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August 28, 2015

Bill Lawrence of Scrubs: The TV Squad Interview

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 17th 2007 11:33AM
Bill LawrenceIt doesn't take much to get Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence going. I fully intended to speak to him only about his show's musical episode, which airs tomorrow at 9. But Bill managed to launch into monologues on current shows, the network testing system, Scrubs' weird history, and other topics. But he dropped a lot of interesting information, some of which I mentioned a couple of days ago.

For a guy who isn't quite 38 yet, Lawrence has had quite a successful career. He already has two long-running shows under his belt (he co-created Spin City in 1996), and has been involved in a number of other series. Included in his credits is the Internet phenomenon Nobody's Watching, which scored an NBC development deal after the pilot was "leaked" to YouTube.

After the jump is the freewheeling phone interview I conducted with Lawrence last week. Keep tuned to TV Squad for a Scrubs set visit video, which will be posted next month.

JOEL KELLER: This shouldn't be too long; we're going to mainly talk about the musical episode.

BILL LAWRENCE: Whatever you want. You guys are very cool to us, too, so if you want to throw in any questions about any other TV shit -- it doesn't have to be about Scrubs -- I'll gladly say something snarky.

JK: We know the Nobody's Watching guys a little bit. Whenever they have a preview of one of their videos ready they put them up on our site.

BL: Oh yeah, Neil Goldman (one of the producers) arranged that with you guys. I hope something happens with that show. I feel it still might.

JK: We do, too. It seems like those guys have a good handle on things. It might end up on the Internet as the first web-only sitcom.

BL: You know what? It's so weird though, man... We're starting to do product placement and shit like that on the Internet, to try and cover our production costs, not to try and make money or anything. Problem is, there's still now no way to make any decent dough to cover production online, so you have to view it as a marketing technique to get on TV, where the real cash is. The second that someone figures out a way to (make money), we'd do it in a heartbeat.

The most fun for us is we still -- by the way, this is how behind the times Hollywood is, man -- we still get two or three solicitations a week from people who don't know (the main characters Derek and Will) are fictional characters, acting like (haughty) "I'm from Hollywood. I'd love to talk to you guys about representation." (laughs)

We're averaging, whether it be production companies or agencies, or product placement people, usually two or three per week, from people seriously looking to represent Derek and Will or teach them about Hollywood.

JK: I don't think people get the whole YouTube thing at all.

BL: What bothers me is that the entertainment industry is the exact people who should be aware of all the stuff that's happening. And that's why the TV industry specifically is always two to five years behind every trend.

JK: What I find interesting is the story of how this video got on YouTube to begin with. I think you answered this question before, but how did it get on there?

BL: Aw, shit man. We leaked it on.

JK: You did?

BL: We were worried we were going to get in trouble a long time ago, but we snuck the pilot on, and we used to say that (someone else leaked it) to cover our ass, but we didn't know whether we were going to get sued or whatever.

JK: But now you're fine with saying that it's you who did it?

BL: Now, at this point, who gives a shit? (laughs)

JK: What was your reasoning for putting it up?

BL: Honestly? Not to try and create a marketing thing; but because we were constantly annoyed, we felt like this show got such a shaft, man. The WB actually flew us to New York (for upfronts); that's how they told us the show wasn't picked up, and their reasoning for it was all this testing info that was all bullshit. And we just read this book called Blink about testing and about how human beings... Anything that's remotely new or different on dial testing will be registered as negative, because most human beings are like "what the hell is that?"

All these notes I got ... and we kept stewing with it, man, because every time we turned on the WB it was Twins and just shows like Modern Man or whatever, and I'm like, really? They're not gonna take a fucking shot on our show?

So our main impetus was to put it up, distance ourselves from it, and then at the very least, prove to ourselves that all the notes and testing was bullshit, and then maybe use that as an opportunity to pitch it somewhere else. Because NBC, our studio, owned it, and the WB had kinda gone out of business, you know. And at first, that's all we got; fifty or sixty thousand watched it, but all the reviews -- even the negative reviews -- online, nobody lined up with the network notes. Nobody said the premise was too confusing, or all the bullshit we were told. And in fact it became fascinating, because the stuff that people did write and critique in the positive was great, but the negative (reviews) were the stuff we used to kind of retool the show in our heads.

JK: Why do you think networks keep coming up with mediocre shows, then?

