Buena Vista // 2003 // 477 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // May 29th, 2006
"Okay, here's the tour. This is where the patients enter. Upstairs is where they go to die. And down in the basement is where we slide their cold, dead bodies into the wall. Oh, and that's the gift shop."
Don't ask me why we're reviewing Scrubs: The Complete Third Season before Season Two here at DVD Verdict. It is the mystery of the dance.
If you need a proper introduction to the show, check out our excellent review of Scrubs: The Complete First Season. For those of you who just need a recap of what's been going on at good ol' Sacred Heart, here's a status update:
J.D. (Zack Braff, Garden State)
Now in his third year, despite getting a handle on this whole "being a doctor" thing, J.D. is feeling pretty down in the dumps lately, what with Elliot having moved on and his best friends getting married. All he really needs is somebody to talk to, but everyone seems to be preoccupied with their own drama...
Elliot (Sarah Chalke, Roseanne)
Tired of being awkward and insecure, Elliot reinvents her appearances with drastic Pat Benatar-esque effect. Now, as the best-looking doctor on-staff, the women resent her and the guys refuse to take her seriously. Luckily, things with her boyfriend Sean (Scott Foley, Felicity) are working out great -- much to J.D.'s disappointment.
Turk (Donald Faison, Clueless)
With his wedding to Carla (Judy Reyes, Oz) rapidly approaching, Turk manages to keep himself cool, but the strain of an ever-increasing crazy fiancée and a new empowered female boss starts to crack his cool exterior.
Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley, Platoon)
Suddenly thrust into fatherhood, Dr. Cox tries his best to keep the last vestiges of his bachelorhood intact, but the transition between immaturity and responsibility does not sit well with the good doctor. Meanwhile, Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins, The Sum of All Fears) still manages to find the time to torture Dr. Cox every chance he gets.
The Janitor (Neil Flynn, The Fugitive)
The Janitor is still a jerk. Some things never change.
Scrubs: The Complete Third Season contains all 22 episodes from the third season:
* "My American Girl"
* "My Journey"
* "My White Whale"
* "My Lucky Night"
* "My Brother, Where Art Thou?"
* "My Advice to You"
* "My Fifteen Seconds"
* "My Friend the Doctor"
* "My Dirty Secret"
* "My Rule of Thumb"
* "My Clean Break"
* "My Catalyst"
* "My Porcelain God"
* "My Screw Up"
* "My Tormented Mentor"
* "My Butterfly"
* "My Moment of Un-Truth"
* "His Story II"
* "My Choosiest Choice of All"
* "My Fault"
* "My Self-Examination"
* "My Best Friend's Wedding"
Despite being a newcomer to the syndication market, it is extremely probable that Scrubs could become a new classic of comfort television in the making. Regardless of episode or season, you can tune into the hospital-themed comedy and spend a happy half-hour enjoying some quality mirth. A delicious blend of slapstick, sly wit, and understated profoundness, the show succeeds in turning elements normally reserved for dramatic television funny, while still preserving the humanity and meaningfulness of a medical drama. Plus, it makes lots of poop jokes.
Sure, the humor is puerile at times, but I challenge anybody who finds Scrubs to be lacking in sophisticated humor to sit stone-faced through a 60-second Dr. Cox monologue without cracking a smile, let alone busting a rib. They must spend weeks writing just a single page of his dialogue. Scrubs has a wit and sophistication that goes beyond its absurdist exterior of Ally McBeal-esque sight gags and allegorical hyperbole, creating some of the most consistently hilarious television on network television today and finding a fanatically loyal and devoted audience despite repeated network shuffling and broadcast schedule manipulation.
