Scrubs [Medical School]

So this isn’t exactly a pilot, but the first episode of the “new” Scrubs, which AdAge has dubbed “the show that won’t die” can almost be treated as a brand new show.  Scrubs, the half-hour dramedy about life as a medical intern, then resident, then doctor, has had two “series finales,” and here it is again, albeit in a slightly different incarnation. This time, the docs—yes, the same ones—are teachers. It’s still technically called Scrubs, but the title in the opening sequence is Scrubs [Medical School]. Early on, J.D. (Zach Braff) declares, “I hope I can find a way to make this all feel new.” We do too.

It’s been a whole year since J.D. (Zach Braff) has worked with Turk (Donald Faison), Elliott (Sarah Chalke), Perry (John C. McGinley), and the gang. Not sure what he’s been doing for the past year, other than getting Elliott, his now wife, pregnant. Carla is missing, and her absence isn’t addressed. There is also no sign of Jordan, but she was never on regularly anyway. Some of the characters introduced in Season 8, after the show was revived that last time, are back as well.

Early on when get an answer to “whatever happened to the janitor?” The show assumes prior knowledge of its earlier incarnation, with lots of recurring jokes, but then, the characters have always been so distinctly drawn, it doesn’t take much work even if you’re coming in cold—like, if you’ve been living under a rock.

J.D. approaches his first day teaching with the same wide-eyed, can-do attitude that he brought to his first day as an intern. Natch, he wants to succeed so badly that he makes an ass of himself. He makes his students mix tapes and signals them to take notes by displaying jazz hands.

And in case the old cast is a little long in the tooth for your viewing pleasure, there’s a new J.D. She is Lucy, a new intern who, just like J.D., has managed to land squarely on Dr. Cox’s bad side. Just to make sure everyone is good and miserable, Dr. Kelso is still there, crotchety as ever. (Didn’t he retire?) Also there’s a older (30ish) student, and an asshole rich kid whose father help pay for the building, so he can get away with murder.

Some things are re-established: the campy man love between Turk and J.D. Dr. Cox’s callous teaching methods. The unpredictability of hospital life.

J.D. is still desperately trying to get Dr. Cox’s approval, which is a little tedious after eight years, and especially after their big breakthrough in last season’s finale. But at least now, we see that he can pass on the benefit of his experience to someone new, Lucy.

We end with the obligatory sad-reality-of-the-medical-profession moment when a patient with whom Lucy connected dies. So despite some changes in scenery, we have much the same show. Supposing you were experiencing this cast of characters for the first time, they would likely seem appealing in their flaws, and capable of providing plenty of laughs.

It seems the episode titles will now all start with “our” instead of “my,” as in “My First Day,” the title of the pilot. Maybe this is to indicate more focus on the ensemble nature of the show than on J.D. as protagonist. It doesn’t seem this way based on this first episode, though. Time will tell if this show still has life in it, or if the plug should be pulled once and for all.

Clone High

I’ve realized that, although I love animation, I have yet to write about any animated series on this blog (except for a couple of mentions in this entry on my favorite pilots).

I started thinking about why this is. There are a couple of characteristics that make animated series a little different from other series in the pilot department. Animated series tend to have more emphasis on the plot-per-episode than on a longer story arc. In other words, nothing much changes episode to episode. Bart Simpson has been in fourth grade for 20 years, for chrissake. So the pilot is not necessarily distinguishable from later episodes.

Also, animated series are often based on existing properties, like comic book or film characters, who don’t need a lot of introduction. There are some obvious exceptions to this, like Seth MacFarlane’s brain candy or earlier, Futurama (great pilot).

I couldn’t decide what animated series to start with, but then I happily discovered a little show from the creator of Scrubs, Bill Lawrence, called Clone High. There were 13 episodes, which aired during the 2002-03 season on MTV, and it still airs in Canada, according to www.clone-high.com.

It’s the first day back at a high school where all of the students are young, contemporary versions of historical figures. There’s Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte), Joan of Arc (Christa Miller, Mahatma Ghandi, John F. Kennedy (Chris Miller), Cleopatra (Nicole Sullivan), and—you gotta love this—two Elvises, one young/thin and the other old/fat. Already you know by the wackiness of the premise this show is going to be different, as well as irreverent. In the first moments we get a crude sexual joke from JFK, and a drug use bit from old/fat Elvis, and learn that Ghandi is a lech. The animation looks a bit like Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends with the sharp angles and bold outlines.

Each character falls into a high school social category. JFK is a handsome jock, Abe Lincoln is a gangly nerd, Joan of Arc is a down to earth do-gooder, Cleo is the popular chick, etc. There’s a love triangle: Joan likes Abe, who likes Cleopatra. (Who wouldn’t, right?)

The principal, Dr. Scudworth is pulling the strings. He is visited by someone from the military and we learn, in case it wasn’t obvious from the title, that the students are clones. They were created by the government, though we’re not yet told why. The pricipals office comes equipped with test tubes and other mad scientist paraphernalia. And he’s nuts.

There are lots of whimsical little details, like the diner where they hang out is called the Grassy Knoll. Van Gogh calls the school suicide hotline.

The episode plot has to do with Abe supplying a keg of non-alcoholic beer for the Big Party, but it appears the real story will be the aforementioned love triangle. We’re also told that Marilyn Manson will make an appearance next week. If the pilot is any indication, this show is funny, edgy, and has plenty of room for political commentary. I’m hooked, and can’t wait to watch the remaining episodes.

Memorable line: “Hey man, Ghandi’s anti-violence, not anti-comedy.”