Scrubs kicks off its eighth and (likely) final season on
NBC ABC this Tuesday, and you know what that means: It’s time for another one of my uncensored Q&As with the show’s refreshingly candid creator, Bill Lawrence!
AUSIELLO: The first two episodes were a lot more serious than what we’ve come to expect from Scrubs. It felt more in line with earlier seasons. Why the tonal shift?
BILL LAWRENCE: I thought we got a little silly. In order for the finale to actually mean anything, the show has to be borderline real for people to give a s–t. We were dangerously venturing into an area where everyone was so fake no one would have given a s–t when it ended.
Will all of the characters get their own little send-off?
a doubt. Everybody has their own big summing-up [episode], where they
assess where they are and where they’re going in the future — even
some of the secondary characters that I never felt I did right by, like Ted
Buckland, who plays the lawyer. He’s such a good actor, so I gave him a
girlfriend and a life this year. My plan has always been to give every
character resolve, and not make it too treacly. I think everyone will
be happy. We just finished cutting the finale and we showed it over at
ABC and they all dug it.
Is it an hour-long episode?
It was a half hour, but I ended up shooting a whole bunch of extra scenes so the network just changed it to an hour.
What’s the episode about?
It’s about J.D.’s exit from the
hospital and whether you can hold on to the relationships of your
youth, or whether some of them fall by the wayside. J.D. takes a job at
a hospital 37 minutes away because it’s in a town where Kim (Elizabeth Banks)
lives with his kid; he wants to be in the same town as his kid. He does
it thinking it will make absolutely no difference in his life, but, of course, it does. It’s a
little bittersweet, but I don’t think it will bum anybody out.
Where did you land on the whole J.D./Elliot thing? You’ve made no
secret of the fact that you didn’t want them to end up together.
I don’t want to ruin it for the audience, so let’s just say I ended up compromising.
You’ve also said we’d learn the Janitor’s real name. You don’t have to tell me what it is, but are you happy with your choice?
but I don’t think anyone will be super excited about it. Neil Flynn and
I are happy about it. We felt we had burdened ourselves by never saying
it, because then you’re obligated to come up with something big. So we
decided, to hell with it, and we didn’t come up with anything big. J.D.
finally asks him [in the finale] and the Janitor just says it; there’s
no big hoopla.
What are the odds of the show continuing for another season without you and Zach?
ABC is promoting the s–t out of Scrubs. It’s very
weird. It’s the first time I’ve seen commercials for the show in seven
years. There’s a billboard near Warner Bros. that’s the size of my
house. The reality is, Scrubs is incredibly reasonably priced. And without Zach’s salary and my salary, it’s probably cheaper to make then some new
shows. And it’s sold into syndication, so every episode that gets
produced, ABC makes $1 million or so on the back end. I don’t think
it’ll be a creative decision. I think if this show comes on and by
February it’s doing a 3 rating [in the 18-49 demo], it’ll be on for another
year. And if it’s not, it won’t. And if it’s in the middle somewhere,
they will wait and decide along with all their new pilots. It’s really
out of my hands because it’s a financial and business decision and not
a creative one.
Wouldn’t you prefer that it end with you and Zach?
preference was that when I left it would end. But one of the things we’ve really been
talking about around here is, A, that’s all about my ego and who gives
a s–t, and, B, apparently there’s something going on with the economy
right now. There are 122 people who work here and there are essentially
only six live-action comedies on TV. One of the main reasons that I’m
going to embrace this decision either way is that there’s no work out
there. If we can keep this show going another year then all those
people get to have jobs. It’s a bleak time. The only way I’d object is
if someone came up with a real crappy, half-assed idea to keep the show
going. Like, "We’ll call it Scrubs, but instead of Zach Braff,
it’ll be Hillary Duff, because everybody likes her!" I would say,
"Don’t f—ing do that man; it’s bad." But there are six writers that
all worked here over seven years, each with their own take on how to go
forward. And all of the angles I’ve heard are more like Frasier was to Cheers than AfterMASH was to M*A*S*H.
Is there a part of you that’s hoping the show performs well on ABC just so it makes NBC look bad?
The truth is, I would not care about ratings at all were it not for the
fact that I want NBC to feel stupid. This is the first time in five
years that [bad] ratings will really bum me out. If this show can pull
in better ratings than, like, Kath & Kim, it would really
make me happy. One of the problems with network TV is that they don’t
reward loyalty. I’ve gotten to the point now that if I find a new show
I like, I’ll check its ratings before committing. If it’s not a
gangbuster hit, I’m very careful about getting invested. I enjoy Life.
I think Damien Lewis is an interesting actor. But I knew it wasn’t
doing well, so [I stopped watching], because I know that even if a show
is perceived as having merit, it’s going to disappear. And it’s so
dumb. They create a self-fulfilling prophecy. My feeling is, once a
show makes a network over $20 million, they should let you end it
properly. It’s not just Scrubs. They didn’t end Las Vegas either. Just end the show. Lay people think television is dying, and it’s not. Network television is dying. More people are watching TV than ever, there’s just good s–t on other outlets — and those guys reward their viewers. Television isn’t dead, s—–y television is dead.