Thursday, June 30, 2011

Scrubs Episode #6 - "My Missed Perception"

I have reviewed what I consider to be the eighth, ninth and tenth best episodes of the TV series “Scrubs.”  For reasons that will become clear, I am going to do the seventh episode last.  Up next is #6 – “My Missed Perception.”

The main characters are forced to examine how they interact with others when it’s clear that they have completely misunderstood the points of view of specific people.  Carla, ever the sentimentalist, tries to get all hospital personnel organized to take a staff photo.  The task proves a bit more challenging than expected.

I would have to say that this TV series hit its comedic prime with this episode.  I rated this episode so highly because of the comedy; the plot is insignificant.  From the very start of the series there were always one-liners (The Todd) and running gags (Rowdy) that kept bringing us back to watch the show on NBC and eventually ABC.  (How great a moment was it in the first scene of Season 8, the show’s first on ABC?  JD says, “Well THAT’S new!” while pointing to something off-camera, when he was actually pointing at the ABC logo on the bottom of the screen.  This show had such great writers and actors.)

But having watched the seasons over the years, in Season 5 the show took several more calculated risks in going overboard on the comedy.  And it worked!  In the first episode we see a good portion of the show from the viewpoint of a brand new intern, who turned out to be a scared-shitless Keith.  I mean, the camera was literally the point of view of Keith for several scenes.  The 100th episode of the series fell in this season; the second half of the episode turned into a grand production of “The Wizard of Oz at Sacred Heart.”  Other gags include Turk and JD getting whupped by ostriches; JD completely shaving his head for a patient; and Janitor locking JD in a water tower for a day.  The comedy had such a grandiose, wacky approach compared to the prior four seasons. 

“My Missed Perception” is the best example of the most grandiose season of “Scrubs.”  Every joke just killed.  One of the funniest extended scenes of the series occurs when Carla informs everyone that it was time for the staff picture.  To motivate the doctors and nurses, Nurse Laverne Roberts busts out a tambourine and gives it the old gospel choir try.  Everyone gives excuses of why they’ll avoid the picture.  Gary Busey (!) gives a cameo appearance.  Turk breaks out his own tambourine and sings to accentuate the vibe of the group.  Janitor explains how good he is at predicting hospital events, knowing that he’ll be right this time as well.  Can you name another show with a scene that involves one tambourine, Gary Busey, a second tambourine and a janitor explaining how the hospital’s “Convicts to Cooks Program” was cancelled, let alone making that scene work without being gratuitous?

This episode also introduces us to “Dr. Acula,” a screenplay conceived by JD.  As the name suggests, Dr. Acula is a vampire who happens to be a doctor.  I’m sure other people have thought of this concept before, but after watching four years of JD, is the viewer remotely surprised that he came up with it?  There are a couple references to Dr. Acula throughout the current season.  As an FYI, the current season was broadcast in 2005-2006, well before the current vampire craze triggered by the “Twilight” series of films.  Although no one ever gives “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” enough credit for being way ahead of the “Twilight” series.  I’m referring to the TV show “Buffy,” not the terrible movie “Buffy.”  Kristy Swanson in her physical prime was not enough to salvage that debacle.  I should compose a Top Ten list of “Buffy” episodes.  I just handed in a man-card upon completing that last sentence.

It’s almost as if it took the writers four years to gain the confidence to take on such zany, elaborate comedic scenes.  Now that they forged their identity, the show really took off in Season 5 and peaked with this episode.  It the most carefree season they had; they just let everything rip.

Memorable quotes/gags:
Elliot: “Carla, I don’t photograph well.  On my driver’s license, I look like Gary Busey.” <Elliot walks away, passing Gary Busey.> Gary Busey, in a lab coat looking up from a chart with a picture of Elliot on his ID badge: “…they say the same thing about me.” <Gary Busey laughs maniacally and walks away, passing Turk.> Turk, casually: “See you later, Elliot.”

Janitor: “I’ve predicted a couple things over the years: the kitchen fire of ’97; the kitchen fire of ’98; the arson conviction of Luis the fry cook; and of course, the eventual termination of the hospital’s “Convicts to Cooks Program.”

