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"Scrubs" The Complete Seventh Season DVD Review

Buy Scrubs: The Complete Seventh Season from Amazon.com Scrubs: Season Seven (2007-08)
Show & DVD Details

Writers: Garret Donovan, Neil Goldman, Bill Callahan, Debra Fordham, Dave Tennant, Mike Schwartz, Janae Bakken, Clarence Livingston, Angela Nissel, Aseem Batra, Andy Schwartz, Mark Stegemann / Directors: Bill Lawrence, Zach Braff, Adam Bernstein, Gail Mancuso, Will Mackenzie, Linda Mendoza, Michael McDonald, Rick Blue, Chris Koch

Regular Cast: Zach Braff (Dr. John "J.D." Dorian), Sarah Chalke (Dr. Elliot Reid), Donald Faison (Dr. Chris Turk), Neil Flynn (The Janitor), Ken Jenkins (Dr. Bob Kelso), John C. McGinley (Dr. Perry Cox), Judy Reyes (Nurse Carla Espinosa)

Recurring Characters: Sam Lloyd (Ted Buckland), Robert Maschio (Dr. Todd Quinlan), Christa Miller (Jordan Sullivan), Johnny Kastl (Dr. Doug Murphy), Tyler Poelle (Boon), Travis Schuldt (Keith Dudemeister), Elizabeth Banks (Dr. Kim Briggs), Aloma Wright (Nurse Shirley), Andrew Miller (Baby Jack), Aseem Batra (Josephine), Kit Pongetti (Lady), Manley Henry (Snoop Dogg Attending), Geoff Stevenson (Dr. Beardfacι)

Notable Guest Stars: Kevin Rahm (Mr. Joe Hutnik), Colin Hay (Himself), Carlos Jacott (Dr. No Shot), Tom Cavanagh (Dan Dorian), Corena Chase (Robyn), Bob Bencomo (Colonel Doctor), Phill Lewis (Hooch), Efren Ramirez (Ricky/"Caramel Bear"), Aaron Ikeda (Rex), Arthur Roberts (Board Member), Lauren Stamile (Shannon), Michael Mitchell (Emery), Mike Schwartz (Lloyd), Scott Holroyd (John), Michael McDonald (Mr. Cropper), Mindy Sterling (Mrs. Cropper), Peter Holden (Mr. Macrae), Katie Gill (Marian)

Running Time: 236 Minutes (11 episodes) / Rating: TV-14
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
DVD Release Date: November 15, 2008
Season 7 Airdates: October 25, 2007 - May 8, 2008
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Keepcase with cardboard slipcover

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Of the more than 30 primetime network television shows that debuted just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a mere six remained in production in the 2007-08 season. They were: "According to Jim", "The Amazing Race", "24", "Smallville", "Law & Order: Criminal Intent", and "Scrubs".
"Amazing Race" continued to draw a sizable crowd as part of reality TV's reign, the popular "24" spent the year on hiatus, and, though demoted to cable's USA Network, "Criminal Intent" held on to most of its viewership. The survival of the other three, however, would have to be deemed nearly miraculous based solely on low-ranking Nielsen ratings.

Having long experienced schedule changes, midseason debuts, and underpromotion, the acclaimed "Scrubs" seemed especially unlikely to have lived to a seventh season, even as NBC got behind newer single-camera comedies ("30 Rock", "The Office", "My Name is Earl") and kept "Scrubs" in their midst. Alas, the faithful "Scrubs" following (about half of whom fell into the all-important 18-49 demographic) prepared to say goodbye to their beloved show. The peacock network had briefly proclaimed Season 6 the series' last, but this time around, those behind "Scrubs" -- including creator Bill Lawrence and star Zach Braff -- were saying it too.

Then came the writers' strike, lasting fall-to-winter for three critical months. What was to be "Scrubs"' final season became merely a half-season and then its termination was limited to the network. Disney, who had from the start produced the hospital comedy with its television division, renewed it for another season, to run on ABC with all the key creative cast and crew intact. Fans were excited. Not only would "Scrubs" proceed, but it would hopefully do so with the unbridled enthusiasm of a network holding all the rights. For now, though, we wait, because ABC currently is taking the same delayed debut approach NBC has for the past three seasons. At this point, no premiere date has been announced for what is likely to be the final season of Lawrence, Braff, and actress Judy Reyes, if not "Scrubs" altogether.

Being fathers to babies gives J.D. (Zach Braff) and Turk (Donald Faison) a new way to have fun. Who needs maturity anyway? Private physician Elliot (Sarah Chalke) talks with a patient while Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) sneaks in to observe.

If nothing else, Season 8 will pose opportunities for a fitting send-off, something that the strike and flagging NBC support didn't allow for in Season 7. The abbreviated season underscored how the show's days are numbered. Though there was no noticeable drop-off in overall quality, any seasoned viewer must have noticed writers' ongoing challenge to stay fresh while employing characters who keep being dealt the same plights and refuse to grow.

This season is more repetitive than past ones. It also stays pretty mellow, with no pressing multi-episode arcs, no deaths, no major cast additions, and no big name guest stars. Hard-hitting drama, a touch of which has always provided "Scrubs" with an edge rare for a network comedy, is kept to a minimum. Whatever turmoil there is tends to be mild and quickly brushed aside.

Based on the lack of change and the short episode count, Season 7 looks and feels like an extension of Season 6. Things pick up right where they left off, with the cast-aside will-they/won't-they romance of Sacred Heart doctors John "J.D." Dorian (Zach Braff) and Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke) seemingly reopened. It's almost immediately reclosed and only later hinted at in the mildest of ways. And yet, the path to reconnection is cleared when the compatible, commitment-fearing pair is relieved from their respective impending life partnerships.

Subtitles translate Carla's (Judy Reyes) Spanish phone call as Turk learns his wife's native tongue. (Brinner = breakfast dinner, FYI.) The Janitor (Neil Flynn) is just plain smitten to have a girlfriend in this here Lady (Kit Pongetti).

For J.D., the Kim saga finally comes to a close, with the barely-acquainted mother (Elizabeth Banks) of his child giving birth 18 real-time months after their unplanned pregnancy was announced. The baby features just as obscurely as those introduced in past "Scrubs" seasons, existing only to give our daydreaming, narrating protagonist more unheeded reminders to grow up. Getting Elliot out of her relationship with recurring character Keith (Travis Schuldt) highlights the ill conceit behind that pairing.
Their betrothal is soon forgotten and forgiven (as is Keith), and Chalke impressively manages not only to redeem her character but to stand out both comedically and dramatically among the talented ensemble cast. Breaking with tradition, both J.D. and Elliot are kept single and romantically uninvolved for the season.

Parenthood figures a little more prominently for some of the other cast regulars. But J.D.'s ridiculously close best friend, surgeon Chris Turk (Donald Faison), still finds plenty of time for palling around. Their shared sense of humor continues to fuel many of the show's most amusing moments. Turk's marriage to nurse Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes) also claims much attention without manufactured obstacles or any remarkable developments. Acerbic attending doctor Perry Cox (John C. McGinley) revisits life as father to an infant. Per the established norms, he makes more of an impression as an unsentimental mentor infinitely more likely to devastate and rant than recognize his increasingly sturdy friendships with his colleagues.

Also staying in the mix is the hospital's unnamed, unconventional Janitor (Neil Flynn), who seems a little friendlier and more focal than he's been before. This season gives him a girlfriend named Lady (2-time guest Kit Pongetti), a humorous idea that is well-executed. Rounding out the core as always is the wicked yet wonderful chief of medicine Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), who also gets more to do this season. Most notably, he wins free muffins for life from the hospital's much-frequented Coffee Bucks shop and has the possibility of retirement arise.

Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins) is perfectly pleased to win free muffins for life from Coffee Bucks. The Janitor steps aside to reveal four Sacred Heart staff members (Dr. Beardface, Colonel Doctor, Snoop Dogg Attending, and Lavernigan) dissatisfied to be known only by their nicknames.

Age may be the only thing preventing "Scrubs" from being as sharp and fresh as it was a few seasons earlier, but even this can't keep the show from delighting. The rampant comedy continues to flow out of colorful characters, humorous situations, and fast interactions. Season 7 reinforces the fact that no prior series has ever been as successful at mining laughs out of the names, appearances, and mannerisms of minor characters. In addition to the usual suspects -- pitiful lawyer Ted (Sam Lloyd); sophomoric, bawdy, and sexually ambiguous surgeon Todd (Robert Maschio); inept morgue worker Doug (Johnny Kastl) -- this season brings back the barely-gone Aloma Wright as a new nurse that looks just like her deceased original character Laverne.

Even with an upbeat tone and no shortage of wacky shenanigans, "Scrubs" still ekes out a few bits of poignancy in dramatic issues.

In its final year of broadcasting the show, NBC didn't help "Scrubs." One early episode commentary remarks that this was the first season that the writers had charted out in full. While the network can't be blamed for the writers' strike, they can be faulted for failing to commit to production of already-ordered episodes. Most illustrative of NBC's disregard is the misplaced season finale, easily the most glaring of the season's few continuity anomalies.

A little after the September TV-DVD blitz but still in advance of Season 8's commencement, Disney issues this 2-disc, 11-episode set with ABC Studios branding reflecting Touchstone Television's 2007 name change. Synopses of The Complete Seventh Season appear below, with a red star () denoting my picks for the season's best episodes, which I've limited to a proportional five.

In the season premiere, Elliot experiences a crystallizing moment that tells her not to marry Keith. J.D. and Kim (Elizabeth Banks) approach the miracle of birth with mouths agape and emotions high. Dr. Kelso and flair-laden environmental officer Janitor observe what happens to someone who wrongly parked in a carpool space.

Disc 1

1. My Own Worst Enemy (21:38) (Originally aired October 25, 2007)
Responding to their looming commitments, J.D. and Elliot make decisions and reflect on their self-destructing ways. Diagnosing a friendly patient (guest Kevin Rahm) proves to be a challenge for Turk and Cox. Also, Turk mulls over his semiyearly candy bar selection.

2. My Hard Labor (21:19) (Originally aired November 1, 2007)
As Kim finally goes into labor with his baby, J.D. tries to cushion the fact he doesn't love her.
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Turk hopes to beat a video game that Carla demands out of their home. Dr. Cox is reluctant to administer a shot to his sick infant daughter.

3. My Inconvenient Truth (20:49) (Originally aired November 8, 2007)
J.D. is bothered by the fact his visiting brother (Tom Cavanagh) has gotten his life in order. After Elliot complains about doctor hypocrisy, Dr. Cox charges her with the same. And in a plot tied to NBC's cringe-inducing, comedy-impairing Green Week, the Janitor and Ted encourage environmental living.

4. My Identity Crisis (21:19) (Originally aired November 15, 2007)
Carla fears she's losing her Latin heritage after she dreams in English. J.D. vows to learn the real names of all the hospital staff. Dr. Cox is reluctant to admit he's lonely with Jordan and the kids temporarily out of town. And Ted and his a capella band have just the right song for everyone's identity woes ("Who Are You?" by The Who).

Dr. Kelso grins and bears the 65th birthday party that Elliot's thrown him in "My Growing Pains." (Sorry, sports fans: Alan Thicke sold separately.) J.D. celebrates the news that he's Sacred Heart's most popular doctor with a dance. This burn victim (Michael Mitchell) is stoked by J.D.'s promise that he can attend his high school graduation in "My Bad Too."

5. My Growing Pains (21:19) (Originally aired November 29, 2007)
Turk tries to bring back J.D.'s inner child after he decides to grow up. Elliot leads the staff in both throwing Dr. Kelso a birthday party and discovering his real age.

6. My Number One Doctor (21:19) (Originally aired December 6, 2007)
Sacred Heart introduces a website for patients to rate their doctors. Elliot is conflicted by her terminal patient's (Lauren Stamile) revelation she wants to give up her fight. Carla encourages a smitten Janitor to be himself around his girlfriend.

7. My Bad Too (21:19) (Originally aired April 10, 2008)
Against Elliot's advice, J.D. promises a burn victim (Michael Mitchell) he'll be able to attend his high school graduation. After seeing what his secret new knowledge of Spanish can get him (beginning with "brinner"), Turk reconsiders making it his anniversary gift to Carla. Dr. Cox unknowingly helps Kelso diet.

Turk sits on J.D., having successfully claimed the TV remote in "My Manhood." Dr. Kelso shares the story of his career with Boon the intern (Tyler Poelle) in one of the show's all-time finest episodes. The princess (Elliot) and the village idiot (J.D.) step back from the monster troubling a maiden in the colorful season finale.

Disc 2

8. My Manhood (21:19) (Originally aired April 17, 2008)
The Janitor starts a hospital newspaper and prints a fake interview that brings Dr. Cox unwanted compassion. J.D. and Turk wrestle with each other and their own masculinities. And Elliot learns a secret from Dr. Kelso that makes her feel guilty.

9. My Dumb Luck (21:37) (Originally aired April 24, 2008)
While Carla and Elliot lead efforts to save him from being forced out as chief of medicine, Dr. Kelso sits outside the hospital reminiscing over his time there to an intern (Tyler Poelle). Also, a stroke of luck helps J.D. and Turk diagnose a patient puzzling Dr. Cox for years.

10. My Waste of Time (20:56) (Originally aired May 1, 2008)
The Janitor and his Brain Trust take over Dr. Kelso's office, although Ted's newfound confidence threatens a divide. J.D. joins Elliot in her efforts to track down an old patient who may be owed a settlement. And Turk's concern over his lost testicle is amplified by Carla's plans.

11. My Princess (22:49) (Originally aired May 8, 2008)
"Scrubs" ends its seventh season in the vein of The Princess Bride. Elliot's undiagnosable patient becomes the subject of a fairy tale Dr. Cox tells his son. The various employees of Sacred Heart assume fantastic personas, from a princess (Elliot) and Village Idiot (J.D.) to a two-headed witch (Turk and Carla), a giant (Janitor), and an evil warlock (Dr. Kelso).

Tivo Web Specials

Legal Custodians, a Janitor/Ted sitcom J.D. creates in his mind, uses intrusive advertising now commonplace on today's television. In J.D.'s fantasy, here's there to share Dr. Cox's pants-free, home-alone "Risky Business" moment.

VIDEO and AUDIO

As always, "Scrubs" belongs to the dying breed of network television programs shot and exhibited to fill 4:3 televisions.
Accordingly, it's presented again in 1.33:1 fullscreen. As a recent studio production, it looks unsurprisingly good. It may not have the clarity afforded series filmed in high definition, but it offers a clean, detailed picture all the same, with a minimum of softness and grain.

With the exception of the dynamic fairy tale finale, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack doesn't do much with the directional possibilities, but its handling of dialogue, music, and effects is entirely satisfactory.

BONUS FEATURES

For the second season in a row, every "Scrubs" episode is accompanied by an audio commentary. Once again, these originated on NBC's weekly podcast. That much is obvious; in each of the 11 tracks, the show dominates the commentary. These are 20-minute conversations hastily recorded for the Internet, not disciplined reflections recorded for the DVD and to be preserved alongside the episodes for all eternity. Cell phones ring, there's dead air and laughing, and the discussions tend to be goofy and sarcastic. That said, fans will find some value to the fun facts, tidbits, and relaxed chatter that emerges. These may not be worth making time for, but they're adequate background audio for multi-tasking.

Some specific notes about the tracks... There's an annoyingly bleeped name on Episode #2's commentary that context suggests is O.J. Simpson. We get a long scroll of environmental agencies that sponsored the Green Week episode. Zach Braff, absent from Season 6's commentaries, speaks solo on "My Growing Pains" more as a director than actor; his is one of the dryer yet more informative tracks on the set. Two producers together proves to be a winning mix on Randall Winston and Liz Newman's engaging Episode 7 discussion. The tracks on Disc 2 prove pretty enlightening, particularly if you can get past sarcasm.

Here is the complete list of commentators:
1. writers Neil Goldman, Garrett Donovan, and Aseem Batra
2. writer Bill Callahan and producer Randall Winston
3. actors Neil Flynn and Sam Lloyd, production coordinator Hillary Hirsch
4. actress Aloma Wright and writer Dave Tennant
5. actor/director Zach Braff
6. co-producer Danny Rose, producer's assistant Jesse Schiller, assistant production coordinator Jared Weisfeiner
7. producers Randall Winston and Liz Newman
8. writer Angela Nissel and director Michael McDonald
9. writer Aseem Batra and director Rick Blue
10. writer Andy Schwartz and script coordinator Devin Mahoney
11. writer Mark Stegemann and costume designer Carey Bennett

Sam Lloyd discusses his look as Toadie in the fairy tale episode's making-of. Ken Jenkins does the talking in Season 7's interview featurette. Perhaps unsurprisingly, you'll find more Dr. Cox rants than anything else in the Deleted Scenes section.

Video extras are located on Disc 2, beginning with "My Making of II: 'My Princess'" (17:38), a great featurette addressing all the bases that had to be covered on the ambitious fairy tale episode. Behind-the-scenes footage shows us the table read, costumes, hair and make-up work, set design, green screen effects, and Zach Braff directing. It helps you appreciate the considerable effort behind an episode that didn't quite soar.

"One-on-One with Ken Jenkins" (7:25) gives the interview treatment to the cast's oldest star. He answers a number of questions, some seriously and others much less so. The former inform, the latter entertain, and, though shorter than desired, the piece as a whole satisfies by paying attention to one of the show's most reliable and insufficiently praised heroes.

Next come 15 Deleted Scenes (13:54), many of which feature Dr. Cox rants. Clarifying where they'd have fit in, aired versions of sequences are shown prior to the deleted footage. The funny cuts include nods to M.C. Hammer, Pan's Labyrinth eye hands, and Hugh Jackman. These are definitely worth viewing, though one assumes a lot more of them could have been included.

Alternate Lines provides other versions of Zach Braff's telephone call from the truth. Outtakes from the priceless Love Train fantasy sequence are featured in the short blooper reel. Judy Reyes, Zach Braff, and Sarah Chalke are among the many cast and crew members getting goofy in the Scrubs Elevator Easter egg.

Nineteen sets of "Alternate Lines" (15:40) are provided, with aired versions again being followed, this time by a number of unused takes.
As usual, the reel showcases foremost the improvisation talents of Neil Flynn and Zach Braff. Also as usual, some of it is quite funny, although the aired take is typically the best.

A reel of Bloopers (2:50) entertains, but would be improved by having its disjointed laughter and hijinks seen in clips longer than 2-3 seconds.

An Easter egg accessible from Disc 1's main menu provides footage from the hospital elevator (4:25) in which the cast and crew act wacky for a not so hidden camera.

Disc One opens with previews for "Lost": The Complete Fourth Season, Swing Vote, "Grey's Anatomy": The Complete Fourth Season, and The Complete First Seasons of "Dirty Sexy Money", "Private Practice", and "Eli Stone." These are also available from Disc Two's Sneak Peeks menu, which holds additional promos for The Complete Second Seasons of "Brothers and Sisters" and "Ugly Betty", SOAP Net, and "Desperate Housewives": The Complete Fourth Season.

In perhaps the most clever Scrubs DVD design choice to date, the menus resemble the real/fake RateYourDoc.org website. Leaving Disc 2's Bonus Features menu treats you to biographies for The Todd and other show characters.

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The menus take us briefly around the hospital coffee shop before settling on a laptop browsing RateYourDoc.org. As such, menus are cleverly designed to look like part of the real/fictional website, complete with staff (character) bios, fictitious ads, and a YouTube vibe. Montage and theme music are still provided, as are needless score excerpts on secondary menus. One drawback to the design may be that most of the many logical places for Easter Eggs offer no such thing.

The shortened season inspired not only a cutback in disc count but our first significant change in packaging. Season 7 arrives in a standard black keepcase that slides into a redundant cardboard slipcover. Inside the case, one finds ads for TV DVDs, a booklet from the Blu-ray marketing revolution, and an episode list.

J.D. and Turk use the World's Most Giant Stethoscope. On its own, not too funny. But know the characters and their senses of humor, it's hilarious. Just seconds after witnessing an engagement cancellation and a made connection, the staff of Sacred Heart Hospital admires a rainbow.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Season 7 isn't "Scrubs" at its very best, but it's not far from it. Considering the crippling writers' strike and ordered but unfilmed episodes, the series fared quite well.
Even in its weaker episodes, it remains incredibly entertaining and far more appealing than just about anything on television. While many studios tried to get away charging the same price for strike-shortened season DVDs, Disney slaps an appropriately reduced list price on this two-disc set. Once again, it provides practically all you could ask for: fine video/audio, a commentary on every episode, valuable video bonuses, and, above all else, a funny and charming program that's different and quite a bit better than most TV comedies.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Scrubs on DVD: Season 1 • Season 2 • Season 3 • Season 4 • Season 5 • Season 6 • Season 7 • Season 8 • Season 9

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Reviewed November 5, 2008.