BL: Here's why man... Nobody knows jack about what's gonna work and what doesn't. It's very easy for writers and guys like you to go "Fuckin' networks don't know anything." But truth is, none of us know anything, because if I had watched Arrested Development before it came out and tanked, I would have told everybody it's gonna be a giant hit. And I remember too -- even though its one of my favorite shows -- I had to sell the foreign rights to Scrubs at the same time J.J. (Abrams) and Damon (Lindelof) were selling the foreign rights to Lost. And I hadn't seen this show, but I heard the guys talking about this fuckin' polar bear on an island and a monster in the woods, and I was literally, 'Good luck with that show!'

So I think what the problem is, man, that every executive is ultimately trying to preserve their job, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to constantly seek out ways to justify your failure. Like to go, "Yeah we put on Emeril, which sucked. But look; it was the highest testing show we had that year." And that's because testing is such a fraudulent thing, man. I'm so fuckin' suspect of thirty people who for fifty bucks will give up their Friday night to sit in a windowless classroom and watch a TV pilot, because I know I'd never do it; my friends would never do it. I don't think it's an accurate judge of what the country will like or not like.

On the other hand, on the Internet, you put a pilot up there... Yeah, thirty percent of your comments will be. "You guys are gay," or "This sucks balls." But the other seventy percent... people who actually watched it and took the time to communicate about it, their comments are more astute and more valid than any of this testing bullshit, and I've made eight, nine pilots in my career. And never have I gotten any testing stuff that was useful.

But on Nobody's Watching, I remember reading one that said "I was really intrigued the premise and I was really digging the single camera stuff, but the big mistake of the show was when it got to the on stage part in the original part, it seemed very written, like a scripted sitcom." And we were all like, "You know what? That's a hugely fucking valid note." They tested it four times at the WB and nobody said jack about it.

JK: Is there like a mob mentality there?

BL: We're all insecure writer types, so when you get your testing results back, it hurts, because all the negative stuff you take as real. All you have to do once is go and watch through the glass and you see people doing things like "Zach Braff looks Jewy." And then in your head you're like, "Who gives a flying fuck what that guy in jeans and a short-sleeve shirt and a bolo tie thinks?" It's just so ridiculous.

JK: How did Spin City test?

BL: Spin City had some hugely negative testing things.

JK: Despite the fact that Michael J. Fox was on the show?

BL: That and the big dislike of the black gay dude. It just wasn't cool. The mayor was too big of an idiot, the speechwriter looked weird... It was all sorts of just lame shit.

And by the way, the highest testing moment in Nobody's Watching and the highest testing moment in Spin City -- and it says everything you need to know about testing -- in Nobody's Watching was when the girl came out in the bikini top, and in Spin City (was) when Carla Gugino took off her shirt. All the dials peaked.

JK: Of course.

BL: Is that really what we're doing? Throw out a pair of breasts and all the guys peak their dials, then throw out a cock and all the women peak their dials? (laughs)

JK: Hey, I pay attention when Sarah (Chalke) is standing there with just her bra on...

BL: By the way, we have a point of pride -- and I don't think I've ever said this in an interview -- is we demand on our show equal amounts of male and female nudity. And it's actually why the character of The Todd ended up in a banana hammock all the time. Because one of the things I swore to the female actors on the show was "You guys will have to be in skimpy lingerie and doing sexy shit, but I promise you for every time one of you guys is like that one of the male characters will be like that." So that's why, even though you and I don't register it, whether Zach is in a Speedo, or Rob Maschio (Todd) is in a thing, or Donald Faison is naked with a rubber guy in front of his junk, there's just as much male nudity as female nudity.

JK: Now that you mention it, I can see that, but, you're right, it just didn't register with me.

BL: If it did, I would have just gone down a bad road with you in this conversation. You would have been like "I'm totally on top of all the male nudity and I love it," and I would have been like "hey man, whatever floats your boat."

JK: Yeah... "Have a good night! Enjoy the presidential address!" (both laugh)

I'll admit that I'm a big fan of Scrubs, watched it since day one... the show only really started getting press three years ago right?

BL: If anybody gave a shit, I'd write a book about it, because Spin City got such a wave of press and was kind of more of a mainstream commercial hit. But this show was so fucking weird because when it premiered it had all this juice because it did big ratings and stuff. And almost immediately it was switched to Thursday night, and that was back when Jeff Zucker used to... If you did a mediocre number one week, the next week there'd be a 53-minute long Friends and a 9-minute Will and Grace and nothing else on TV. So our show went from high buzz to no buzz, then two and a half years ago, suddenly it was a hot show again, which was very weird.