<Turk and JD have a dialogue while walking, ending up outside.> Turk: “Where’s the donut truck?  I was told there was a donut truck out here.” Elliot: “I was paged there was a handbag sale out here.” Todd: “Where’s the booby-touching booth?” JD: “It’s like we were all lured out here by the one thing we want the most.” <Cox runs up to JD looking at his pager, out of breath clearly from sprinting> Cox: “HEY!  You’re not getting your ass kicked!”

I mean, Gary effing Busey showed up to take part in a gag to sort of poke fun at himself!  The doctors and Carla learned their lesson on why they should be more empathetic with others.  If you like silly comedy, this episode is for you.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Scrubs Episode #8 - "My Conventional Wisdom"

Months ago I was requested to generate a list of what I thought were the best episodes of the TV show "Scrubs."  I have written analyses of numbers nine and ten on my list, but I must acknowledge the reason I even made such a list.  Personally I am a fan of top ten lists; it's fun to compare things and acknowledge what shows or songs or movies are better than others.  Since it's my blog and I can spell things out over time at my own pace, I want to share a story that could not have happened even four years ago.

I joined Twitter a couple years ago and followed a Twitterer whose handle was @DefiantlyDutch.  He tweeted about Hofstra sports, and I was familiar enough with Hofstra's history to know they used to be the Hofstra Flying Dutchmen.  I soon found out Jerry Beach is, without a doubt, the biggest Hofstra fan of all time.  (As a fan of Old Dominion myself, I am well aware that Hofstra was one of four schools to join the CAA 11 years ago to save the conference.  Without Hofstra, Delaware, Towson and Drexel, the CAA would probably not exist today.  So I am eternally grateful for what they did after the University of Richmond weasled its way out of the Colonial.)

One random Friday I "Follow Friday'ed" DefiantlyDutch and the Twitter account of the band Extreme.  He and I began throwing Extreme YouTube links back and forth.  Eventually he started quoting "Scrubs" and I threw quotes right back at him.  Two years later, we're still throwing quotes the other's way, though I must admit I think he's the better "quoter."  Last winter he requested me to put together a list of my top ten "Scrubs" episodes.  I put thought into it, sent him my list, and composed an analysis of my #10.  Then life happened and the project got pushed to the back burner.  I'm using this blog now to complete the analysis of my list since it's the slow time in college athletics.  There is a debate as to who legally owns this list.  But thankfully I've secured the legal services of Ted Buckland, so I'm sure the law will end up on my side.

I highly encourage you to read his blog, Defiantly Dutch.  I wish I could match his enthusiasm but he goes beyond a level I can reach. 

And now, an analysis of what I consider to be the eighth best episode of "Scrubs," "My Conventional Wisdom."

This is one of the last episodes in Season 6.  JD is bummed out after witnessing Elliott accept Keith’s wedding proposal, so Turk takes him to a medical convention to get his mind off things.  At the convention, we learn that a certain former fling of JD’s might not be as un-pregnant as she had informed him.  Meanwhile, Elliott begins to doubt if Keith “The Dudemeister” is really the man for her.  

One of the qualities that makes “Scrubs” such a unique show is that it could go from silly one episode to serious the next.  “My Conventional Wisdom” makes such a hardcore u-turn within the episode itself.  The first few acts during the convention provide some hysterical moments – Bob Kelso and his Chiefs-of-Medicine gang; Dr. Toilet; Old Young MC; and Janitor asserting himself as acting chief of medicine at Sacred Heart.  The Old Young MC running joke is of high enough quality to carry the episode, had it needed being carried.  

As an aside – the presence of Old Young MC is great on the surface, but think about this.  “Scrubs” is such a great show that there’s a random appearance by an obscure one-hit-wonder, and we don’t even bat an eye lash when he shows up at a medical convention.  They seamlessly work him into a running gag even though he has nothing to do with hospitals or medical conventions, and they manage it so that it is not gratuitous.  It is brilliant writing and performing.

But this was not some ordinary episode whose plot was to pay homage to Young MC.  After Kelso chastised Turk and JD for not attending enough presentations, we see the couple sitting in a conference room waiting for the presenter to take the stage.  Much to our surprise, it is Kim who appears on stage!  JD has mixed feelings about seeing her again, but those mixed feelings become much less mixed when she steps away from the podium to reveal that she is still pregnant.  After moving away from Sacred Heart, she told JD that she had miscarried.  The lesson, as always, is that women are deceptive.

