It seems a little odd to write the following, but it's true: "Scrubs," a show that seemingly has had the ax hanging over it for about five years, is the longest-running comedy currently on NBC.
In fact it's the longest-running live-action comedy on network TV at the moment, having premiered a day before ABC's "According to Jim" in 2001.
What that longevity means is that "Scrubs" will get a chance to go out on its own terms, as everyone involved in making the show has agreed that its seventh season, which begins at 9:30 p.m. ET Thursday, will be its last.
"Nobody usually gets that luxury," series creator Bill Lawrence says, "and it's been kind of a ride down memory lane. I've really been enjoying it, and I've really been trying to focus -- you know, we all I think as human beings are prone to complaining about our lot in life. And I'm just not having it, because it's been such a great experience for me and everybody that works here is truly so lucky in what is a tough time for comedy on television to have had a job this long."
Lawrence says he's had an ending in mind for the series for a while now -- that happens when you're not sure from year to year if your show will be back -- but he doesn't feel a need to wait until the last episode to resolve things.
"There's two things: One, the trap that people fall into when they do finales is that they wait for the finale to tie up every single loose end. 'We're having a baby. We're running off together. We're getting married,' you know," Lawrence says. "And I think that what we're going to do is kind of spend the year tying up any loose ends between characters. ... And at the end, just do something that we hope is kind of a sweet, funny goodbye to the people that actually watch the show."
The season begins with J.D. contemplating life as a soon-to-be father with Kim (Elizabeth Banks), who hid her pregnancy from him for much of last season; they've reconciled, mostly, and she's now living with him, which has forced J.D. to grow up just a little.
"I think he's evolved, definitely, over the seven years," Braff says of his character. "But the thing I've learned in doing half-hour TV comedy is that it's kind of like a comic strip, you know. I find that the audience really -- they want to sort of check in with their favorite characters and see what they're going to do this week, you know? They don't really want them to evolve too much. You know, I think of course over seven years the character has evolved a little bit and grown up a little bit.
"But I think it's really about, you know, people had a hard day at work. They want to come home and check in with the people that make them laugh. They want to see the Janitor be the Janitor and Todd be bisexually weird. They want to see J.D. be a goofball and Dr. Cox yell at him. So I think that we've done a good job of evolving them slightly, but also just, you know, giving, the fans what they want, which is to see the characters be themselves."
Which means, to the chagrin of some of the show's fans, J.D. and Elliot (Sarah Chalke) may never decide they truly want to be together.
"This show was never a will they or won't they show, you know? It was not Ross and Rachel or 'Moonlighting,'" Lawrence says. "And I think that if we were to end this series on Zach going to the airport to keep Rachel -- or to keep Elliot -- from flying away ... everybody would feel cheated. ...
"So I am going to resolve it, but I'm not going to make that the end of the series. I think that it'll happen before people expect it to happen."
Lawrence has also put out a call to fans of "Scrubs" (via NBC.com)to ask him questions about minutiae -- and offer up suggestions for the finale. And yes, he does read them.
"I know what I want to do. I just wanted people ... to weigh in on things that they do and don't want to happen," he says. "It helps me get a gauge for what people are expecting and what people don't want to see. And, you know, I'm still going to make my own decisions. But it's been really kind of informative. ...
"You know, I think it's really just about hopefully rewarding the people that stuck with it so long that they have a good feeling when the TV goes off."
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The cast of 'Scrubs'