‘Scrubs’ Creator Diagnoses State of TV Comedy
LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) It was the last day of filming on “Scrubs” for the season, and creator Bill Lawrence and star Zach Braff were feeling a little punchy.
Asked what he got for his 30th birthday (which was April 6), Braff replies: “The gift of love. I got the gift of love — and a full-size poster of Bill Lawrence that I put above my bed.”
Before anyone on the April conference call even posed a question, Lawrence set the tone. “[We’re going to] be loose cannons and say things that can get us in trouble, because no one can call us Monday,” he says. “We won’t be here. …
“So anyone can feel free to ask anything, even if not it’s not about ‘Scrubs’ and you just want me to dis my bosses and get in trouble.”
That sort of invitation is hard to pass up, and Lawrence got the now-familiar is-the-sitcom-dead question. His short answer: “I find that to be absolute bulls***.
“I think there’s an issue going on that the networks put on crappy multi-camera material, and obviously it’s not embraced. think the truth comes down to quality,” he elaborates. “Whether it’s a throwback multi-camera comedy like ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ or a single-camera show like ‘Scrubs,’ shows that survive the test of time are going to have to be well-made, well-acted and ultimately have something the audience to hook into that’s accessible.
“I challenge people a lot. When someone tells me sitcoms are dead, I defy anyone to tell me the last well-made, well-written, well-acted multi-camera sitcom that failed. And no one can come up with one, because they don’t.”
We also asked why he thinks NBC tends not to promote “Scrubs” very heavily, even to the point that it no longer gets the scenes-from-next-week treatment at the close of an episode. Rather than a rant, though, the question produces a thoughtful answer from Lawrence, a sitcom veteran (“Friends, “Spin City”), about the nature of the TV business.
“The bad part about the way TV works is, our show is on NBC, but it’s 100 percent owned by Disney [‘Scrubs’ is produced by Disney’s Touchstone TV],” he says. “I don’t blame the network executives, but it’s a sh***y situation. Our show did just — it wasn’t a giant hit out of the gate, but it did just well enough that it’s going to stay on forever. But since they [NBC] don’t stand to make any money on it in the end, they use it as a Band-aid. They move it from timeslot to timeslot … always knowing that the core audience will follow along.
“If the question comes down to, Are we gonna promote ‘Scrubs’ or, in success, a show we stand to make millions of dollars on?, the answer’s always gonna be, regardless of quality, the show you stand to make money on.”
That fact, however, also spurred Lawrence and Braff to involve themselves heavily in the DVD release of “Scrubs'” first season; it’s scheduled to hit stores May 17, a week after the show’s season finale on Tuesday (May 10). In addition to commentaries from the Lawrence and the entire cast, the three-disc set includes features on cast members before they joined the show, the production process on the show’s abandoned-hospital set and the cast discussing their favorite episodes.
“We really took the time to, hopefully, talk about stuff that people really into the show will care about,” Lawrence says.
Adds Braff: “It’s such a long time coming because we really put a lot into the first season. Everyone’s been so patient — whenever we do a Q-and-A anywhere, the first question is ‘When is the DVD coming out?’ The fans have been so patient, so we really put a lot into the first one.”
“Scrubs” will end its fourth season — and start its fifth in the fall — with the interns making some big changes. J.D. (Braff) finally moves out of the apartment he shares with Turk (Donald Faison) and Carla (Judy Reyes), and one of them is faced with the prospect of taking a job at another hospital.
“The general thrust of next year will be a year that feels like the characters aren’t kids learning things anymore,” Lawrence says. “Because you can only do the J.D.’s scared about some kind of medical thing and then gets a big lesson from Dr. Cox [plotline] so much. … Next year will be at least the start of the dynamic shifting, and the people that used to be our students are going to start to become teachers a little bit.”
That also means the potential to introduce new characters, which can help keep a show fresh — and also provides Lawrence a hammer to wield over his old hands, he jokes.
“It’s a great thing,” he says. “Any cast member gives me that fifth-year lip, they just walk out the door and a new one walks in.”
‘Scrubs’ Creator Diagnoses State of TV Comedy