Ask most people what the best sitcom of the modern era is, and they’ll probably say Seinfeld or Arrested Development. I wouldn’t disagree with them. Ask an egghead (or Josh), and they’ll probably say something like The Simpsons or even NewsRadio. I wouldn’t disagree with them, either. But while I appreciate that it may not be the best sitcom of the modern era, Scrubs is still my favorite.
The show really doesn’t get the respect that it deserves. Consider how novel it is, even today, if a sitcom can make you laugh for 20 minutes, and bring you to tears in the last two minutes. No sitcom has really ever mixed comedy with poignancy as well as Scrubs has. It was a show set against the backdrop of life-and-death stakes (literally), and it was often the deaths of patients that would bring out the best in Scrubs and bring us even closer to those characters. I love Arrested Development and NewsRadio, but I’ve never felt a connection to those characters the way I do with J.D. and Turk, and probably my favorite sitcom character ever, Dr. Cox. It still kills me that John C. McGinley never got the Emmy he so richly deserved for this scene ALONE.
Scrubs was a brilliant show not just because of the Turk Dance (BUT THAT TOO), but because it gave us real people grappling with real problems and, of course, the greatest bromance in the history of television. Many shows have tried to duplicate the chemistry between J.D. and Turk over the years, but none have ever come close.
I put together the 20 obscure facts and interesting trivia about the show, really, as an excuse to show appreciation again for one of the best, funniest, and emotionally rich sitcoms of the modern era.
1. I think almost everyone agrees that, in a sea of amazing episodes, My Screw-Up is the best episode of the series. It’s actually the highest rated on IMDB, and TV.com gives it a 9.8 out of 10, while the episode also received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding writing (it lost to the Arrested Development pilot). The entire episode was an homage to Sixth Sense, and ended with Dr. Cox realizing that Ben (Ben Fraser) was already dead. If you watch it a second time, the point in which Ben dies becomes obvious. Early in the episode, Ben says he will take his camera with him everywhere he goes until the day he dies, and after a “patient” of Dr. Cox dies, Ben is no longer carrying the camera. This right here is probably the most emotionally powerful moment I can ever remember from a network sitcom.
2. The pilot episode, My First Day, is the only one of the series first eight seasons that’s not filmed in North Hollywood Medical Center (it was filmed in another hospital that has since been torn down). Also worth noting, in the pilot episode, which premiered in 2001, J.D. is wearing a Clone High T-shirt, inspired the another series created by Bill Lawrence. The only thing is, Clone High didn’t debut until 2002.
3. Speaking of North Hollywood Medical Center, the hospital where Scrubs was filmed: It was also home to earlier seasons of Children’s Hospital, and has been used in dozens of television shows, including The Sopranos, The Office, and Six Feet Under. It was demolished in mid-2011, however. There are now an apartment complexes in the location.
4. The title of the season three premiere is “My Own American Girl.” With a few exceptions, every episode title of Scrubs begins with “My.” Those exceptions are when other characters provide the narration (such as “His Story” and “Her Story”) and the final season (Scrubs 2.0), which all begin with the word “Our.” This particular episode title, however, is nod to Tom Petty’s song, American Girl. Years later, Bill Lawrence would create Cougar Town, and every single episode except two of that show is named after a Tom Petty song. Lawrence clearly loves Tom Petty.
5. I cannot say enough great things about the season six episode, My Musical, which was nominated for 5 Emmy awards. Unlike most Scrubs episodes (which are the product of the entire writers room), this one was written entirely by Deborah Fordham, who even wrote the lyrics to all the songs, although much of the music was composed by a member of The Blanks (more on The Blanks below). There was, unusually, a week-long rehearsal period, but the effort was worth it, as the episode was named by TV Guide as one of the best 100 episodes of all time. Bill Lawrence cited Buffy the Vampire Slayer as inspiration for the episode, although he cites Buffy as inspiration for several of the big episodes of Scrubs.
6. Ted’s band, The Worthless Peons, is an actual a capella band called The Blanks. Three of the members (including Sam Lloyd) formed the band after they met at Syracuse University. They have a lot of great songs in Scrubs, but “Hey Ya” may be my favorite. Many agree that the episode in which it was performed — the eighth season finale — should’ve been the series finale, but I have a soft spot for the ninth season’s Scrubs 2.0 year.