JK: Still, it's a hot show that tends to fly under the radar.

BL: Yeah. It's very odd man. Every year I'm shocked (it gets renewed). And I'm going through this right now; it's becoming apparent that it'll be up to us if the show is on again this year, so we'll do one more year. Again, the same as last year, I came into this year going "Ah, it's the fucking last year of this show," and now we're downstairs scrambling because our studio is like, "This isn't the last year." So now we have to re-outline all the stories and change it and all that shit.

JK: Would a season seven be with Zach or without Zach?

BL: I think I'd only do the show with Zach, personally.

JK: He had been mentioning that this would be his last year.

BL: I think that part of the stuff that's kind of changed for everybody is that creatively, everybody had a blast. This musical, the whole cast had such a good time, it reinvigorated us. And Zach's sitting right now getting ready for the Golden Globes and the Emmy nominations. It's a good gig. And it's kind of a bleak landscape out there. So I think it's just a matter of, once we got this far into the year, realizing one more year is really only six months for an actor. I think he's up for doing one more.

JK: Were you surprised that they put you into that new Thursday lineup?

BL: You know what man, it was very weird. I got to tell you, I like some of the things Kevin (Reilly, NBC Entertainment president) is doing. In a time that sucks for comedy, that he would make Thursday nights on NBC all comedy again from 8 to 10. I thought it was cool. I know it's lost its luster, but for me, I'm from the TV generation who watched NBC Thursday nights and M*A*S*H on CBS Monday nights when I was a kid. So I like it, man. It's no bullshit, and you know its true because I shit on shows all the time, but its actually four shows that are on my TiVo, which is pretty rare. So I think it's pretty cool to be on there.

JK: The way the lineup was going through most of the nineties, it was that "double-decker shit sandwich" that Paul Simms mentioned. But these are four solid comedies.

BL: Oh, dude, I TiVo through, and I watch 30 Rock, and then at work, we have a TiVo in the writers room, and we go back and watch Alec Baldwin's line readings.

JK: Oh, god, he's great on that show.

BL: Dude, the guy's a fuckin' comedy killer; it's crazy.

JK: And the great thing is that Tina Fey's had to keep up with him, and she's gotten better because of it.

BL: I really think, because she's such a funny writer, and she can turn a joke, and at the beginning when she had to play any lines that actually meant anything, it's like, "Oh, she's not a huge actress." And now I watch it and she's as good as anybody on a sitcom.

JK: I OD on the Scrubs reruns, by the way.

BL: They're everywhere now, too. I think that's part of the reason why we're doing so well this year. Comedy Central gave them a cherry timeslot, too right before The Daily Show, and it's doing so well on that network.

I tell ya, this is the weirdest thing, the history of Scrubs. Every time this show has had high expectations, we failed. It premiered really well, and they're like, "You're gonna be on after Friends, it's gonna be a huge new hit," and there was no way to meet up to those numbers.

This year, they start us off going, "You're going against Grey's Anatomy and CSI, the numbers one and two show; you're gonna do numbers in the low twos." And then, partly because of syndication, and partly because of the same people who have always watched the show are still watching the show, we're doing high threes and low fourss in the demographic, and we look like heroes.

JK: I review Grey's Anatomy, and I do it later because I want to watch Scrubs when it comes on.

BL: The funniest thing in my house is my wife (Christa Miller, who plays Jordan) has already seen rough cuts of Scrubs, and she's on the show, but she fuckin' loves Grey's Anatomy. It's such a chick show, it's such a well done... it was smart to do a nighttime soap in a hospital, because you get to do the love and sex of a soap but then actually add like the drama of medical cases. The only thing that bums me out is that I'll get stuck watching the show with her and I'll hear a voice over we have in an upcoming script, or a song by the Fray, and I'm like "FUUCK!" (laughs)

JK: I remember the line you put in about them last year or the year before... "It's just like our lives, except it's on TV!"

BL: Yeah, we took a shot at 'em for fun.

I always get in trouble for that shit, because we did a snarky thing on House last week. You know what's cool, man? A reporter called me up and said "(House creator) David Shore said he thinks you're all pissed because he stole from you or something." But I e-mailed him, and he actually sent back a funny e-mail saying "Naw, I thought it was a funny."