Kim’s deception and the reasons for it are not essential to the plotline.  They are important to her but they are not important to JD.  How would you like to be told that you were going to be a father, but then there was a miscarriage, but subsequently find out that you were always going to be a father after all?  JD didn’t handle this news well, leaving Kim at the convention despite telling her he would stick around to talk.  Upon getting back to Sacred Heart with the news that he was going to be a dad, Elliott wants to talk about whether she’s made the right choice in Keith…just as Kim had made her way back to the hospital to confront JD.

Was this a loaded episode, or what?  For a comedy show it’s a pretty complicated series of events for a protagonist to endure in one episode.  But it all happens in a 30-minute span and none of it feels forced or rushed.  It gives Zach Braff an opportunity to display genuine acting skills beyond being a wacky comedic actor.  But the episode also gives Elizabeth Banks an opportunity to display acting skills as well, showing how terrible she feels for lying to JD.  I do not totally buy it because I was never a fan of Banks’ character.  She just didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the cast; chemistry was lacking.  Other guest stars show up for one or two episodes and simply mesh with the pace of the other actors.  (See – Jay Mohr, Matthew Perry, Barry Bostwick.)  Banks never got into the groove with the rest of the cast.  

Regardless of my own bias against the character of Kim, it is surprisingly easy for the viewer to feel sympathy for her.  A single woman, she pleads with JD to hear her explanation of why she lied to him.  She gets in a quick minute of explaining how scared she is, but JD later strands her at the convention while she gives another presentation.  No matter the situation, JD was not right for leaving her in that way.  In his inner monologue, he acknowledges that even Turk thinks he did not handle the situation properly.  Kim tracks JD back to Sacred Heart.

And oh yeah – the wheels start turning on whether Elliott should remain with Keith.  We spent half of Season 5 and now all of Season 6 watching Keith pursue her and eventually get her to fall for him.  Now she suddenly doubts if he’s “the one?”  Reality hits different people in different ways.  It just seemed awfully quick after she accepted his wedding proposal for her to experience doubt.  It does at least prepare us for the last two episodes of the current season and the start of Season 7, when she dumps him and opens the door for eventually getting back with JD.  

A minor subplot is the Janitor stepping up as interim chief of medicine.  We learn that Ted needs direction in life and is even willing to follow Janitor.  It works as a sequence of gags, but it’s not the most interesting subplot the series has ever produced.

JD, by the way, is going to be a dad!  

Memorable quotes/gags:
Carla: "Do you know how much goes into planning a wedding?"  Elliott: "Uh, yeah!  What do you think I've been doing the last ten yars?"

JD: “Say I was too nervous to hit on that girl over there.  What advice would you give me?”  Old Young MC: “Bust a move!”  Turk: “Alright, alright.  What if a great song comes on and I’m too shy to get down, what should I do?”  Old Young MC: “Bust a move!”  JD:  “You’re awesome, man.  What are you drinking?  We’ll buy you one.”  Old Young MC: “Bust a move!”  

Kim finishes her lecture and remains on stage.  JD: “Why would you tell me you miscarried our child when clearly you didn’t?”  Kim: “That’s probably a question I should answer more face-to-face after the lecture…are there any other questions? <Guy in audience raises hand> Yes, you sir.”  Guy revealed to be Turk, who in seconds had gotten to the other side of the room: “Yeah, uh, I think you should answer his question.”  JD: “You’re a good friend.”  Turk: “I gotcha back.”  Kim, more flustered: “Anyone else have a question?  Yes, you in the back.”  <off-camera someone shouts> “BUST A MOVE!”

It’s not every day you find out you’re going to be a parent.  It’s even rarer for you to find out that your future baby’s mama lied about having a miscarriage.  Elliott needs someone’s advice, and seeks it from the guy who’s upset that she herself has chosen someone over him.  Obviously this is one of the most important stand-alone episodes in the nine seasons, but it all seems very organic rather than forced.  Kudos to the writing staff.