7. Bill Lawrence wrote both the season six finale and the season eight finales as series finales, thinking in both instances that the show wouldn’t be picked up. In the the eighth season finale, over 50 previous actors who had roles in the show returned, with three notable exceptions: Heather Graham declined for personal reasons, and Masi Oka of Heroes and Sarah Lancaster of Chuck, who were denied permission by NBC, despite the fact that Scrubs was an NBC show its first seven seasons.
8. Scrubs first season was seen by an average of 11 million viewers, then topped out in its second season at around 15 million viewers (which would make it more popular than Modern Family today). Thanks to terrible marketing by NBC, and its insistence on shuffling the series around their schedule, Scrubs eventually fell to 5 million viewers in its true final season, and 3.8 million viewers in Scrubs 2.0, although even Scrubs 2.0 would fare as well as most of NBC’s Thursday night sitcoms now.
9. So many of Neil Flynn’s lines as The Janitor were ad libbed throughout the series that, at one point, a fourth season script reportedly actually said, “(Whatever Neil says).” The Janitor actually was originally only written as a gag character for the pilot episode, but Flynn was so good, they kept him around for the entire series. One of my very favorite inside jokes in the series is how Bill Lawrence took advantage of the fact that Neil Flynn actually had a bit part in The Fugitive.
10. The Janitor’s real name, by the way? Glenn Matthews. He revealed it in The Finale, but because The Janitor is known for lying, many didn’t believe him. Bill Lawrence, however, confirmed it in this video on Facebook (at 1.55). It is a nod to Glenn the Janitor in Lawrence’s Clone High.
11. One last thing about The Janitor. When they upped him into a recurring character in the first season, the Janitor was only allowed to speak to J.D. That’s because Bill Lawrence was so sure that the show would be cancelled after one season that he wanted to keep a joke in his back pocket for the series finale: He had planned to reveal that The Janitor was a figment of J.D.’s imagination. The Janitor didn’t get to interact with other characters on the show until the second season.
12. Michael Muhney — best known as Sheriff Lamb in Veronica Mars — screen tested for the role of J.D. twice, and was the initial frontrunner for the role. However, Lawerence eventually went a different way, because Muhney wasn’t quirky enough for the role.
13. John C. McGinley was in Oliver Stone’s 1986 movie, Platoon, where he could be frequently heard saying a phrase that he would repeat many times throughout Scrubs‘ run: “What do you say there, Bob?”
14. John Ritter, who played J.D.’s father on the show, was killed off on Scrubs after Ritter died in real life. Ritter’s final line on Scrubs was improvised. He asked J.D. to pull his finger, and then responded, “I pooed a little.” Zach Braff had to bite the inside of his cheeks to keep from laughing, as anyone would if John Ritter ad-libbed the line “I pooed a little” in front of them.
15. Throughout most of the series’ run, the opening credit sequence only featured one credit, “Created by Bill Lawrence.” However, earlier in the run (season 2), they tinkered with the idea of an opening theme that crammed in all the actor’s names. It was quickly scuttled for time, however. You can see it (as well as all of Scrubs credit sequences) below.
16. In the scene below from Scrubs, the stunt people who do the bungee jump for J.D. and Elliot actually met on set that day. They are now married.
17. The series has three medical advisors: Dr. Jonathan Doris, Dr. Jon Turk and Dr. Dolly Klock. They were the inspirations behind J.D, Turk, and Heather Graham’s character, Dr. Molly Clock.
Jonathan Doris is the doctor you can see briefly in this clip, who J.D. says goodbye to in The Finale.
18. Colonel Doctor, Doctor Beardface, and Snoop Dogg Intern all started out as Extras on Scrubs, and got their character names based on how they were referred to by the cast and crew in the extras pool.
19. John C. McGinley often refers to J.D. by a girl’s name (Lily, Ginger, Shirley, Gidget, Marcia, Gloria, Janice, Betsy, Carol, Toto, Nancy, Brittany), which is how he also jokingly refers to his close friend, John Cusack. The two worked together on the set of Fat Man and Little Boy.
20. I always feel a little guilty about bringing this up, but the actor who plays Hooch, Phill Lewis, really is crazy. I mean, kind of. Better known for his role in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Lewis was convicted of manslaughter in 1991 for killing another woman in a drunk-driving accident. He did serve some prison time.