JK: It wasn't a bad shot; it was a little loving tribute to it.

BL: It wasn't a slam at all, man, because we wanted to do a show where... Dr. Cox used to go around solving problems and we liked it. And then House is doing it and nine billion people watch that show, so we're like, "Fuck, we've got to stop it," and we've got to change (Cox's) character a little bit because there's a much more powerful cynical guy that nobody likes.

JK: Somehow House became even nastier than Dr. Cox.

BL: Even nastier, and Dr. Cox has been given a slightly softer side. We hid it better at first.

JK: Now the musical episode... What I've been hearing is that the reason why you've been using that new coffee shop more than the cafeteria is because you were using the cafeteria to prep for this episode.

BL: It was, man; there was dancers and shit in there and mirrors. Two things (with the coffee shop set): one, we wanted to take a shot at Starbucks, which we thought was funny. Second, we wanted to come up with another place people can hang out. And third, more often than not we use our cafeteria not only for production meetings and stuff like that, but for the musical there were literally dance mirrors up because we had fifty pro dancers and a cast, that besides Donald and Judy (Reyes) can't dance a lick. It was a very cheesy New York City theater rehearsal space.

JK: How's Judy doing, by the way (she broke her hip in an accident a few months ago)?

BL: She's great, man, 100% bounced back. She shot the tango scene, which was a big dance number for her, after she did seven weeks of rehab. Because she had the bad kind of broken hip; it's the type that older folks never recover from.

By the way, just because I run a medical show I know all this gibberish, but there's only two bones in the human body... you know when you hear about when old person breaks their hip it's a big deal? Because blood doesn't go to your hip, so it doesn't heal on it's own. So you have to put a metal plate and bolts in it. So she has like metal bolts holding her hip together.

JK: We had heard that she broke her pelvis.

BL: No, she broke her hip; it was the part that was right on the pelvis.

JK: I guess pelvis sounds better than hip...

BL: I'm sure her publicist put that out there.

JK: It sounds like...

BL: It sounds less like she fell off her walker.

JK: How did you shoot around that?

BL: We didn't shoot her musical number until like two weeks ago, and everything else in that show... you'll notice when you watch it, you won't notice it unless you're thinking about it. She has one song in the beginning, where everyone is dancing around her and she's sitting in a chair, because she had had surgery literally two weeks before.

JK: So it's like the post-partum depression episode when she was lying in bed and sitting down?

BL: Yeah, it's much easier than hiding somebody that's actually pregnancy in real life.

JK: Where did you guys come up with this idea? There have been musical elements to the show during the whole run.

BL: Here's the thing, man... the staff on this show is embarrassing, because the guys on this show are not you're typical comedy writing staff; it's a very jocky high school sports team staff of comedy writers. But all of us have this closet love of musical theater that we embarrassingly hide; it's a very metrosexual group. Seriously, man... what's my most embarrassing one? Oh! I know the words to "Les Mis" in French, because it came out in France first, and the soundtrack was in my college. (We're) all incredibly metrosexual theater nerds, the cast loves musical theater, and every single year on the show we always incorporate music and dancing and stuff.

And we always threatened to do (a musical episode); it's just labor-intensive. We were going to do it this year, because when we outlined it at the beginning of the year we were thinking this would be the last year of the show. So we said "Fuck it, we'll do the extra work and do this."

Even then, I kept putting up these roadblocks hoping, Deb (Fordham), the writer, wouldn't get through them. So I was like, "All right, Deb, if you find a real reason somebody would be hearing music the whole time so it doesn't have to be some lame cheesy fantasy, I'll do it." And then she and the medical advisor found a case of a person with an aneurysm where everyone who spoke to her, she heard music. Well, then we've got to get somebody decent to write the music, and she hassled and harassed the "Avenue Q" guys until they agreed to write the songs. So she kept defeating me until one day we had to sit down and write these fucking songs and do it.

JK: So I guess once that came out the whole cast was on board with it?

BL: You know what's very weird man? I think that's part of the reason why we're thinking of going on with the show. I've done this before, and by the 6th year, you're usually, for good or bad, you know how to do it so well, you kind of just do whatever it is your show does and you're in and out in a couple of days and you move on to the next one. So after six years, to see all these actors in dance rehearsal and with the voice instructors and shit... the cast was so into it and so crazy about it it kind of juiced everybody up.

