July 17, 2008

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas, Robert Philpot Column

By Robert Philpot, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

Jul. 17--BEVERLY HILLS -- Even though producer Bill Lawrence's quirky medical comedy Scrubs will be on a new network this year, he finds himself in a familiar position: He doesn't yet know when it will air.

This much he does know: It will air Tuesdays on ABC after the fall run of Dancing With the Stars ends. But that's it for now, and it fits in with the show's history of schedule changes on NBC. According to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present, Scrubs has had 16 schedule changes in seven seasons.

And yet Lawrence -- a boyish, quick-witted, late thirtysomething -- sees the bright side of a TV history that could make his cultish series difficult to find.

"I still get to make the show," Lawrence told a small group of reporters after a Scrubs session at the Television Critics Association's summer meeting. "I still get to talk to you guys. I get down on myself, because I [complain] and moan about things, but 13 years I've been to this TCA thing in a row, and to do that -- I've got no complaints." (Lawrence previously produced Spin City).

After the winter writers' strike, Lawrence said, NBC seemed uninterested in the eight remaining episodes he had planned for Scrubs' seventh season. Touchstone Television owns the show and, like ABC, is a Disney Company, so a move to ABC seemed natural for keeping the show on the air.

A few things that came out of Wednesday's session: The Janitor, played by Neil Flynn, will get married this year in an episode that takes place in the Bahamas. (Asked if the Janitor's name would be revealed in that episode, Flynn said he already knew the name: Zanzibar Buck Buck McFate, a reference to a Dr. Seuss character. Lawrence quickly chimed in and said when the Janitor's name is revealed, the show will be over.) Lawrence will make his first appearance as the preacher.

And the upcoming season is likely to be star Zach Braff's last as a series regular -- which may or may not mean the end of the series.

"We haven't really talked about this too much," Braff said. "We thought we were [already] ending, and then [we got] a bonus, amazing year, and we're having a blast doing it.

"My sense is that this is my last year. If the show does continue on, I'll come back and visit and maybe direct some. And do craft service, if they need help."

So if the show might have only one more season, why go to another network?

"Two things," said Lawrence, who believes the show had a creative slump during season seven but was starting to rebound. "One, we wanted to finish the year well. We wanted to finish on a better foot creatively, with closure.

"Two, the economic meaning of another year ...to our crew, who [were financially devastated] by the writers' strike. You would not believe their faces when I said we were going to go for another season."


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