miserably, they brought back According to Jim. According to Jim! One season of Scrubs should allow ABC time to actually develop something to put on the air that is remotely funny and doesn’t feature a middle class overweight guy married to a gorgeous model type. Scrubs also comes with a built-in audience that will hopefully follow the show to a new network.
Oh, what am I saying? Nobody gives a shit about networks anymore. They only want to be entertained, whether it’s on NBC, ABC, FX, AMC or the Internet. So Mr. Lawrence and company, please entertain us next year. Return Scrubs to the show we loved in the first place and let it sign off on a positive note (as opposed to the forced Princess Bride homage that was last week’s season finale). You’ve stated that the final season will return to the roots of the show: dramatic stories with comedic elements. We’re going to hold you to that.