JK: When you've done musical stuff in the past, the guy who I'm usually surprised has a good singing voice is Neil Flynn (who plays The Janitor)...

BL: Neil Flynn and John McGinley, they both hid the fact that of course, as actors, they'd done a lot of musical theater. Neil Flynn has a big baritone and Johnny C. knows how to do musicals; he does a Gilbert and Sullivan song in this that's really, really good.

JK: Did you use the Buffy musical as any kind of guide or inspiration?

BL: Not as a guide, but... I'm a huge fan of that show (Buffy); we used that show as an example, when we first talked about Scrubs way back the first year, we said that every year we make sure we do one or two special episodes that leave our show's format and stands out. And we used Buffy as an example of a show that did it, like "Hush" the silent one or their musical; it was the stuff that I remembered. So on this show -- we did a live sitcom once in front of an audience -- every year we earmark two shows that are going to be big ones. That's also why occasionally we break out of the format where it's somebody else's voice over rather than Zach's.

Or, even though it's a comedy, we take the time and kill someone. Or one year, we were like, the Sixth Sense has been gone for a while, so we're gonna do that movie with Brendan Fraser to see if anyone catches it. This year, we're going to do a musical and then we're going to kill one of the characters that's been around for six years.

JK: You're gonna kill someone who's been around for six years?

BL: It's all over the Internet now. It's fun for me, because everybody's guessing who we're gonna kill.

JK: So the Internet scuttlebutt hasn't gotten it right?

BL: They're all over the map. Some people have gotten it right, and other people are completely wrong.

JK: Well, the TV conventions are that it's some background character that's said one line every year for six years.

BL: I know, that's a big trick, but we're going for it, man. Fuck yeah, why not?

JK: The other show I remember doing that stuff was M*A*S*H.

BL: I was about to tell you that was the other one we used as a benchmark for us. I obviously cribbed from M*A*S*H on the show. M*A*S*H and The Wonder Years were my favorite shows. M*A*S*H was my favorite show, especially the early years before it got very preachy; it would really combine broad silly comedy and switch on a dime to moments of drama. So it was a total model for this to begin with. And because I'm a M*A*S*H trivia nerd, I'd know they did these episodes like a newsreel one, or how they keep a guy a live so he doesn't die on Christmas. They're great about that.

We decided that so early; that's why the third episode of the show, we give each intern a patient and tell them that one of them is going to die, but we kill all three of them.

JK: That was the episode that really hooked me into the show.

BL: It was very funny then because back then, the network was like, "You can't do a this type of show early on because you're a comedy," and we were like, "Nah, we want to show people it's not just a normal day." "Then how 'bout just one of them dies and the other two are sick?" and it went back and forth. But it was a good argument, because that show won a bunch of awards, and that got us more freedom.

JK: You have the medical advisor there, but how hard is it to write the medical dialogue?

BL: I abuse the guy. I don't know if you know the story behind it, but the medical advisor is my buddy from college. His name is J.D.; he's the guy who I stole the story from. He's John Dorris instead of John Dorian, and he's been J.D. since college. And on the set, everybody calls him "Real," since he's the real J.D.

When I hand in these scripts... at the beginning of the year, he sets us up; every writer gets ten different doctors to interview. But then after we outline stories and we need medical conditions, he comes into work and we sit around and grill him about shit. And the worst part of his job is once we know the general arena of what the disease is, we'll send him the script and it'll literally have stuff like "Dr. Reed saying, he's got a hydrocephalous; do me a favor and get me..." and it'll say in parentheses "medical jargon medical jargon." And he has to write it out and send it back.

JK: How hard is it for the actors to do the dialogue?

BL: The ones that can't do it don't get it as much. McGinley and Donald hate it when we give it to them. Sarah Chalke's amazing at it.

Oh my god, and Zach Braff every gag reel has five minutes of him getting hung up on some thing that he can't say that drives him bananas.

JK: While I got you on the line, someone who used to work for you sent us the Charlie Brown video...

BL: Yeah, Ryan!

JK: It was Ryan and this other guy...

BL: Yeah it was Dan and Ryan. Ryan was a writer's assistant and Dan was an assistant editor. We have a big party life here, and at wrap parties and Christmas parties we have gag reels. They were so bored of putting them together, those two guys got the Peanuts special and brought cast in and wrote it themselves and did it.

JK: It was hilarious. And the funny thing was, everyone was in character.

