Scrubs: Season 8 (US - BD)
Gabe checks the final regular cast season of the favored sit-com on blu-ray
Has anyone here ever watched Scrubs while in an actual hospital? Show of hands? I have, and it was a pretty surreal experience. It’s weird to be in a room similar to a popular sit-com set while the sit-com creates plays, creating a mirrored, moving diorama, and it’s even weirder to find yourself assigning the show’s character’s traits to the medical staff around you. Scrubs penchant for fantasy sequences, mixed with the cocktail of medications that usually go along with a visit to the doctor’s, makes the whole thing that much more surreal. I wasn’t even watching the show because I like it, which I do, I was watching it because it’s always on. Super-saturation can be a problem for any television series, especially those that run on an episodic formula, and Scrubs definitely runs on an episodic formula. The formula can be the key ingredient to the warm familiarity of comfort food, and a taste for such comfort food is the thing that makes shows like these popular, which sells them into syndication, and causes them to make too many episodes. It’s a vicious cycle, and most good shows fall into it.
The formula works well enough even in this eighth season when it comes to the characters (remember, regular readers, I’m a sucker for character-based comedy). I really can’t get enough of Dr. Cox and the Janitor, or Carla at times, and even the cast members I’m not particularly fond of are delightfully predictable. They don’t really grow too much, but it’s comfort food, so we don’t blame them. The part of the formula that has grown very tiring is not so ironically the thing that made the series special in the first place, and that is the story structure of each episode. The structure, as most fans will know, goes a little something like this: a theme is developed, the major characters experience the theme in their own way, the theme brings them into crisis, which is expressed before a second act sadness montage, and everything is wrapped up in a bittersweet fashion to JD’s words of wisdom. The last part sometimes ends in tragedy. The inconsequential B-Plots still manage to surprise, but after 150 episodes the A-formula is a stale parody at this point. Season eight is the last regular season of the show, but apparently it’s getting some kind of reboot, or something. Season eight was apparently a partial victim of the writers’ strike, and a victim of budget cuts, which divided the writing staff in half. The season is very clearly divided in half. The first half feels like a set up for the reboot, and the second half feels like a series wrap-up, with all the usual fan-service wrap-up placation. The last episode featured enough schmaltz to make me a bit nauseous, but I can’t think of any better way to end things, you know, besides discovering the entirety of Scrubs was an autistic child’s fantasy.
So the last season isn’t a perfect finale (though fans tell me it’s much better than the writers’ strike murdered seventh season, which I mostly missed), but this is the only HD season of what was overall a pretty special little series. An additionally weird part of seeing the show while in a hospital is the show’s realism. Scrubs was voted the most realistic hospital show on television by real hospital staffs, and this realism is the show’s most commendable aspect. Once you know how these things work (and I’m talking base knowledge) it’s eternally frustrating how consistently wrong hospital dramas are, even those with a penchant for realistic gore or symptoms. Sure, it’s exciting to watch House and his doctors figure out the science behind mysterious illnesses, but the speed at which tests are taken, and results are spit up is maddeningly false. Scrubs gets it right. Most of the tests take days, and if someone has cancer they’re shipped off to start chemo, not given chemo on the spot by one of the star doctors. Also, the Scrubs doctors actually lose patients all the time, even when those deaths don’t serve as a bit of dramatic punctuation – it’s just part of their day. Even more important are the inter-hospital politics, which are usually played for laughs or sappy melodrama, but shed light on the authentic problems of money, specifically a lack of health insurance. Some viewers might think the issue is pounded home in order to make clear some kind of political stance on the writers’ part, but this is the way things work.