In the third season, there is a noticeable shift towards a more humorous, lighter style of writing, with more abstract jokes and buffoonery. This has two effects: it makes the show much more hilarious to watch, and when the dramatic episodes do emerge, they hit even harder, amplified by the contrast. As a result, Season Three of Scrubs contains some of the finest episodes the show has put together yet. Between "My Fifteen Seconds," featuring Mad TV's Nicole Sullivan as a neglected patient, to the gut-wrenchingly profound "My Screw Up," which personifies exactly how powerful this show is capable of being when it sets its mind to it, the show kicks viewers in the crotch as often as it tickles their funny bone. "My Screw Up" in particular is so drastic and devastating, the episode doesn't just break your heart; it actually extends a solidified hand made of cathode ray electrons and yanks the still-beating organ from out of your chest, crushing it in its statically-charged mandible. Without a doubt, it is the finest episode the show has ever created, featuring a spectacular performance by McGinley. Heck, I haven't even mentioned how the show chose to handle Michael J. Fox's two-episode cameo stint. In what could have been nothing more than a light fluffy Newsradio-esque guest star stint, it impacts hard with emotional resonance and eerie parallels to Fox's own sudden sickness through a doctor suffering from a debilitating condition that interferes with his chosen career.
Actually, now that I think about it, all the episodes with guest stars manage to be good episodes. How cool is that? Well, except for the half-dozen this season with Tara Reid. Meh.
J.D.'s predisposition to acts of surrealist escapism fuel the show's majority of gags, but the show's true strength lay in its ensemble. The interactions between the cast members are polished, comfortable, and often hilarious, and the show begins to find confidence in taking focus away from J.D. now and again to concentrate on its supporting cast. Turk and Carla's marriage plans, Dr. Cox's newfound level of responsibility and/or disdain towards his family, and Elliot's personal growth are all given copious amounts of room to expand and flesh out their issues during the third season.
The romance between J.D. and Elliot is a long-running plot device, but like many shows, the writers seem to get antsy when their characters are truly content, so endless time is spent devising new and exciting ways to antagonize its characters. Unfortunately, you get to the point where you start running out of ways to sabotage a relationship between two characters and people just start acting like jerks for the sake of being jerks. So it is here in Season Three that we get to see what an asshole J.D. really is. This is an unfortunate side effect of a rebalancing of sorts in the third season, in which the everyday drama of Seasons One and Two are slowly but systematically replaced by more humorous elements. Things that would have been off-limits before are now fair game to turn into jokes and the only consistently dramatic element to follow through from season to season is J.D. pining over Elliot, a device the creators sabotage in order to cram one more punch line into the show. Not the decision I would have made, but oh well.
Going back to watch the first season in preparation for this review, I had forgotten how painfully awkward and stilted the character's interactions were with one another, how rough and gangly the writing was in the beginning. By the third season, both cast and creators have settled into a groove of hilarious proportions, firing one-liners, sexual innuendos, hyperbolic sight gags, and slapstick comedy into the air effortlessly and freely. Things gel in such an admirable way that you cannot help admire the brilliance of the show in all elements. From the acting to the writing to the drama and the comedy, the show ranks as one of the finer ensemble cast sitcoms on the airwaves today.
The transfer to DVD is decent for a current television show, but gets weirder with a slight graininess the more you look at it. Colors are saturated, a bit too much into the reds at times, and edges are a bit jagged at closer examination. I nitpick, though. The transfer is more than serviceable. The audio comes in a nice Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround presentation with restrained bass, excellent clarity and crisp dialogue. The rear channels are mostly reserved for the music, but occasionally get in on some environmental noises. Like previous seasons, the third season of Scrubs is a veritable "who's who" hodge-podge of indie rock music, featuring songs from Stroke 9, The Churchills, Tammany Hall NYC, Matthew Sweet, Coldplay, Josh Radin, The Polyphonic Spree (who actually appear live in the show), and other performers too numerous to count.
Most syndicated television series dry out of special material by the third DVD release, but Scrubs: The Complete Third Season manages another avalanche of goodies for the devoted fan. Containing an actual gaggle of featurettes, the third disc boils over with tiny, irrelevant snips of behind-the-scenes life for the cast and crew of Scrubs, most lasting no more than ten minutes. "Twist and Shoot" gives a few minutes of screen time to a few assistant directors that got to move up to the big director's chair this season, while "Don't Try This at Home" gives some credit to the stunt work performed during the slapstick portions. "The New Elliot" focuses on Ellot's transformation in Season Three, while "Robert Keeps Talking" gives us five minutes of face time with The Todd. "Long Term Residents" highlights some of the repeat guest stars that make their way in front of the camera over the last few seasons, while "Scrubs Factor" is a behind-the-scenes mini-game of Fear Factor with the cast and crew, spearheaded by show creator Bill Lawrence. "Is there a Doctor in the House?" focuses on J.D. and Elliot's relationship, such as it is. "What's Up Dawg" is the most pointless of materials, but also one of the most amusing, focusing on the denizens of the third floor of Sacred Heart -- the cast and crew's dogs. Yes, dogs. As in, where they put all the pets when they shoot long hours.
Whew. Mind you, each one of these blips barely clocks at the five-minute mark, but it's nice to see such a spread of diverse material. Add to this some deleted scenes, blooper takes, alternate lines, and two commentary tracks, and the extra material offering feels pretty strong. The commentary tracks are vacuous but pleasant enough, if only to hear the show creators guffawing at their constant self-referential cast of extras they cram into the background of every possible scene, like Dr. Mickhead, and a Col. Sanders look-alike doctor. Yes, if you keep your eyes out for them, you'll see the same people walking down the halls in every episode. Attention to detail, people; it's very important.
The DVD also features excellent subtitles, always a plus for a television show. My only gripe: it's a shame about the animated menus. Getting to the special features takes an aggravating amount of time; so much so that it actually discourages you from watching anything by the time you get there.
Unfortunately -- and I'm going to catch a lot of flack for even saying this aloud -- the show goes downhill from here.
Though I risk provoking the ire of legions of devoted Scrubs fans, I firmly believe that Season Three represents the show at the height of its game, a perfect blend of sentimentality and hilarity rarely achieved by a sitcom. Each season of the show has improved itself exponentially as the actors grew more comfortable with their roles and each other, cumulating at the apex of perfection at the finale of Season Three. If there is indeed a shark to be jumped in Scrubs, somebody would be strapping on a pair of water skis as the credits in Season Three roll.
After the finale in Season Three, it almost seemed like the writers became less interested in developing the characters in a meaningful fashion and more obsessed with coming up with more outrageous surrealist sight gags and obscure cultural references. Funny, for sure, but it lacks the heart that drew me to the show in the first place. It loses that perfect balance between human resonance and hyperrealism comedy and just starts being stupid for the sake of being stupid. Sure, the show is funnier than most shows currently on the air, even today, but certainly no longer as meaningful. Not by a long shot.
Hyperbole is fun and all, but too much of a good thing gets redundant. The balance between drama and comedy is a finely balanced one, and as the show progresses, it swings further and further towards the guffaws. So enjoy the perfect balance while you can.
What is up with the frighteningly unsanitary rooftop toilet? I mean, my god people, there's no sink or soap up there. And these people are doctors? The horror!
If you ask me, Scrubs: The Complete Third Season is the finest season of the show to date. If you are reading this, then you are not out buying this DVD. This is a problem.
What, you're still here? Get moving, Brittany.
Review content copyright © 2006 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Buena Vista
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 477 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Twist And Shoot"
* "Don't Try This At Home"
* "Long-Term Residents"
* "What Up Dawg?"
* "Scrubs Factor"
* "One On One ... With 'The Todd'"
* "The New Elliot"
* "Is There A Doctor In The House?"
* "Scrubbed Out: Deleted Scenes"
* "Alternate Lines: A Second Opinion"
* Gag Reel
* Scrubs (NBC)
* Scrubs (Touchstone Television)
* DVD Verdict Review of Scrubs: The Complete First Season