BL: I thought they did a really good job. They did well enough that I've just started taking credit for it a little bit, even though I had nothing to do with it.

JK: This was when, for instance, Sarah was really hitting these speeches she has as Elliot and going off into these tangents about her girly life, and to have that coming out of Sally Brown's mouth was really funny (Bill laughs).

One of the funny things about that was... we put the video up and one of the people who commented on it said "Why would Dr. Cox be Linus considering Linus is in a subsidiary position to Charlie Brown, who's J.D.?" And I actually wrote a comment back saying "Well, they didn't have to make this or send this to us, why not just enjoy it for what it is?"

BL: People get stuck on the minutiae, man. I can't go online and read this stuff; some of our younger writers do. Because if I do it, even if there's ninety-nine positive things, that negative thing drives me fuckin' bananas, cause I have an answer for the person. Our show has evolved a bunch, sometimes we go too far towards the surreal stuff and we fixed it. Or if you watch the reruns, the first two years it was a much different show. One time I went on and some people were going, "I loved season four and five and hated one and two!" "I loved one and two and now it's a shitty show!" I've always want to be like, "One of the things I always hated about my favorite TV shows, is that by season six if they hadn't changed anything I'd be bored,"

But then I had to take a step back and realize, this is a harsh truth for me, but Spin City was so middle of the road and not the type of sitcom that, even though I loved it, that inspired that kind of cult fandom. No one took the time to pick it apart and examine the minutiae like that.

To survive in TV nowadays, you've gotta be one of those lucky shows that lightning hits and is a gigantic show out of the box, and hits that zeitgeist. Nowadays, the middle of the road shows just die away; if you're not that (the mega hit), you have to be a show with such a strong cultish appeal that your core fan group will follow you from timeslot to timeslot and season to season. That's what Scrubs is. And along with it comes people that feel some sort of pride of ownership with the show. I think if you met them face to face they'd tell you they love the show and that watch it every week, but on the Internet they'll pick it apart.

JK: There was a lot of criticism about last season. You've said that last year you went all out because you weren't on and no one was paying attention, but people thought things got too wacky and surreal at times.

BL: I welcome the criticism. Part of that criticism that I agree with; we got bad at policing that (the surreal stuff) and we got back on track. Here's the tough point: there was a lot of criticism from fans that it was too wacky, but yet it was the best ratings we've done by far in five years. Something was working. But the only criticism that I think was valid was that we let these giant surreal comedy moments happen that weren't fantasy moments anymore. I think we policed them after the year started going, and then we fucked up and did a couple of more of them at the beginning of this year and then started policing them again.

JK: Like J.D. in the backpack...

BL: J.D. in a backpack and the Janitor and a giant sand castle. Those were the two worst ones that weren't fantasies

JK: This year with the Las Vegas thing...

BL: Tell you what; the Las Vegas thing didn't bother me as much as J.D. on the flag at the end, which was something that defied physics. The Las Vegas thing was something that could happen and it was funny.

We talk about it so much in the writer's room. I always say, if this show gets too broad and silly and we can't switch to the drama, then it'll be a failure. But you have to get as close to that line as possible, and that'll be one of the best shows.

This is how nerdy we are: When we go back and look at our biggest funniest moments, some of the ones that the true fans mention as their favorites are some of the ones that went up to the line of "Well, that could really happen," without going over it.

JK: Like what?

BL: Like when the Janitor had this big squirrel army. Does the Janitor have five hundred computer-generated stuffed squirrels that he poses and talks to in meetings?: Probably not. But it was just close enough that there's an episode where he's killing animals and coming up with a stuffed dog, no one's writing us letters going, "What the fuck?"

We call it high-risk, high-reward. We thought we blew it on the first one; we were trying to just be big and exciting and fun, going to Vegas and hanging from a flagpole, defying physics, shouldn't have happened. On the other hand, on the next one when there's a baby born, Turk and J.D. have a marching band. If we didn't make the mistakes on the first episode, that wouldn't have seemed so egregious; it would have just been seen as boisterous and fun. It's the hardest thing on that show to police. Jason Bateman having ostriches, our core fans found it believable and liked it, because it was funny, and they were real ostriches, so it wasn't fake, it could actually happen.

JK: I think the one episode that got me going as far as the medical aspect was the transplant one. And it pained me to see that... I didn't know that there was an actual rabies case like that.

