The Writer’s Perspective : Goodbye Scrubs?

In my 30+ years of watching TV, there’s been only two series finales that have gotten me pretty emotional if only for the fact that I watched every episode before it, and had become so invested in the stories, that it really saddened me to realize that there wouldn’t be any more tales to tell from that point on.

I could list off a bunch of shows that I really enjoyed the final episode of – “Seinfeld”, “Friends”, “Cheers”, “M*A*S*H*”, “Dawson’s Creek”, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” – and believe me, there’s many more, but for me, the two real tear-jerkers were “Family Ties” – “Alex Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” mainly because of the scene towards the end where Meredith Baxter Birney is telling Michael J. Fox how a piece of her will be leaving when he does – Good God, that one still gets me today – and the second being (surprisingly enough), another Michael J. Fox starrer – “Spin City”. “Goodbye”, the last episode of season 4 was of course made all the more emotional by Fox’s candid discussions on suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, but some exceptional writing by Bill Lawrence (and Sarah Dunn) as Fox’s Mike Flaherty told his fellow co-workers how much they had meant to him individually was a truly beautiful capping moment to the show – and yes, while I’m well aware that the show continued (albeit briefly), the last Fox starring episode was the real deal.

Now, there’s another, which quite honestly – I’ve watched twice now, and is so damn sweet at the end of it all, that I truly think it is now my favorite of all time – the last episode of “Scrubs”, entitled “My Finale”.

Originally, I hated “Scrubs” – my Mother & Sister were both big fans of it, so at their insistence, I watched two episodes back to back from the first season – I thought it was stupid, boring, had the replacement girl from “Roseanne” that I didn’t like, the lead guy was annoying – in fact, the only thing I actually liked about the entire 40 or so minutes that I watched that day was John C. McGinley, who I had seen in a few movies – his character of Dr. Cox was pretty funny – but that was about it.

When the first season came out on DVD, my Mom bought it for me, and insisted that I give it another chance – so I did – maybe I was in a bad mood when I first watched it, maybe it was – who knows what it was, but I sat there and watched every episode back to back, and loved every second of it – those first few episodes set up everything you needed to know, Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian (Zach Braff) was our hero and his two best friends Elliot (Sarah Chalke) and Turk (Donald Faison) as well as his mentor Perry Cox (John C. McGinley), but beyond that there was Carla (Judy Reyes), Bob Kelso, Janitor, Ted, Jordan, The Todd, Doug – and an ever increasing roster of favourite regular cameos from the likes of Colonel Doctor through to Snoop Dogg Intern – “Scrubs” had a little bit of something in every episode for both the casual & hardcore fans alike.

Perhaps most surprisingly, and in a similar way to the aforementioned “M*A*S*H*”, “Scrubs” – I quickly learnt – was not just about the funny stuff. It was on occasion some of the most touching TV I’ve ever had the priviilige of viewing, and these episodes were quite often told from the perspective of someone other that J.D., and were also titled as “His” or “Her Story”, rather than the typical “My XXXXXXX”. Take for example Season 3′s “My Screw Up” guest starring Brendan Fraser as Cox’s brother-in-law Ben – quite possibly one of the saddest endings to a TV show ever, but more importantly, a testament to some truly exceptional writing by Neil Goldman & Garrett Donovan (in fact, the episode was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series) – but it was a fixture of nearly every season that you would get at least one or two “serious” episodes – and every one of them was truly great. Fraser wasn’t the only major name to guest on the show over the years, the show featured guest appearances by Colin Farrell, Matthew Perry, Heather Graham, John Ritter, Ryan Reynolds, Mandy Moore, Amy Smart, Courtney Cox, Jason Bateman, Elizabeth Banks – plus an endless list of “quick” visits from pop culture icons such as Jimmie “Dyno-Mite” Walker, Gary Busey, Maureen McCormick & Erik Estrada.

But I watched every episode of “Scrubs” over its first seven seasons, and when the Writer’s Strike put it out of action at NBC, Bill Lawrence announced to the fans that yes – there would be one last season of 18 episodes, and it would be airing on ABC. It was rough to watch it from that point on, because knowing the end was coming, it became more of a countdown to the end, rather than an enjoyable experience – Although to its continued credit, the show was always at the top of its game in the final run – I was always hoping for one last Janitor episode, or another high-five from The Todd before the final curtain came down, and I was never disappointed.

As it turned out, the episode I was dreading the most, “My Finale” started out with a conversation lifted directly (by Lawrence’s own admission) from the “Spin City” pilot, and after the next 42 minutes of tearful goodbyes from the major players (Braff’s exchanges with Judy Reyes & McGinley were particularly touching) – we were treated to a brief farewell glimpse of almost every “favourite” character that ever walked the halls of Sacred Heart Hospital (excepting Masi Oka & Sarah Lancaster, who were denied permission by NBC to appear) – J.D’s inner monologue speaks about wishing his last day would be like a sitcom, and at that moment, we get to see the hall crowded with everyone from his Brother through to Hooch in one last send off.

But finally, as J.D. steps out onto the front step of Sacred Heart, he sees his future played out set to Peter Gabriel’s cover of “The Book Of Love” – suffice to say – I may have become a touch Glassy Eyed during those 4 something minutes, if you’ve already seen it, I’ve embedded the clip below if you’d like to revisit the moment – but for me, someone who loved the show, and loved each & every character on it, it’s sad that I’ll never get to see another “new” episode – but thank god that I have all of the DVD’s that I can revisit whenever I want, because I am really gonna miss it.