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Baby Scrubs and the Trouble With Lucy

  • 12/2/09 at 5:30 PM

I've always loved the idea of a TV show shaking things up after a few seasons. I was excited when Newsradio seemed like it might switch to a new workplace (a rumor I remember from when the show was airing but couldn't find confirmation for online: Am I crazy?). I was thrilled when Buffy went to college. I seem to be the only fan of middle-era ER, with that fresh cast of characters, almost all irascible, corporate, and/or one-armed.

So I was open to the reboot of Scrubs, which debuted last night on ABC. It's basically a sequel to the original show: The old hospital has been torn down and the original cast are teaching med school (for at least a few episodes). Perry Cox is still ranting; Zach Braff is in it for six episodes; and they've still got the hilariously coarse tomboy Denise, a great late arrival on the old show. And then, of course, there's an entirely new ensemble of baby doctors jostling around for breakout status.

And it's all just ... God, it's just completely inconsistent. There's some great stuff, including that obnoxious, near-Tourette's Scrubs dialogue, like the explosion of a med student who has just been bawled out by Cox: "Whore! Sorry, I'm not talking to you. Just something I say when I'm pissed. Or when I'm with a whore." (I realize this doesn't look that funny on the page, but hey, I laughed.) I like the ex-con Drew. I particularly like the sleepy-eyed, spoiled rich kid, James Franco lookalike Cole, who gives a truly bizarre speech about his love for his "wing-mom." My colleague Sternbergh mocks my enjoyment of Scrubs, but I've always admired the show's screwball harshness about medical personalities, packed as it is with truly mean hazing, egotism, and emotionally detached sex-talk, in contrast to the soapy morons who moon around on Grey's Anatomy.

Unfortunately, there's also an irritating new character named Lucy, who is meant to be our rebooted J.D.: the naïve newbie. J.D. was annoying (on purpose, in part), but he was also genuinely weird and so was his surreal narration. Lucy has an internal narration, too, but hers consists of little other than insecurity alternating with "I can do it!" affirmations. The character could be a fresh turn on a classic TV medical character, a combo platter of Sarah Chalke's neurotic princess Elliot, Noah Wyle's first-season ER John Carter, and that other Lucy — the ADD one on ER who was eventually stabbed during a Valentine's Day episode. But this Lucy isn't weird. She's just whiny. This is particularly disappointing given that the show has always been really good at making its female characters as idiosyncratic as its men — from Carla to Cox's bitchy ex — so it's frustrating to watch this mewling kitten appear as our protagonist. We're only two episodes in, but though I don't exactly want Lucy to be stabbed during a Valentine's Day episode, I don't exactly not. Either way, she should keep an eye out for falling helicopters.

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