I'm a firm believer in the six-season rule, which dictates that most TV shows should end after six seasons, because if they continue they get tired or old or stale or unfunny or irrelevant. Sex and the City ended after six seasons. So did The Sopranos. And so will Lost. Occasionally, a show will successfully make it past Season 6 (Friends, Seinfeld, Smallville)—but not without a casualty season or two. In general, it's best not to break the rule.
And that's why Scrubs has me completely baffled. When the news hit in August that Season 9 will see the show become a sort of spinoff of itself, moving from Sacred Heart teaching hospital to a medical school in which Turk (Donald Faison) and Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) are faculty members, I didn't have high hopes. Now that I've seen tonight's premiere, I'm not as skeptical. It's still Scrubs (the name hasn't changed, as show creator Bill Lawrence once hinted it might), but with a hell of a paint job. The intro is different. The janitor is gone. All the familiar characters are teachers. It's... disorienting. But it could work.
Shows typically don't attract new audiences after eight seasons on the air, but Scrubs has only been on ABC for one season so far. And now that Lawrence has completely re-imagined its setting (crusty old Sacred Heart has been torn down and rebuilt on a medical school campus) and added a slew of new cast members, Scrubs has a unique opportunity to start over—sort of. The basic elements are still present: new teachers J.D. (Zach Braff) and Turk are still incredibly immature, Dr. Cox is still a big asshole, and Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins) is still surprisingly feisty. Rumor has it we'll see less of Elliot (Sarah Chalke) and Carla (Judy Reyes), and literally none of The Janitor (Neil Flynn, who's busy with The Middle).
But in the Season 9 premiere, we'll get to meet three newbies. Lucy (Kerry Bishe) is a doe-eyed Kate-Hudson-lookalike and a first-year med student who quickly replaces J.D. as Dr. Cox's least favorite person on the planet. Denise (Eliza Coupe), also a med student, is the student adviser with more sass than sympathy. And Drew (Michael Mosley) stands out as the been-there-done-that hot older guy, back in school to earn his M.D. They're all at different stages in the ol' Scrubs coming-of-age story arc, but learning about them doesn't feel repetitive. They've got their own lives—Lucy is basically Tracy Flick with a stethoscope and Denise and Drew have a surprisingly complex relationship, considering they just met.
It's pretty refreshing to see these shiny new faces interact with the eight-year veterans. And even though the pilot practically trembles with the obvious nervousness of the cast and crew—the timing is off, the special effects are cheap, and the jokes are a little forced—the second episode of the season ditches the jitters and brings the ol' Scrubs charm. The cheap-looking dream sequences are back. The cheesy Life Lessons at the end of the episode are back. And you know what? So is Scrubs. I think.
Season 9 of Scrubs premieres with back-to-back episodes on Tuesday, December 1 at 9 p.m. on ABC.