Scrubs simply shouldn't work. In fact, it should be an unmitigated disaster, a train-wreck of warring genres, tones, and sensibilities that don't belong on the same channel on the same night, let alone on the same show and in the same scene. Yet somehow Scrubs does work—not seamlessly or smoothly, but at least with enough gutsy, piquant liveliness to make its flaws forgivable.
A good example of the show's penchant for miscalculation is its decision to forego a laugh track, but to include sound effects ranging from a rim-shot to the ubiquitous sliding-record-needle scratch. On one of his audio commentaries, creator Bill Lawrence does attack himself for including the offending noises to prove to the suits that a laugh-track-free half-hour dramedy could be funny, but even so, giving up a laugh track for wacky sound effects is like abandoning caffeine to better concentrate on heroin.
The success the show does manage is a testament to the unforced charm and depth of star Zach Braff and the chemistry of a supporting cast dominated by Ken Jenkins (working an inspired homage to Rip Torn in The Larry Sanders Show) and John C. McGinley, whose mocking brand of tough love could easily pass for withering contempt. Though it'd be only too easy to single out every cast member, it'd also be wrong not to mention Donald Faison's fine work as Braff's best friend and Judy Reyes as Faison's girlfriend, in a performance that simultaneously transcends and satirizes the stereotype of the Hispanic spitfire.
Perhaps the only show that owes an equal debt to ER, Family Guy, and The Wonder Years, Scrubs devotes its first season to following Braff's fresh-faced newbie from his first day as an intern to his last, pausing at the end of every episode for sappy music and heart-tugging narration that explicates whatever valuable life lesson and/or epiphany he's experienced that week. Unsurprisingly, the dewy coming-of-age earnestness of Braff's closing narration comes off as forced and corny, especially on a show with a glaring weakness for sound effects, atrocious visual puns, lame pop-culture references, and a fantasy or dream sequence seemingly every minute or so. Scrubs veers from being a spastic, frenetic live-action cartoon to a touchy-feely sincerity parade, but still manages to be consistently funny and surprisingly affecting, thanks to smart casting and writing that's occasionally flat-out brilliant. When the show does fall on its ass, that's mainly because it's so refreshingly eager to take chances.