Don’t just stand there, JD; bust a move.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Scrubs Episode #9 - "My Own American Girl"

I was requested months ago to develop a list of my top ten episodes of the TV show "Scrubs."  My tenth favorite episode is "My Old Man" and my review of that can be found here.  Coming in at number nine on my list is "My Own American Girl," the opener to Season 3.

This episode is very straightforward and there's no need to psycho-analyze the themes.  Elliott needs confidence in herself and has to decide whether she'll continue to let people push her around.  JD, Turk and Carla struggle to find out what's wrong with a patient late on a Friday when specialists leave the hospital.  Cox must atone for punching Kelso at the end of Season 2. 

As the series kept going year after year, it became easy to forget how truly unconfident Elliott was in herself.  She was extremely booksmart but lacked interpersonal skills to deal with patients and coworkers.  Towards the end of season 2, she severely began doubting her capabilities to the point that it crippled her.  Her lack of self confidence led the others to lose faith in her as well.  She has a talk with a janitor that makes her start questioning who she is and how she handles herself. 

There is a dichotomy between Elliott's subplot and that of Cox/Kelso.  One stimulus in Elliott's doubt in herself stemmed from how Kelso treated her and the quality of her work at the end of the prior season.  Cox had just found out he was a father when he and JD saw Kelso needlessly, sadistically tormenting Elliott to the point of tears.  JD told Cox, who himself doubted whether he was ready to be a father, "If you were her father, you'd know exactly what to do."  So Cox punched Kelso and knocked him out cold. 

In "My Own American Girl," Kelso goes out of his way to give Cox all the bad assignments to the point where he barely gets to see his son (Jack) anymore.  Together in an elevator, Cox wants to bury the hatchet with Kelso and quit going at each other.  Kelso is vehement that the nature of their relationship prevents them from ever being friends.  His final line is an adament, "People don't change, Perry."  From that line we see Elliott decide to change who she is, how she dresses, and gets a more-adult hair style.  She walks in and saves the day for the others, who were fighting with the Chief Radiologist.

JD, Turk and Carla had worked all day, pulling strings with other physicians to get tests done on a certain patient.  It's not clear why JD cared so much about this particular patient (more on that in in a second), but Carla and Turk saw what he was doing and wanted to help.  The last specialist whose help they needed was the radiologist in question, who was a very bitter man for no apparent reason.  (His bitterness did set up one of the best sequences of the season, quoted below.)  Upon Elliott using an ace up her sleeve to help her friends, the radiologist consented.  However, even after this final examination, the young docs had no clue what ailed the patient.  Cox points them in the right direction and they figure it out with his help. 

This latter part brings me back to the patient.  Honestly I watched the episode earlier today and don't even remember her name.  But without a doubt she's one of the most important patient in the history of the show.  The reason this crew of doctors and nurses is so likeable is how much they care for even the most forgettable patient.  We want them to succeed because the actors make us believe they're good people who want to save lives.  Outside of the opening act, we don't even see the patient until the end of the episode.  All we see is this group of doctors going the extra ten miles to save someone's life.  How can you not root for this crew?

Oh, and JD falls for Elliott again, just as Scott re-enters the picture.  This sets up one of the main arcs of Season 3 - JD chases after Elliott and the resulting soul-searching for both. 

Memorable quotes/gags
Elliott: "Laverne, do you call me 'Marshmallow' because I'm soft and easily flattened?"  Nurse Laverne Roberts: "Yes.  But if it makes you feel any better it's also because you're VERY white."

Elliott: "Janitor, have you ever looked at yourself and wished you were different in every single way?"  Janitor: "No...I'm a winner."

Cox: "I'm sorry for cold-cocking you, Bob; I shouldn't have done that...even though it felt so good, I had to change my pants afterwards."

Radiologist: "These are MY MACHINES!"  JD: "But sir-"  Radiologist: "MY MACHINES!!" Carla: "We just need-"  Radiologist: "MY MACHINES!!!"  Turk: "Whose machines?"  Radiologist: "MY MACHINES"  JD to Turk (who's trying not to break character): "How is that helping?"

This could have made the top ten list of best "Scrubs" episodes just on that last sequence alone.  It captures Turk's character perfectly - faced with something that he didn't think could change, he wanted to point out the asburdity of the situation in a comical.  But the star of this episode is clearly Elliott.  It's her most important episode of the series.  Without the changes she's decided to make, she would not have been in position to have relationships with Scott, JD, Jake, Keith, or JD again.

