Saturday, December 30, 2006
Scrubs: Not a Four-Camera Sitcom, Thank Goodness
I gave up on sitcoms several years ago. It was around the time that Seinfeld had gone off the air, Friends started to get bad, Niles & Daphne were about to hook up on Frasier, Michael J. Fox was about to leave Spin City, and That 70's Show talked too much about sex.
I was getting tired of characters who were always the same, who hardly ever grew or changed, and of storylines that depended far too much on misunderstandings, lack of communication, and coincidences of bad timing to create situations of conflict and/or humor. I also got sick of the laugh tracks and the fake "feel" of the shows. I started preferring one hour dramas (like The Practice, The West Wing, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer--which was good until season six) and shows that did a better job blending drama and comedy (like Ally McBeal).
However... I have had a slight change of heart and have been giving Scrubs a chance, now that its repeats are being shown in great numbers on Comedy Central, WGN, and in syndication. And, I have to confess, I really like it. I like the quirky characters, the complex relationships, the sharp dialogue, the poignant blend of comedy & drama (often in the form of sadness as the show does not ignore the tragedies that sometime occur with hospital patients), and the witty and often bizarre fantasy & daydreaming sequences that take place in main character John Dorian's (J.D.'s) head (ala Ally McBeal).
Last night, I saw a repeat entitled "My Life in Four Cameras" in which J.D. tries to deny the plight of a dying patient by imagining life in the hospital as a typical four-camera sitcom, complete with all the classic sitcom conventions and the laughs from a live studio audience. It was probably meant to be funny and to serve as a bit of a stunt for the show. To me, it helped me realize how ridiculous & unlikable the show could be as a four-camera sitcom. It would be silly (okay, it already is silly but in a way that is endearing, not annoying), the characters would be more archetypical & exaggerated, it would not have the poignant moments because nothing bad would ever truly happen, and we wouldn't get the fantasy sequences that demonstrate what's going on inside J.D.'s quirky mind.
It made me thankful that the show is styled the way it is. As a single-camera show, it allows extensive editing, music, and special effects to enhance the look and the feel of the storytelling. The episodes also feel short (maybe because I've become so used to one-hour dramas). By fast-forwarding through the show's only two commercial breaks, the episodes feel very quick, only about 22 minutes each. Each episode is a concise morality tale, full of laughs, with dialogue, performances, and visual style that are easy to appreciate in a short amount of time.
Just great, like I need yet another TV show to add to my TiVo Season Pass list. ;)