“Who are you?”

I can’t quite call this the season of fail.

When show creators and stars start making noises from season to season about each one being the show’s last, you need to wrap it up sooner than later (X-Files says what?). Scrubs Season 7 was meant to be its final season, but because of the writer’s strike, the season was shortened. Having long experienced schedule changes, midseason debuts, and under-promotion, the critically-lauded Scrubs didn’t seem especially likely to have even made it to a seventh season. Yes, the show should have ended with season 6.

In a lot of ways, Season 7 looks and feels like an extension of Season 6. Things pick up right where they left off, with the will-they/won’t-they romance of Sacred Heart doctors, John “J.D.” Dorian (Zach Braff) and Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke). The commitment-fearing pair are on the cusp of entering into their respective life partnerships, fatherhood and marriage. Honestly, by season seven, we’re more at the “who cares?” stage of things, but luckily the show never did revolve around the wisps of sexual tension between these two.

Scrubs features one of the strongest supporting casts on television, however, as another casualty of the strike shortened season, the characters didn’t have much of an arc. With no manufactured obstacles or any remarkable developments, after seven seasons they either remain one note or they have experienced some minimal approximation of growth. We end up with an odd mixture of both.
“What happened? I used to be an island? … I feel like I’m losing track of my identity.” -Dr. Cox

We learn that J.D. and Turk (Donald Faison) are a couple (yes, almost moreso than Turk and his real wife, Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes)). Turk learns to listen to Carla. J.D. become satisfied with his work. J.D. sorta gets his long sought after hug from his unsentimental mentor Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley). We see Elliott becoming secure. And The Janitor (Neil Flynn) not only gets a girlfriend, but also seems friendlier (which would work if his attempts at being nicer came off as a little creepy. Instead, he just seems nicer). Our favorite evil yet loveable chief of medicine Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins).

“We all want to be appreciated for our unique identities. But when we decide to change who we are for someone we love, we can surprise even ourselves with who we’ve become.” -J.D. in voice over mode

The show revolves around two (spiritual) themes: identity and relationships. Each of the characters struggles with figuring out who they are and who they want to be. A human being is defined by who loves them. Loved by God, we have our identity; defined by that relationship we find our self-worth. Love is risk, but we’re wired to be a part of a community. In that way we are fulfilled. And if friends are the family you choose, work colleagues are more like real family in a sense because you have them thrust upon you.

At turns, Scrubs is still sweet and zany (it’s usually a bad sign when a show is described as zany. Just as cautionary would be the phrase “wacky shenanigans”). Genuine and funny. Poignant, awkward and cute, sort of like watching a doe being born over and over again. At the same time, it could be too self-consciously cloying, reveling in its own cuteness, the zaniness coming off as forced (being zany is a duel edged sword), getting by on jokes that have been stale for seasons now (J.D.’s unicorn says what? Though, to be fair, there were no Dr. Acula references). Some of its antics and rhythms having become stale, like the voice over becoming a series of “one to grow on” moments. Sure, it’s not as sharp and fresh as it used to be, but that happens in a relationship when you get used to the quirks and charms of your partner.

Scrubs has found a new lease on life over on ABC as a mid-season replacement, though Zach Braff will be departing soon after the premiere, so one is left to wonder what kind of show it will be without its anchor. With season 7, it wasn’t allowed to wrap up seamlessly. Hopefully it will have the opportunity for a fitting send-off.