ODU Football

Old Dominion University started football in 2009.  I got season tickets last season and have gotten them again this season.  Below are examples of pictures you can expect.

Scrubs Episode #10 - "My Old Man"

I was requested months ago to develop a list of my top ten episodes of the TV show "Scrubs."  While I made the list and composed an analysis of #10, I failed to do anything with episodes 1-9.  I'll use this blog to finish the top ten analysis.  Below is the analysis of "My Old Man" from their first season.

In one of the last episodes of the first season, the parents of our favorite interns (and our favorite janitor) make a visit to Sacred Heart.  Turk's and Elliott's parents come to watch them present a research paper at a convention; JD requests his dad to visit because he feels left out; and Janitor's father shows up for general terrorizing purposes.  Emotions abound as young professionals try to interact with their parents as adults for the first time.

Let's get this out of the way - the performances by the actors guest-starring as the parents were phenomenal.  John Ritter (JD's dad), R. Lee Ermey (Janitor's dad), Hattie Winston (Turk's mom), Markie Post and Lane Davies (Elliott's parents) were strong but understated; they were not the stars of the show and they knew how to blend in.  There was undeniable chemistry between all the actors as though they really had spent their lives with their respective families.

Beyond the guest stars, there's a theme most people can relate to - we never stop seeking approval from our parents (or at least our mentors), no matter our age.  Throughout the season we see JD regularly seeking praise from Dr. Cox, but seeing Turk and Elliott vulnerable like this is new.  Cox even helps JD gain a new appreciation for his dad.  The Dorian's may not have been super wealthy or very close, but JD seemed to have turned out alright.  In the end we know that everyone's parents are extremely proud of their offspring but happen to expres it in different ways.  Universally haven't most of us come to understand this at some point?

Lastly, any episode that includes "Surrender" by Cheap Trick is OK in my books.

Memorable quotes/gags
"Look, Reba, if I ask you a question that doesn't specifically deal with a medical issue, you can bet your powdered bottom that I don't want you to answer.  Do you understand?" - Cox to JD

"I came out to my mother this afternoon." - Elliott  "Well, it seems the boys down in Radiology owe me quite a bit of money!" - Dr. Kelso

Through the course of this episode we see the "kids" grow up personally and turn an important corner.  There are many personal and professional battles they will face throughout the years.  Still, some people need to prove themselves to their parents before they're confident enough to stand up to the world.  Even at the end we see Janitor stand up to his dad, who gives him a genuinely warm hug before leaving for the day.

Be brave, young doctors!  Eight more seasons of adventures await you.

Welcome to VBR Productions!

During high school we were required to take a foreign language.  I took Latin because I didn't think I could learn how to speak Spanish or French.  Little did I know that taking Latin would help me learn how Spanish and French words are derived from Latin.  It also taught me that good Latin is bad English.  By "bad English" I don't mean "grammatically incorrect."  Instead of saying "I think I'll write a blog," the literal translation from Latin would have been, "I think myself to be about to write a blog."  I'm still awaiting confirmation on whether blogs existed when Latin was common.

At any rate, I learned that I liked to write because of Latin.  Everyone told me to not pursue a career in writing because the job market was limited.  So instead I focused on a career involving math.  With the proliferation of blogs on the internet, I started getting antsy about creating my own.  The name of the blog ("VBR Productions") is vague enough to allow me to write about anything.  I'd have to say that my major hobby is following sports, but significant TV viewing and radio listening is up there.  There'll be a lot of sports, TV shows and music covered.  Living in Baltimore allows me reasonably quick access to lots of locations on the East Coast.  Who knows where this will take me?

Suffer the lack of dynamic graphics for now.  If I can't keep your attention with what I write without fireworks and pizzazz, then I have failed.  But I will make an effort to use more than the most basic blog template.

There are some great blogs out there, too many to name, but I wanted to thank Jerry Beach of Defiantly Dutch and Gary Moore of The College Hardwood for what they do.  The DD blog gets into college basketball with supreme enthusiasm and levity, while TCH takes a bit more in-depth analysis in the game.  Both writers have their own style and were the final tipping point to get me to start this blog. 

Let the blogging begin.