All the reasons why we still love ‘Scrubs’

On this day in 2001, the sitcom Scrubs premiered on NBC. It’s been 14 years, but we’re still huge fans of the show.  Few network comedies actually have the staying power to cultivate a mass following of dedicated viewers. It requires the perfect cocktail of spot-on writing, brilliant acting, and critical editing. This combination is a rare gem, but when it happens, the show’s legacy continues far past its finale.

Thanks to Netflix, Hulu, and other major streaming platforms, we get to continue to celebrate some of these glorious shows again and again, from first episode to last. This re-viewing, and re-living not only stirs up some serious nostalgia, but also reveals new treasures missed the first time ‘round. With the rapid-fire jabs of Dr. Cox, and the ever hilarious shenanigans of J.D. and Turk, it’s almost as if this show was created specifically for the purpose of binge-watching. So why was Scrubs so special? What was in the secret sauce? We’ve got some theories.

It has the best bromance

Sure, every comedy seems to have a cute duo of pals that get into various kinds of mischief. But there is just something so special about J.D. and Turk. Played by Zach Braff and Donald Faison, these two characters are each so unique, and richly written as complex, flawed, and lovable doctors just trying to figure out how to adult. This relationship works especially well because J.D. and Turk begin the series as an unlikely odd couple. Christopher Turk is the macho, jock surgeon who could smooth-talk like it was his profession, while John Dorian, or J.D., is a sensitive, silly, sometimes awkward intern with a passion for Internal Medicine. J.D. yearns for a mentor, while Turk strives to be a surgical superhero. But despite their differences, the two forge an unbreakable friendship, dating all the way back to their college days. The friendship only grows as each season progresses, and the genuine love these two doctors have for each other is felt by viewers of all walks of life. We all want a platonic love like J.D. and Turk.

We were hanging on to the will-they-or-won’t-they of J.D. and Elliot

Sure, J.D. and Elliot have chemistry and romantic tension from the beginning of the show, and they certainly embody the on-again/off-again relationship every network comedy seems to employ, but the real underdog relationship we all root for is that between J.D. and Dr. Perry Cox. As I mentioned before, J.D. begins his search for the perfect mentor in the pilot episode. Although we wouldn’t know it at first, he finds just that in Dr. Perry Cox, played by the super-talented John C. McGinley. Dr. Cox is a bit of a train-wreck himself, but an excellent doctor, so J.D. latches onto this macho, sports-loving, scotch-drinking, insult-hurling medical hero, hoping to soak up every bit of knowledge he can (and maybe, one day, earn a hug). Throughout the series, we see J.D. transition from pest to best student to colleague, and we watch Dr. Cox slowly open up to the idea of respecting Dorian as his equal. This is a really precious arc to watch, especially since both characters seem to help each other become better humans and doctors as their relationship evolves.

There were such good guest stars

Scrubs was famous for inviting the most diverse group of guest stars to appear throughout the entire series. From Tara Reid to Michael J. Fox (living legend), it didn’t matter how acclaimed the actor was or wasn’t, Scrubs writers had a real knack for making the viewer fall in love with these visitors to Sacred Heart Hospital. Throughout the series, we got to see such stars as Elizabeth Banks (ever heard of her?), Heather Graham (who doesn’t love Dr. Molly Clock?!), Masi Oka (as Franklin), Brendan Fraser (sob!), John Ritter (more sobs!), and the list could go on for days. It seems very rare that an episode centered on a visiting character could become a fan favorite, but “My Catalyst” is certainly one of the series’ most powerful episodes, and its main character is none other than Kevin Casey, a visiting doctor with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, played by Michael J. Fox. This episode, hilarious though it is, is also so vulnerable, and so real. Viewers loved every second Michael J. Fox graced the halls of Sacred Heart. This making the most of guest stars idea is one of the many factors that makes the show so exceptional.

There were strong women characters

Some of Scrubs’ most quotable characters are the men. From the Janitor to Dr. Cox to crabby Dr. Kelso, the guys are really quirky and hilarious, that is undisputed. But Scrubs is certainly not just a boy’s club. Carla (Judy Reyes), Elliot (Sarah Chalke), and Jordan (Christa Miller) can hold their own in the hospital, and then some. These women each bring their own heart and hilarity to the oddball mix of medical friends, reminding us that prominent female characters can be flawed, funny (really, really funny), and substantial. With a bromance like Turk and J.D.’s and a mentor like Perry Cox, it would be easy for the show’s writers to do like so many before them and employ female characters strictly as romantic props or token “eye candy,” but instead, Scrubs delved deep into the hearty backstories of these women, making them relatable, accessible, and best of all, imperfect. We need more Carlas on television!

The ratio of drama-to-comedy was on point

Scrubs is one of those unique shows that makes you laugh till your sides ache, and cry till your head hurts. It is as funny and it is introspective. Just as it’s impossible to choose the most hilarious Scrubs moment, it’s also too difficult to narrow the dramatic scenes down to a favorite gut-wrencher (although the entire episode entitled “My Lunch” is definitely a top-contender). There’s something so intricate about balancing comedy and drama in a sitcom-length television show. But this balance is exactly what reveals the skill level of the Scrubs writing staff, cast, and director. It’s no wonder fans can re-watch the series over and over again. Scrubs reintroduces you to the full spectrum of your feelings, making it a great go-to when you’re feeling down or moody.

Suggesting that Scrubs has everything you could ever want in a comedy show is an absolute understatement. Each episode leaves you falling in love more and more with the characters that roam the bustling halls of Sacred Heart teaching hospital, and challenging your own views on what it means to truly live life. When a network show has as much appeal as Scrubs, you know it’s worth watching all the way through at least a few times.

[Image courtesy NBC]