If you’re not familiar with the staff of Sacred Heart, a teaching hospital full of crazy characters, then let us regail you with the facts about Scrubs. J.D. (Zach Braff) lives his life in fantasy and wonderment, narrating his days and flashing to his imagination whenever things get a little too maudlin, as he learns the ropes; his best friend, Turk (Donald Faison), is a cool cat who cuts customers open when they have surgical needs; Elliot (Sarah Chalke) is neurotic, ambitious and desperate to be the best doctor on call; Carla’s (Judy Reyes) a nurse who’s seen it all before, Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) is angry and focussed and ready to turn med students into real doctors; The Janitor (Neil Flynn) is an enigma wrapped in a mask of absolute hatred for J.D., and Hooch? Well, he’s crazy.
The great Bill Lawrence sitcom is now available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV, which means you can enjoy all the laughs, loves and, yes, tears from the most heartfelt and generation-defining sitcom of the 00s. And we’re here to recommend a treatment of the key episodes from its eight (ok, shush, nine) seasons.
My Old Lady (S1, E4)
The funny, weird and imaginative show turns expectations on its head when the show kills the laughs along with some patients, and our med students have to deal with the severity of what they want to do for a living. There’s plenty of gallows humour alongside the earnestness and emotion, as we see our happy-go-lucky heroes react to losing patients, and how to get on and keep working afterwards. So early in the show’s run, it makes a statement for tone and attitude regarding the realism of being a doctor, as well as a fantasy about a Great Escape in a hospital because Scrubs can’t do anything serious without 10ccs of silly too.
His Story (S2, E15)
The first mould-breaking episode in the run, our usual narrator J.D. hands over the narration and focus to Dr. Cox. John C. McGinley’s fearsome and hard-skinned doctor releases his inner thoughts and fully fleshes out his character, as he deals with his ex-wife, Jordan, running amuck in his life, while big life changes happen for Turk and Carla too. A great moment of changing formula and expectation in the show’s lifecycle.
My Screw-Up (S3, E14)
Brendan Fraser cameos as Dr. Cox’s ex-brother-in-law, who has leukaemia, and the episode plays beautifully with perspective and narrative, as the world of Sacred Heart gets hit with a profoundly bruising change – one that is made so very significant from the magnificent performances and writing throughout. It’s the first episode to really, actively, leave you without a dry eye anywhere, while also being angry at Scrubs for making you feel like that. All in 22 minutes.
My Cake (S4, E6)
J.D.’s brother (played The Flash’s Tom Cavanagh) delivers bad news and cake to his house, leading to an awkward reunion for the two adult children who deal with grief in various ways. Another episode that hits at the heartstrings, but also leaves you wrecked with some of the crazier visuals (read: guest star Heather Graham dominating Turk).
My Life In Four Cameras (S4, E17)
Sacred Heart’s chief of medicine, Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins), is firing staff to manage the budget, causing uncertainty amongst the ranks, but when a sitcom writer is admitted to the hospital, the world of Scrubs begins to play out like a multi-camera sitcom, including a live audience. Another of the show’s iconic genre-shifting meta-textual plays, the last act of this show can be divisive for those who look down on single camera sitcoms, but this is executed flawlessly in form and function.
My Intern’s Eyes (S5, E1)
From the visual perspective of an unseen new intern, this Season 5 opener sees Sacred Heart welcome a new group of students, as they adjust to their own changes, with Elliot taking a private practice role, Carla and Turk looking to have a child and J.D. attempting to mimic Dr. Cox. Notable for one of the most insane physical gags involving a large backpack and an attempt to sneak into a cinema.
My Lunch (S5, E20)
Nobody wants to spend time with a perpetual patient (Nicole Sullivan, recently seen on Netflix’s Disjointed) but the staff feel guilty when she ODs, J.D. takes it especially hard when we see he only avoided her the day before. It’s all made worse when Dr. Cox oversees a series of urgent organ donations from the patient. A rollercoaster episode, Sullivan never stops being hilarious on-screen but the turns not only to drama but also to tragedy are super effective; once more, McGinley hits home when Dr. Cox lets his guard down. One of the perfect half-hours from this great sitcom.
My Musical (S6, E6)
Welcome to Sacred Heart! It’s Guy Love between you and I! Everything comes down to poo! A patient is admitted to the hospital, and her ailment makes her see everything as a song and dance, leading to a series of musical numbers featuring the talented cast in bright, splashy colours. Naturally, there’s a darker side to everything, but this musical episode is a toe-tappingly good time with a game cast playing to the rafters.
My Long Goodbye (S6, E15)
Eternally cynical nurse Laverne is in a car accident and lays on life support. The staff of Sacred Heart all go to her bedside, one by one, to have a last heart-to-heart – except her closest friend Carla, who can’t bare to say goodbye. Even writing about this episode brings this writer to a few tears. As Scrubs can do like no other, there are jokes all over the shop, but by the time Keane’s Bedshaped kicks in, and Judy Reyes breaks down, it’s impossible not to fall on the floor in a puddle. To turn a comedic, sarcastic side-character into such a font of emotion and potency is Scrubs’ best asset. The world is rich and exists beyond the 22 minutes each week.
My Finale (S8, E18)
No list of Scrubs episodes would be complete without mention of its hour-long final episode (Season 9 doesn’t count, honest), which lets Doctor John Dorian spend his last day at Sacred Heart, seeing the lives of those he’s worked with, he’s cared for, he’s loved and lost, and those who were just on the side-lines. And, for good measure, some Janitor hijinks to boot. One of the perfect TV show endings, a four-minute montage that, much like Six Feet Under, will reduce you to a blubbering baby, both happy to have it happen and sad that it is over.
Scrubs is always going to live in the pantheon of top sitcoms for its outrageous dream sequences and off-kilter cast of characters, but it will live in the hearts of its viewers too, because the show was never afraid to look into the abyss of death and tragedy and scream out loud. With these 10 episodes, you can capture a slice of the show’s brilliance quite easily, but to really taste the rich flavours that Scrubs offers, you need a much longer stay in Sacred Heart. We prescribe the whole box set.
Scrubs Season 1 to 9 are available to watch on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 Sky Entertainment Month Pass subscription – with a 14-day free trial.