As the U.S. engages in a national health care debate, the goofballs at "Scrubs" are like the poster children for health care reform. Nothing is sacred at Sacred Heart Hospital except life itself, and the eighth season returns fans to the balance of riotous laughs and poignant moments that defined some of the ABC comedy's most successful seasons.
Dr. John "J.D." Dorian (Zach Braff) still has Ally McBeal-style interior monologues that are often externalized, and this season he's thinking a lot about the Muppets, who guest. "Friends" alum Courtney Cox appears as the new Chief of Medicine, while the old chief, retired Dr. Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), still hangs around the hospital because he was promised donuts for life. J.D.'s buddy, Dr. Chris Turk (Donald Faison), Dr. Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke), Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley), Nurse Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes), and The Janitor (Neil Flynn) are all back with new plotlines that zig and zag like the lines on a cardiogram. Lines blur this season, as some of the insufferable characters become more sympathetic, and the writers manage to reveal additional information (much of it emotional) about the characters, despite the fact that it's now eight seasons since their first idea. And they've come up with a hilarious group of interns, including an Indian slacker (Aziz Ansari). In addition to Courtney Cox, look for guest stars Elizabeth Banks ("Role Models"), Scott Foley ("The Unit"), Christa Miller ("The Drew Carey Show"), Thomas Cavanaugh ("Ed"), and Elmo and his Muppet friends.
This season "Scrubs" made the jump from NBC to ABC. Here's a rundown on the 19 episodes, which are housed on three discs in a regular-sized keep-case--one disc on the inside front cover, and two overlapping on the back inside cover, with the titles in small print on the inside of the cover insert so you need to remove the discs to see the menu (hate it!):
1) "My Jerks" introduces Cox as the new Chief of Medicine, and the guest star clearly has fun with her role, which seems to be turning the hospital into a suspicious and paranoid workplace.
2) "My Last Words" is one of the strongest episodes this season, in which J.D. and Turk give up steak night in order to spend time with a dying patient.
3) "My Saving Grace" finds Kelso and Cox scheming to get rid of the new Chief of Medicine, while the rest of the doctors play musical interns and think about who they'd like to "mentor."
4) "My Happy Place." J.D. and Elliot find a new spark as they guide Dr. Kelso to find his "happy place." Meanwhile, The Janitor, who had been exiled under the new Chief of Medicine, returns after she leaves.
5) "My ABCs." J.D. picks Denise to be his intern, despite the fact that she seems emotionless. Maybe that's why he begins daydreaming about The Muppets. Meanwhile, Dr. Cox links himself to an intern who's such a slacker you wonder how he got through med school.
6) "My Cookie Pants." As J.D. and Elliot hit another speed bump and J.D. sees more Muppets, Dr. Cox is offered the job of Chief of Medicine.
7) "My New Role" introduces Cox as the big kahuna and a strange thing happens: he becomes kinda friends with Bob Kelso. (But don't tell anyone).
8) "My Lawyer's in Love." Ted (Sam Lloyd) falls for a ukulele player and Dr. Cox finally realizes that he can't do it all.
9) "My Absence." While J.D.'s on vacation, Turk stretches the truth when the reaction to the announcement of his second child isn't quite what he expected. Meanwhile, a coma patient is treated the way everyone who fears national health care believes, with Dr. Cox a one-man death panel.
10) "My Comedy Show." New interns have to perform in a traditional show, and J.D. and Turk offer to write their material. Meanwhile, Elliot has it out with her interns and The Janitor observes some sensitive stuff from the wings.
11) "My Nah Nah Nah." Turk devises an experimental procedure rather than deliver the news that a patient will be wheelchair-bound. Meanwhile, things get weirder between Dr. Cox and The Janitor.
12) "Their Story II." Everybody turns to J.D. for advice, and it unfortunately goes to his head. Meanwhile, the Janitor fantasizes about one of the interns.
13) "My Full Moon." The new interns are swamped with cases as Elliott comes to a professional crossroads.
14-15) "My Soul on Fire," Pts. 1 & 2. It's wedding bells for The Janitor, who plans a Bahamas wedding with three days notice just to score gifts from the doctors, whom he invites but never expects will come. But the funny thing is . . . .
16) "My Cuz." Turk campaigns for a promotion, while Dr. Kelso falls sick and J.D. pries into the lives of colleagues.
17) "My Chief Concern" finds Turk settling in as Chief of Surgery, but J.D. puts a damper on things when he announces he may move to be closer to his son.
18-19) "My Finale," Pts. 1 & 2. J.D. announces he's leaving Sacred Heart, and this loose ends episode offers plenty of complications that makes you wonder who's his real friend and whether he's really leaving.
Collectively, the episodes form one of the strongest seasons of this popular show, with consistent laughs, strong writing, and offbeat characters that manage to surprise as much as they endear.
It could be my eyes, or maybe it's because the episodes are even funnier, but I thought that the video was a little less grainy than the previous release. Colors are pleasingly saturated and there's a decent amount of detail for a standard def release. But alas, the aspect ratio is still 1.33:1. A Blu-ray has been announced for November 17, but no aspect ratio is listed on the press release.
The audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 that delivers crisp, clear sound that's mostly spread across the front speakers. But during musical interludes the other speakers kick in. Subtitles are in French and Spanish.
All but three of the episodes include commentary tracks, with writer-director Bill Lawrence joined by writer Kevin Biegel for two, actor Braff for a pair, Sonal Shah and Eliza Coupe teaming up for two and each appearing on an additional one, Christa Miller for a pair, Neill Flynn for two, Ken Jenkins for one, John C. McGinley for one, Donald Faison for a half, and producer Randall Winston for two. Fans already know what they're getting, as the previous two seasons were also released with commentary tracks, and the quality and style are pretty much the same here: average to slightly above average.
"My Bahamas Vacation" is the longest bonus feature, which shows the cast and crew behind the scenes in Hope Town, Bahamas. Makes you want to go there yourself. But fans will probably want to go directly to the "Scrubs: Interns" webisodes that are included here. These in-character blog-style snippets appeared online in 2-5 minute installments, and all 12 are included here, plus two bonus webisodes that never made it online.
Rounding out the bonus features are roughly 10 minutes of deleted scenes, 13 minutes of ad libs that didn't make the cut, and previews for other ABC shows.
The box features stickers that say, "Caution: Laughter May Induce Stomach Cramps And Incontinence." Well, I didn't pee my pants, but this season of "Scrubs" is exceptionally funny. The show feels as fresh and full of energy as ever, especially with new faces like Courtney Cox.