4 pitches for the inevitable Scrubs reboot
re-published from Pop Tarot
I’m off on vacation, so this week, I’m running a slightly revised version of a guest post I wrote last year for my friend Loa Beckenstein’s newsletter Pop Tarot. Pop Tarot has ended its run, but you can read the full archives at poptarot.substack.com and read more about the project here on Night Water.
Scrubs is my comfort sitcom. The way that some turn to The Office or Friends, I turn to Scrubs. I have seen the show enough times at this point that I do not laugh. If I'm lucky, I chuckle, or at least crack a smile—but as anyone who has a comfort sitcom knows, it's less about the jokes and more about spending twenty minutes with friends who don't know you exist.
Given that it's a sitcom that was produced and concluded before the streaming era, a Scrubs reboot or revival feels inevitable at this point. After revivals of everything from Roseanne to Frasier to Full House, is there any sitcom that is safe from a tepid retread at this point? With the supposed success of main cast members Zach Braff and Donald Faison's re-watch podcast, Fake Doctors, Real Friends, the groundwork for a Scrubs revival has been properly laid.
Scrubs aired from 2001 to 2010, and like other media from the era, many elements of the show have not aged well. Most notably, three episodes featuring blackface were removed from Hulu in 2020. Creator Bill Lawrence, discussing the removal, said that he felt the show had a "free pass" to do blackface because the show was "diverse" in front of and behind the camera. (These comments came from an appearance on an episode of Fake Doctors, Real Friends, natch.)
Sure, the show was diverse compared to Friends or Seinfeld, with people of color in primary roles—specifically Donald Faison as Chris Turk, best friend to Zach Braff’s J.D., and Judy Reyes as Carla Espinosa, Turk's girlfriend and eventual wife. But when their non-whiteness was explored, it was always clear that whiteness was the default, and more often than not, the show relied on racial stereotypes for jokes, storylines, and character traits. There is also a deeply rooted homophobia and obsession with traditional masculinity explored through J.D. and Turk's close friendship and J.D.'s tense relationship with his mentor Dr. Cox. And, of course, there's a sprinkle of transphobic jokes made throughout, sneaking up when you least expect them.
With a few notable exceptions, the show stays away from making any strong political statements, which makes me curious how the show would deal with our hyper-politicized era. I can’t help but think that the team would want to dive in and engage with the issues, but with a Scrubsian twist.
With this foresight for the inevitable, I would like to throw my hat in the ring for a writer spot on the Scrubs revival when it does finally enter production. Bill, if you’re reading this, you’ll see that I have a deep knowledge of Scrubs’ clumsiest episodes, and can help guide you through this political era while staying true to the show’s apolitical tendencies.
PITCH: The hospital is torn apart after the January 6th attack on the capital, with pro-insurrection Republicans (Elliot, Dr. Mickhead) and the anti-insurrection Democrats (Turk, Dr. Cox) prioritizing arguing over their patients' care. J.D., not knowing enough to have an opinion, spends all day reading Twitter and laughing at memes. The hospital staff reunites after watching a loving liberal wife care for her dying, MAGA-hat-wearing husband.
Inspired by: Season 6, Episode 7: “His Story IV," a.k.a. the one where everyone fights over the Iraq War.
PITCH: There's a #MeToo reckoning at Sacred Heart after an intern files an HR report after an attending pages her for sex. Elliot is forced to reconsider her past relationship with Keith, which started as a booty call. J.D. and Turk put on a sketch show about consent, which only makes things worse. The Todd is fired.
Inspired by: Season 5, Episode 11: "My Buddy's Booty," the episode where J.D. and Elliot pick interns to sleep with.
PITCH: J.D. is surprised when he sees Dr. Cox in a campaign ad endorsing an anti-Medicare-for-All candidate. Dr. Cox reveals that he's worried Medicare for All would reduce how much money the hospital could take in and that the hospital would have to close if it passed. J.D. likes Bernie because he reminds him of his grandfather. They agree to disagree when they bond over committing some insurance fraud for a patient on a Bronze Obamacare plan.
Inspired by: Almost every episode features some kind of storyline about health insurance and the patients who don't have it. Characters are constantly skirting the rules to get patients the care they need, even when they're not covered. But the show never really discusses a solution, and Sacred Heart is a for-profit institution, after all.
PITCH: J.D. and Turk's “Guy Love" is strained when J.D. is too afraid to go to a Black Lives Matter protest. Turk gives a passionate speech about how, even if J.D. sees himself and Turk as the same, that's not the case for the police. The camera lingers on J.D.’s face as he takes this in, zooming out slowly while a Joshua Radin song plays. J.D. makes it up to Turk by reading White Fragility.
Inspired by: Season 1, Episode 8: “My Fifteen Minutes,” the episode where Turk gets frustrated after being portrayed as a "black doctor hero" in Sacred Heart advertising, but more so by the lack of any storylines discussing race beyond surface-level stereotypes.
This is just a starting point—I didn’t even write any new pitches for 2022! Bill, Zach, Donald—give me a ring and let me put my BFA in Dramatic Writing to good use.
For more Scrubs hot takes, check out Loa’s guest post from last fall: