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"Scrubs" The Complete Fourth Season DVD Review

Buy Scrubs: The Complete Fourth Season from Amazon.com Scrubs: Season Four (2004-05)
Show & DVD Details

Repeat Writers: Angela Nissel, Tad Quill, Janae Bakken, Gabrielle Allan, five others

Repeat Directors: Ken Whittingham, Chris Koch, Victor Nelli, Zach Braff, three others

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: Heather Graham (Dr. Molly Clock), Sam Lloyd (Ted Buckland), Christa Miller (Jordan Sullivan), Robert Maschio (Todd), Johnny Kastl (Dr. Doug Murphy), Chrystee Pharris (Kylie), Aloma Wright (Nurse Laverne Roberts), Michael Hobert (Lonnie), Josh Randall (Jake), Tom Cavanagh (Dan), Julianna Margulies (Neena), Richard Kind (Harvey Korman), Phill Lewis (Hooch), Martin Klebba (Randall)

Notable Guest Stars: Sugar Hill Gang (Themselves), Cary Brothers (Himself), Tim Conlon (Dean), Kathryn Joosten (Mrs. Tanner), Jill Tracy (Elaine), Chuck Woolery (Himself), Molly Shannon (Denise), Biff Yeager (Pathologist), Jon Polito (Mr. Summers), Matthew Perry (Murray), John Bennett Perry (Harrison), Charles Chun (Dr. Wen), Mike Weinberg (Tyler), Colin Farrell (Billy), Marc D. Wilson (James), Tara Reid (Danni Sullivan), Christopher Darga (Homeless Steve), Clay Aiken (Kenny), Ken Lerner (Charles James), Ed McMahon (Himself), Michael Boatman (Ron), Lindsay Hollister (Nell), Chris Hogan (Mr. Gerst), Ellen Albertini Dow (Betty), James Michael Tyler (Therapist), Jim Hanks (Dr. Turner), Fred Stoller (Mr. Hoffner)

Running Time: 541 Minutes (25 episodes) / Rating: TV-14
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: October 10, 2006 / Season 4 Airdates: August 31, 2004 - May 10, 2005
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Six-sided Digipak with cardboard slipcover

Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

A few months have passed since last writing about "Scrubs", which means that the time is now for this television program to return to DVD and again get critiqued. The subject of this review -- The Complete Fourth Season -- puts the show among an increasingly rare breed, the long-term half-hour comedy series.
That can't be too surprising, though; from its start, "Scrubs" has bucked tradition and proved itself a fresh alternative to conventional sitcoms and today's onslaught of reality shows and hour-long dramas.

There are again no changes in the regular cast or opening credits, a fact which continues the "Scrubs" streak of avoiding major overhaul. Still, there is plenty of growth for both the show and its characters, and a number of developments which distinguish this season from the past three.

Season Four finds the show's narrating protagonist Dr. John Dorian (Zach Braff), better known as "J.D.", graduating from residency alongside the two friends he started it with: surgeon, best friend and long-time roommate Chris Turk (Donald Faison) and growingly confident, on-and-off love interest Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke). With much of Season 3 being devoted to J.D. and Elliot's obstacle-filled path to love, it makes sense that things are awkward between the pair following the abrupt derailment of their relationship. Eventually, their common workplace and circle of friends -- combined with new romantic interests and a shared chief resident position complete with joint tiny office -- present them with no choice but to move beyond their storied past and settle into friendship.

In "Scrubs"' fourth season, Elliot (Sarah Chalke) and J.D. (Zach Braff) share the position of chief resident and the tiny office that comes with it. Best friends J.D. and Turk (Donald Faison) relax in their matching pair of newly-acquired "Eddie Murphy: Raw"-type jumpsuits.

Their companionship is not the one most at the foreground of this season, however. That would belong to J.D. and Turk, a dynamic which remains highly likable. Though Turk is now married to nurse Carla (Judy Reyes), his girlfriend/fiancι of the past three seasons, he seems equally comfortable around J.D. Inevitably, the buddies give off the vibe of a gay couple themselves, a joke which is occasionally summoned in a way which is always both amusing and in good taste. The living arrangement -- the slightly geeky single sharing an apartment with the newlyweds -- gives the trio an interesting home in addition to much of the screen time outside the show's primary location, Sacred Heart Hospital. As in past seasons and real-life couples, problems arise for Turk and Carla, partly around the third wheel nature of J.D.'s presence.

The sickness business remains largely unchanged at Sacred Heart Hospital, which gives cranky chief of medicine Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins) his usual supply of bottom-line-driven concerns. Perhaps those concerns are too ordinary, as Kelso is reduced to secondary storylines and briefer appearances this season. That is not the case for Dr. Perry Cox (John C. McGinley), whose unabated authority in the hospital and unorthodox arrangement with ex-wife Jordan (the recurring as always Christa Miller) and infant son Jack remain focal. With the J.D./Elliot romantic relationship having run its course and Cox's reluctant mentorship of J.D. somewhat fading away, a Cox and Elliot dynamic emerges in several episodes, though their interactions are purely professional. From time to time, specific patient dilemmas plague the doctors of "Scrubs", though it is rare for any of them to dictate an episode on its own, the way they might on a hospital drama.

Also remaining present to provide a regular flow of humor is The Janitor (Neil Flynn), who in this season, branches out more than ever before. The unnamed custodian interacts with all of the characters, though usually waging war with one male per episode. He's still there to heckle J.D. as needed, but he also pursues "Blonde Doctor" (Elliot), dabbles in a capella, and briefly experiments with an alternate brain trust. In a sense, the Janitor is like one of the "Scrubs" secondary characters who works excellently as part of the regular cast, and the persona's newfound depth does not inhibit his entertaining duties.

The Janitor's new baby blue uniform has quite the calming effect on all of the creatures in the world. Ted the Lawyer (Sam Lloyd) isn't auditioning for a part in a live action Dilbert movie; he just can't get his hair to stay down.

The actual roster of secondary characters remains as strong as ever in Season Four. Most emerging from this group is Ted Buckland (delightfully embodied by Sam Lloyd), the hospital's flop sweat-addled punching bag of a lawyer. He is especially hilarious and enjoys extended exposure from this class. Also registering a bit more frequently than before is Doug Murphy (Johnny Kastl), the "Nervous Doctor" who has not grown any less inept over the past seasons. Doug is given his own storyline and ends up relocating to the morgue, with his accident-prone hand giving him a sharp eye at diagnosing the deceased.

Once again, a prolific lineup of guest stars is called upon throughout Season 4. Most prominent of these is Heather Graham, who appears in the season's first eight episodes (and one more, later) as the hospital's insightful but slightly crazy psychiatrist Molly Clock. In terms of substance, Graham's stint mirrors the runs given to Tara Reid and Scott Foley in the previous season. She emerges as Elliot's friend and, to a lesser degree, J.D.'s obligatory love interest in a pair of episodes directed by Zach Braff, following his Garden State acclaim.

Memorable turns are also given by former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Molly Shannon, "Friends" star Matthew Perry (and his father John Bennett Perry), movie star Colin Farrell, "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken, and "Spin City"'s Michael Boatman. Tara Reid also returns for one episode, while seasonal guest Richard Kind (also of "Spin City") stays for a two-episode arc involving former "E.R." actress Julianna Margulies as a cunning malpractice attorney. Also back for his annual appearance is Tom Cavanagh as J.D.'s brother Dan, who likewise stays for two episodes. Fulfilling the pop icon quotient in brief cameos as themselves are pioneering rap group The Sugarhill Gang, "Love Connection" host Chuck Woolery, and Ed McMahon.

Elliot enjoys a pedicure with her new friend Molly (Heather Graham). Often-at-odds doctors Cox (John C. McGinley) and Kelso (Ken Jenkins) unite forces to stamp out Molly's optimism.

While I've classified "Scrubs" as a comedy several times and already pointed out a few elements which especially work, the show truly deserves praise for the high amounts of hilarity it provides. Season Four is very, very funny in no shortage of ways. Providing an added layer is an element of self-referentiality, witnessed in the recurring gag of J.D.'s narrated thoughts being quickly vocalized by him or someone else and an entertaining early season mention of the series' favorite piece of dramatic score.
The series' penchant for randomness remains active in J.D.'s quirky visual-oriented daydreams. (A line is sometimes blurred in trying to gather the reality of some of these brief asides.) There is also behavioral comedy, which enhances as the characters' histories continue to advance but also works for newly-introduced and quickly-disposed characters, like a briefly-seen "question-talker." Fast jokes help keep everything light on its feet.

Contributing to the success of "Scrubs" is that it always does more than just serve up laughs. The show can be poignant, as in this season's Christmas episode "My Best Moment." It can also be uniquely insightful; "My Life in Four Cameras", one of the year's creative highlights, presents the show as a standard sitcom and ends up being both critical and celebratory of the long-employed, and currently out-of-style TV format. (Ironically, that episode also gave the series its first Emmy award, for Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing, robbing standard fare like "That '70s Show" and "Two and a Half Men.") It also doesn't shy from overarching storylines, even in moving away from the couple-watch that marked the previous season. In Season 4, Turk is diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and it becomes a recurring issue, one often played for light-heartedness while not undermining its seriousness. Skillful treatment like that underscores the good nature of "Scrubs", in spite of its edge.

"Scrubs" itself is not free of formulas. Its conventions become more noticeable the more you watch of it, whether it's something small like the "pan to a shirt back" for shot transition, or something bigger like the way that multiple threads are adeptly juggled and unified with J.D.'s pre-Act-ending narration, which is almost always set to a montage. Recognizing these qualities does not change the fact that, even in its fourth season, the show and its hallmarks remain fresh and effective. As a final remark, the show's pacing again feels improved, with episodes feeling okay clocking in under 22 minutes. This could just be another improvement realized by the series' producers, but it is also aided by the fact that about a half-minute is added to the average runtime over Season 2.

With 25 episodes, The Complete Fourth Season is "Scrubs"' biggest yet. Nevertheless, it is still housed on three discs and priced at the studio's fairly reasonable half-hour season set tag of $39.99. While this box arrives exactly 17 months after the season finale aired, its timing keeps pace with the first three sets. The show's sixth season has been sidelined by NBC until January 2007, much like Season 5 was earlier this year. Word has it that the sixth season could be the show's final, which would leave just two inevitable DVD releases following this.

Heather Graham shows up in "My Old Friend's New Friend", the first of her nine appearances throughout the season as perky psychiatrist Molly Clock. When it comes to lightbulbs, the surgical expertise of Doctors Cox and Turk is no match for The Janitor. In "My First Kill", The Janitor offers to help Carla rescue Rowdy, her husband's beloved stuffed dog.

Disc 1

1. My Old Friend's New Friend (24:35) (Originally aired August 31, 2004)
J.D. embraces his last week as a resident, new psychiatrist Molly Clock (Heather Graham) arrives at Sacred Heart, Carla and Turk adjust to married life, and Elliot feels left out.

2. My Office (21:21) (Originally aired September 7, 2004)
J.D. and Elliot vie for the position of chief resident, the feuding Turk and Cox must collaborate on a patient plagued by an awkwardly-embedded light bulb, and Carla feels threatened by Molly's much-absorbed insight.

3. My New Game (21:19) (Originally aired September 14, 2004)
Dr. Cox and Jordan learn that their divorce actually never went through, which dampens their otherwise high spirits. J.D. enjoys his increased salary, but not the position downgrade to "Co-Chief" which the Janitor gives him and sticks. Turk is hurt when J.D. doubts his surgical skills.

4. My First Kill (21:19) (Originally aired September 21, 2004)
After Dr. Cox gives a tough warning to J.D.'s interns, J.D. is crippled by the fear of killing one of his patients. Elliot feels betrayed when Molly doesn't agree with her optimism over a recovering heroin addict. Carla enlists the Janitor to help her with Turk's stuffed dog Rowdy.

The death of J.D.'s father brings his older brother Dan (Tom Cavanagh) back into the, er, bathtub. Dr. Cox finds his short patience tested riding alongside the talkative Denise (guest Molly Shannon) in "My Last Chance." Julianna Margulies and Richard Kind team up as malpractice lawyer and hypochondriac in back-to-back Season 4 appearances.

5. Her Story (21:19) (Originally aired September 28, 2004)
Elliot, who narrates this episode, begins to pride Molly as her mentor until she begins to question the selection (and Molly's sanity). J.D. struggles to maintain good leadership with his interns. Carla instills a bedtime for Turk after one too many nights of being wakened.

6. My Cake (21:25) (Originally aired October 12, 2004)
J.D.'s father dies, which brings his brother Dan (Tom Cavanagh) to town. When Dan can't comfort J.D., Dr. Cox tries but has trouble. Turk is reluctant to find out what's been bothering him and when he does (it's Type 2 Diabetes), he's reluctant to share with Carla. Meanwhile, the Janitor goes to great lengths to convince Dr. Kelso he's forgetful.

7. My Common Enemy (21:19) (Originally aired October 19, 2004)
Turk uses his diabetes to his advantage, which gives J.D. an idea for responding to the fact that Elliot is hooking up with his brother. Cox and Kelso team up to crush Molly's optimism and convince her people are bad.

8. My Last Chance (21:19) (Originally aired October 26, 2004)
With Molly about to leave town for good, J.D.'s plan to have a fling with her becomes an odyssey when she makes him get Elliot's approval. Meanwhile, ambulance duty with a chatty woman (guest star Molly Shannon) tests Cox's fortitude.

9. My Malpractice Decision (21:15) (Originally aired November 9, 2004)
An icy malpractice lawyer (guest Julianna Margulies) makes Dr. Cox reluctant to operate on her father, but the situation changes when she gets close to J.D. Thanks to a feud with the Janitor, Turk has trouble keeping proper distance from returning hypochondriac Mr. Korman (Richard Kind). Elliot doesn't know how to respond when Doug doubts his career choice.

