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Published by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. CLICK FOR NEWSPAPER DELIVERY
Friday, September 28, 2001

'Scrubs' proves refreshingly witty

Sitcom turns medical intern's horror stories into vibrant comedy

 

The new NBC sitcom ‘Scrubs’ features a devious brand of comedy with its top-notch writing and crackpot consulting.

While some medical shows such as "ER" pride themselves on providing a somewhat-realistic peek inside a hospital, it's refreshing that one new sitcom prides itself as being witty in a near-slapstick manner - and, oh yeah, it's also set in a hospital.
   After you've seen the premiere of NBC's "Scrubs" (8:30 p.m. Tuesday), you'll be glad the small-screen antics never happen in a hospital - but that's not to say that the show doesn't have a medical advisor.
   Jon Doris, a cardiology fellow at a Southern California hospital, went to college with "Scrubs" creator Bill Lawrence, who created "Spin City" in 1996. Doris was a resident last December when Lawrence asked him for help on a TV script he was writing.
   "He asked me about a bunch of the funny stories and the outlandish things that happened during the life of my residency," said Doris. "As a resident, you sit around on-call every third night with the other people working, and you're thinking, 'This is too funny, but nobody not in medicine would think it's funny.' But Bill is so creative, he was able to distill that part of the experience that is so universally funny."
   "Scrubs" centers on J.D. (Zach Braff), a nervous medical intern, and his friends who are also mostly new in the field of medicine. Lawrence based J.D. on Jon Doris and lifted many of Doris' horror stories for the "Scrubs" pilot, a rare example of well-timed, beautifully executed comedy.
   "Watching the pilot was a surreal experience for me," said Doris. "I saw these stories that I had told Bill come to life. ... He employs a huge amount of hyperbole and exaggeration to make it funny, but the basis of the stories happened to me."
   In one scene, J.D. has to drain stomach fluid from a patient. When he can't bring himself to do it, his friend Turk (Donald Faison) pops the needle through the abdomen and drains the fluid, but when he withdraws the needle, a miniature fountain has formed atop the woman's belly.
   "It's called paracentesis," said Doris. "You insert a needle and a catheter into the abdomen and draw off some fluid, and the basis behind that situation was that I was doing one of my first ones with another intern, and we finished the procedure but the fluid would not stop coming out. We were up all night trying to stop this fluid from leaking. Bill exaggerated it and had it shooting across the room."
   In another scene, a patient needs emergency care, and a code is put out to all interns. J.D. takes off running, but when he realizes that if he gets there first he has to run the room, he chickens out and hides in a closet.
   "I was very excited, being a new intern," said Doris. "I was close to the location, and I said, 'Wait a second, I'll be the first one there if I don't slow down,' and I did slow down, and another intern was behind me and saw me slow down and laughed at me."
   Doris said the fear shared by he and J.D. is normal for many medical interns.
   "Interns, month after month, are put into new situations," said Doris. "Next month it's the ER, then ICU, then CCU. As you become familiar with one job, you're suddenly thrown into a new experience. The reality of that first year is you're always new at something, and people are expecting you to do more than you know how to do."
   In addition to relating his rookie-year anxieties to the writers, Doris also reads the scripts and helps on-set with medical procedures, equipment and jargon.
   "As the medical advisor," admitted Doris, "I'm constantly biting my lip and saying, 'That really wouldn't happen,' and they say, 'We'll fudge that - it's a comedy.'"
  
  


Pop culture and media critic Ricardo Baca can be reached at 886-3688 or by e-mail at bacar@caller.com


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