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October 23, 2014

Scrubs season nine -- An early look

by Joel Keller, posted Nov 30th 2009 3:05PM
Eliza Coupe, Donald Faison and Zach Braff in Scrubs: Our Drunk Friend
If you're a regular reader of TV Squad, you probably already know what's going on with the unexpected ninth season of Scrubs. From Bill Lawrence's statement that the eighth season might not be the final one to his detailed descriptions of how the show was going to transition to its new med school setting, you've been given a good idea of how this shift was going to happen.

But one thing we didn't know was the biggest question of all: is it going to be funny?

The answer? A qualified yes. The two episodes ABC sent for review, which air back-to-back tomorrow at 9 PM ET, were definitely funny. But most of the humor came not from the new med students we're supposed to get to know, but from the characters we've known and laughed with for eight years. And for this ninth season to succeed, that ratio will have to even out, and quickly.

Here's the set-up: It's about a year removed from when Zach Braff's character of J.D. left Sacred Heart and started a new job and a life with Elliot (Sarah Chalke). Somehow, in that intervening year, the old hospital has been knocked down and rebuilt on the campus of Winston University, the medical school that the hospital serviced for all these years.

J.D. has come back as an instructor, joining Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), who's teaching part-time, Turk (Donald Faison) and Cox (John C. McGinley), who both still work at the hospital in addition to their teaching duties. Last year's funniest intern, the alpha male-ish Denise (Eliza Coupe), is also on hand as a resident / RA for the students.

We're also introduced to three med students: Lucy (Kerry Bishé), an unsure student in the mold of a young Elliot, Drew (Michael Mosley, last seen on NBC's grand failure Kings), who dropped out of med school years ago and is coming back from a questionable period in his life, and Cole (Dave Franco), who likes the ladies and thinks he's untouchable because his family gave a huge endowment to the school. How much does Cole like the ladies? He makes The Todd look like a choir boy, if that's any clue.

The stories are supposed to be told from the med students' perspectives; in fact, one of the students provides the show's inner monologue instead of J.D., though we still hear from him from time to time. How tough med school is, how much Cox makes them wet their pants, etc. And some of what we see from the med students, especially Lucy and Drew, has its funny moments. In one of the episodes, for instance, Lucy imagines her situation as a Lifetime movie, complete with a very Lifetime-appropriate star.

But most of the comedy comes from J.D., Turk, and Cox. We see the renewal of the J.D./Turk bromance, complete with theme song, and J.D. seeking love from Cox. We see Cox ranting to the med students, calling them "killers" and making fun of one student's accent. We see Kelso chasing after younger women. We even see The Todd being The Todd. The locale is the different, but the jokes are the same.

Though the emphasis is on the next generation, the show seems to be having problems letting go of the past. If this version of Scrubs -- which Lawrence fought and succeeded to dub it with a "Med School" subtitle, to delineate it from the original series -- is to succeed, we're going to need to laugh with Denise, Cole, Lucy and Drew and have the old crew fade into the background. Braff is scheduled to appear in the first six of the show's thirteen episodes; hopefully, he won't be utilized as a comic crutch as much as he is in these first two episodes.

Oh, and for those curious about J.D. and Elliot's situation, it's mentioned pretty much in passing -- we see a brief glimpse of Chalke in one episode -- but, as Lawrence tried to emphasize last year, the show has never been about them. If only he can break free of some of the old show's other aspects.

[Watch clips and episodes of Scrubs on SlashControl.]

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