Friday, July 22, 2005

Since DVDs have taught us to see TV shows more distinctly in terms of seasons, I've been telling people that my single favorite season of any one TV show was the first season of Scrubs. People tend to see this as a quirky choice, and I'm fine with that. I also enjoyed the second and third seasons quite a bit before drifting away from the show this year in my no-TV exile. Then this summer I borrowed a copy of the first season of Arrested Development, and I thought I might have a new champ. Just about that time the first season of Scrubs finally came out on DVD and instantly became my first DVD-season purchase. (Or, more accurately, the first one for me--having bought Soap and Sledge Hammer for my dad as gifts.) The problem was, as much as I enjoyed the AD season, I wasn't ready to sit down and watch another whole season right away.

Over the last week and a half I've finally gotten around to watching the Scrubs discs, and with all due respect to the Bluths, J.D. and company are the winners and still champions in my book. Very quickly I remembered all the reasons I loved the show from the start*--hilarious dialogue, 5 to 6 well-crafted, complex characters, and at least another half-dozen or more bit players who always bring something to the table. I can't get through an episode without laughing out loud, and usually I can't get through one without feeling deeply saddened, or solemn, or touched by something, and almost as often I come away with something to think about. Every episode has an A story and B story and usually a C story that come together thematically, and that teach us something new about the characters and about their job.

(*OK, this is a little white lie--the commercials before the show debutted made it look horrible, I ranked it high in that year's Laplaca Open, and then when I saw a screener of the pilot I knew I'd made a horrible miscalculation.)

And then, of course, there's Dr. Cox. John C. McGinley says on one of the DVD extras that what appealed to him about the character was that he could be the most damaged human being on prime-time TV, and it's so true. The reluctant mentor is a stock character with a long and cliched history. But Dr. Cox is something different--reluctant to be a mentor not because he considers his mentees(?) to be future competitors or impossible greenhorns, although in some episodes it might seem that way. The revealing moment comes late in the season, though, when J.D. stays late with a patient well past the end of his shift, giving up a date. When Cox realizes what's going on he has his most painfully honest moment of the season: "You want to be like me, newbie? Don't you realize that most of the time I barely want to be like me?" It's a brutal statement from a brutally honest show, that repeatedly comes back to the idea that you can know exactly what your owns faults and shortcomings are and still have no idea what to do about them--and in fact, that in they end, they will literally kill you. It's not the stuff of your typical three-camera, laugh-track sitcom.

I can't wait for season two on DVD and/or syndication.

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