In a guest appearance, Matthew Perry plays Murray, a man with father issues a bit different from Chandler Bing's. With the halls decked for Christmas, J.D. tries to recall his best moment in medicine. Colin Farrell guest stars as a likable Irishman named Billy in "My Lucky Charm."

Disc 2

10. My Female Trouble (21:20) (Originally aired November 16, 2004)
J.D.'s relationship with Neena (Margulies) hurts his friendship with Turk, as her client (Mr. Korman) is suing him. Elliot puts on an act, with some help from the Janitor, to deal with a hospital board member patient. What can solve everyone's problems? Strong women.

11. My Unicorn (22:29) (Originally aired November 23, 2004)
In this episode, "Friends" alum Matthew Perry guest-stars, directs, and keeps it in the family. He plays a small town air traffic controller whose father (real-life dad John Bennett Perry) needs a kidney transplant. J.D. sparks and oversees the organ transaction. Meanwhile, Carla and Jordan encourage Elliot to pursue the power of flirtation.

12. My Best Moment (21:20) (Originally aired December 7, 2004)
This Christmas episode skews towards drama instead of comedy, as everyone bands together to save a single father from a perplexing problem. In response to pre-med students' questions, J.D. inspires all to recall their best moment in medicine, all the while forming an even better one.

13. My Ocardial Infarction (21:36) (Originally aired January 18, 2005)
J.D. feels threatened taking advice from Elliot. Urged by Carla, Turk attempts to learn more about his patient, but this only makes him worry about his diabetes. The Janitor tries to make up for an awkward encounter with Elliot and winds up in an a capella showdown between his unlikely trio and Ted's quartet.

14. My Lucky Charm (21:36) (Originally aired January 25, 2005)
J.D. and Turk bond with an Irishman named Billy (guest star Colin Farrell), who makes an impression on most people around the hospital. Dr. Cox has a vasectomy but keeps it a secret from Jordan. Carla and Elliot fight (literally) over flaked plans.

J.D. envisions a game of hangman as a way to get around the Hippocratic Oath. In an effort to improve his first date with Kylie (Chrystee Pharris, background), J.D. pays Homeless Steve (Christopher Darga) to fake a heart attack in "My Quarantine." What would "Scrubs" be like if it was a traditional sitcom? "My Life in Four Cameras" gives us a very funny glimpse at the answer.

15. My Hypocritical Oath (21:33) (Originally aired February 1, 2005)
A visit to a black nightclub lets J.D. meet bartender Kylie (Chrystee Pharris).
When her boyfriend comes to the hospital and tests positive for gonorrhea, J.D. must weigh doctor/patient confidentiality with a growing interest in Kylie. Also, Elliot insists on treating a patient Kelso deems beyond help and an unexpected shift has Dr. Cox avoiding updates on a much-anticipated Heat/Lakers game while the Janitor seeks revenge.

16. My Quarantine (21:36) (Originally aired February 8, 2005)
J.D.'s suggestion that a patient could have SARS results in quarantine for everyone at the hospital. It's only one of many things that mar his first date with Kylie, to whom he repeatedly lies to impress, creating immediate guilt. During the lockdown, Turk learns that Carla dated Dr. Cox, The Janitor racks up a big bill with Dr. Kelso over "double or nothing" bets, and Jordan's sister Danni (Tara Reid, returning from Season 3) shows up for no good.

17. My Life in Four Cameras (21:56) (Originally aired February 15, 2005)
News of an E. coli outbreak brings hordes of worried people to Sacred Heart, including a (fictional) writer of "Cheers." His presence garners interest from J.D., who imagines what the hospital would be like as the setting for a sitcom. Halfway into the episode, that happens, and practically every convention of traditional sitcoms are lampooned, from laugh tracks and audience calls to bizarre coincidences and outlandish one-liners. It's smart, convincingly accurate, and hilarious, though with a bittersweet ending.

18. My Roommates (21:23) (Originally aired February 22, 2005)
Carla and Turk ask J.D. to move out, which sparks great change for all three and leaves J.D. turning everywhere for a place to stay. Dr. Cox's old friend (Michael Boatman of "Spin City") visits and evokes the pair's usual competitive spirits.

Behold, the World's Most Giant Doctor! Upon hearing the words "Irish brother", J.D. conjures up this understandable image.

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Page 1: Show Discussion, Disc 1, and Disc 2
Page 2: Disc 3, Video/Audio, Bonus Features, Menus & Packaging, and Closing Thoughts

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Reviewed October 10, 2006.