Scrubs is shot in a whole lot of soft light, and like most modern HD shot comedy, is very colourful. It’s bright, it’s fun, it’s better on Blu-ray than it was on TV. The colour vibrancy is the big plus, and despite some overall noise things are pretty well separated, with deep black support. Flesh tones are a little on the red side, but otherwise the hues are pretty natural, in spite of them being a bit on the hyper side. Some of the harshly lit whites bloom a bit, and feature a little edge-noise (no enhancement though), but this is really all in keeping with the show’s style. The much bigger problem for the overall transfer is the constant grain, which is darker than the grain I’ve found inherit in other sit-com, or at least more colourful television series on Blu-ray. It’s not a massive, don’t-buy-this kind of problem, but viewers will notice. Details are sharper than SD, but the photography isn’t geared towards super-sharp, so consistency is a bigger point of focus here. Those looking for better than standard definition details can find some in JD’s stupid beard, or disturbingly realistic runny noses. Unfortunately, the details aren’t entirely consistent (check the very end of ‘My Chief Concern’ for a sudden drop in quality), though the background stuff is noticeably sharper, which is a plus because I’m noticing a whole bunch of background gags I missed when I periodically caught a few original airings in standard definition.
Scrubs season eight comes fitted with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track on Blu-ray, which is a clear upgrade from the HD television airings. Most episodes feature relatively aggressive and stylized sound design. Between scene transitions often feature some kind of whipping or swishing sound, the broad slapstick is normally accompanied with some kind of off-camera cartoon effect, and JD’s fantasies are swimming with wackiness. These all sound solid and clear, not to mention the fact that they’re well supported by the LFE, but the overall track is disappointing centric, and stereophonic at best. I can’t recall a single direction effect in the entire two disc collection, and I can recall very few rear channel effects all together, aside from some basic echo effects, which would’ve been served just fine by a Pro-Logic mix (which is all but proven by the deleted scenes selection of the extras, which are in Dolby Surround, but sound almost exactly the same). The stereo stuff does work well, specifically in the form of music, and basic hospital ambience. The dialogue is well centered and clear, but occasionally the sound quality will change mid-scene. JD’s narration is set clearly apart from other film narration not by moving to the stereo channels, but by echoing slightly into the stereo channels. The music is the most traditionally sit-comish element of the sound (thank god for the lack of laugh track), and fills out the mix well, especially the sappy pop songs, which see a little more rear channel support.
The extras begin with a series of cast and crew commentaries. Disc one features commentary on every episode, while disc two features commentary on six episodes (‘My Nah Nah Nah’, ‘Their Story II’, ‘My Full Moon’, ‘My Soul on Fire’ parts one and two, and ‘My Chief Concern’). The tracks are laid back without devolving into disinterest, and cover a wide array of topics from the writer’s room, and the move to ABC, to the new cast members, and the difficulties of wrapping up the series. The commentaries also help to point out the more subtle visual gags viewers might have missed. Disc two’s additional extras start with ‘My Bahamas Vacation’ (20:00, HD), a look behind the scenes of the two-part Bahamas wedding episode, which looks a whole lot like a paid vacation. Most of the focus is either on the fun of being on a tropical island, or the technical hardships of shooting in a remote place with lots of sand and water. This is followed by 12 ‘ Scrubs Interns’ segments (38:00, HD), with no ‘play all’ option. These webisodes aired as a marketing tool to support the eighth season, and are a relatively amusing way to introduce the new characters…who were largely dumped about 2/3rds of the way through the season.
Things are wrapped up with 15 deleted/extended scenes from the various episodes throughout the entire season (11:50, HD), 17 alternate lines/takes (14:50, HD), and a blooper reel (3:10, HD).
Scrubs as we know it comes to a satisfying conclusion here in its eighth season. Non-fans might find the whole thin a little sickly sweet, and I really don’t recommend starting here, but fans know what their in for, and should be excited to get the final season in high definition. This two disc set doesn’t look as picture perfect as some other recent TV on Blu-ray releases, but none of this appears to be the fault of the discs themselves. The DTS-HD soundtrack is a bit of a centric disappointment, but the extras are good fun, if not a little on the curt side.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 17th November 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
Extras: Cast and Crew Commentaries, My Bahamas Vacation, Scrubs Interns Webisodes, Deleted/Extended Scenes, Bloopers
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, Neil Flynn, John C. McGinley, Judy Reyes
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 414 minutes
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