BL: That's a real devastating medical case. The doctor that did it never recovered psychologically. He wasn't sued and the medical board let him off, because the reality is that no hospital in the world tests for it. Someone came in and had crack in his system, and it was ruled a drug overdose. And the organ transplant thing is in such disarray in America, that organs from drug ODs are just fine. So they put organs in four different people, and they died one by one and they didn't know why. So they exhumed the body and found out that the person did not die of an OD but because they were in a tenement they got a rat bite and died of rabies. And the last person, a kid who got a kidney transplant, hung on for six months and died.

JK: I'm not expecting the show to be medically accurate, but I was thinking "Three transplants and they all went to people in the same hospital? What? Don't they put people on a list?" My "ER" knowledge kicked in and made me question that.

BL: You stumbled on one of the other weird things, too; one of the things we get busted on is real stories. That was the guy's hospital with the guy's patient, because they had the body. One thing we didn't take the time to explain was that the guy who got the heart was on the op of the list and just happened to be in that hospital, which was a coincidence. But the other ones, with kidneys and valves and so forth, those aren't such a giant waiting situation, so those are a situation where you find a match really quick and hand them out.

The biggest e-mail we get is that the x-ray at the beginning of the show is backwards. And it's "No shit, because they're scrubs." And the answer to that was to have Elizabeth Banks turn it around.

JK: Where is the hospital located in the show?

BL: In the show, because we're occasionaly see palm trees, we're stuck with California. The writers call it "SanGifrangeles," because they didn't want it associated with any town.

JK: Anything more you want to say about the musical episode?

BL: We sit around and talk about the show, and every year there's three or four that make us cringe because we think we fucked up. But we put the musical episode in the top five of the history of the show.

JK: What's one of the cringeworthy ones?

BL: One that bothered me is when we implied that Dr. Kelso used to be a guy who played in coffee houses and played a guitar and sang. It seems like a cheesy sitcom plot; the only thing that saved it is Ken Jenkins' funny singing. The one thing we're adamant about here is you can't do old hacky sitcom stories unless you do them and do a twist on them so it's not the same old story.

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DJ Finn

The musical episode is the best episode of any television show I've ever seen. I'm a 25 year old cancer survivor, and I completely broke down during the last song. Real epiphany moment, knowhatimean?Many thanks to Mr. Lawrence and the cast for that. Also, I'm surprised and thrilled to hear Season 7 is a possibility. Rock on.

Of course, you don't care. Cause you're unconscious.

February 15 2007 at 6:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Guess I should add that I've lost my brother and my best friend to suicide recently; so 'My Philosophy', apart from reducing me to tears each time I watch it, also gives me a little hope that they left this earth that way: as the stars of their own, lovely musicals.

Thanks, Bill.

February 12 2007 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

'My Musical' and 'My Philosophy' are two of the most brilliant, layered and moving half-hours in the history of television. Bill Lawrence and his cast and writers are the best thing on TV right now, period.

February 12 2007 at 10:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hate reading interviews about scrubs because I want scrubs to be real I like it that much. But, this is reality so damn good interview! =(

January 29 2007 at 1:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bill Lawrence sounds like one crazy son-of-a-gun. Thank goodness for such people. Scrubs is a great show. And I still watch Spin City reruns.

January 18 2007 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wendy Mac

LOVED this interview! Many thinks to Bill for taking the time for us fans.

My entire family watches "Scrubs", from my 8-year-old daughter to my 63-year-old mother. My sister on the East Coast is not allowed to call me until after 9:30pm Pacific time on Thursdays, so she doesn't spoil anything for me.

And by the way, Bill, the Kelso episode you're referring to? The end of it brings tears to my eyes, it's very touching! I have to say I enjoy that little peek into the real Kelso. Those small peeks into Kelso and Cox are a highlight of the show for me.

January 17 2007 at 4:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That was great. Bill is one of the best things on TV, along with the whole cast of Scrubs!

January 17 2007 at 4:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You name-checked Paul Simms' ROLLING STONE interview in there, and this is easily the best interview with a TV creator I have read since then. Amazing job -- great questions, and thanks to Mr. Lawrence for being so candid.

January 17 2007 at 3:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What a FABULOUS interview!!! A lot better than some crap-O interview with Sally Field that I read earlier today! ;)

January 17 2007 at 2:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great interview. Bill Lawrence sounds like a really down to earth dude.

January 17 2007 at 2:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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