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ABC To Re-Tool Scrubs: Why TV Viewers Are So Overwhelmed These Days

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This morning, during my daily scan of the TV news sites, I read a report from Michael Ausiello on Entertainment Weekly that Scrubs, a show that I’ve avidly watched for eight seasons, is completely changing its format for its ninth season (you know, the season that wasn’t supposed to happen).

I won’t recount exactly what those changes are for those who don’t like spoilers (see Ausiello’s article for that), but considering I loved the heartwarming goodbye we got from season eight’s finale, I can’t imagine season nine carrying on the same way. That finale delivered the message that life goes on, people change, and by golly, the writers want to do something different. It’s almost impossible after that many episodes to spin the different story lines with new cast members in the same setting. New directions are the circle of life.

Given my love/hate relationship with the TV industry in general, not to mention the sometimes overzealous online fans, I normally would have dismissed the negative reaction over these changes as bull, but it got me thinking. I get it. We love our TV shows. Plain and simple. Except I think we love them too much at times, and minds close up faster than a collapsing worm hole when anything outside of our comfort zone comes along. After looking into viewing habits further though, I can see why.

I Trust Bill Lawrence

In the case of Scrubs, creator and writer Bill Lawrence has earned my respect and trust and I’m willing to give his new vision a shot. I’m also inspired by how he went on with the show so that the people who’ve worked there for so long can keep working. I know it won’t be the same old show, but that’s okay. I’m open to new ideas.

Now granted other TV shows have tried new ideas and they aren’t always good. I hate the so-called "creative direction" House took in season four with the new team. The idea was fine, but the execution and team selection was awful. Ditto in season five when the smart medicine was replaced by personal soap operas and "shipping." However, that’s my opinion. Sure, I’ve made my thoughts known here and there, but I did what any logical viewer would do in that circumstance. I walked away. I didn’t want to spoil the experience for those who did love the changes. Now House represents casual viewing on my TiVo when I’m bored. Which is pretty much never these days.

Shows often get old and don’t age gracefully. Look at Smallville. One complaint I read a lot these days is The CW is trying to destroy Smallville by sending it to Fridays. Please. Smallville has had an incredible run by going into its ninth season and only a rare number of shows in the history of television make it this far. It’s in what many consider to be its third final season and after catching up with the rest of the show on DVD I honestly admit that what airs today is a shell of what once was. The CW found there was enough interest to keep it going, but the network has to start thinking about building its future. No matter what people think of their programming choices, The CW can’t live in the past forever. Fridays may be considered to be the night of show death, but for aging and declining shows that still have an audience clinging on, Friday is a night of reprieve. It beats cancellation. Ditto for Law and Order and Ugly Betty, two other veteran shows that will be making their Friday debuts this year.

However, fans love to belabor the point that their favorite show is being mistreated and just don’t know how to let go. Oh, but it isn’t just letting go of the old shows that has TV viewers in a twist. It’s embracing the new ones. Fans are so quick to put down new shows without even seeing the finished product. "It’s stupid," or "What moron thinks this will work?" Okay, these perceptions are based on a concept? A series plot pitch? The wrong actors? No, it took me a while to figure out it was something else.

I Don't Need Another Show

Recently I’ve been trying to get my sister-in-law to check out Supernatural after she told me she was starting to watch Smallville from season one. Her reaction stunned me, but it’s so true. "I don’t need another show right now." Was Supernatural’s genre of interest to her? Sure, she’s a big Buffy fan. Was the positive buzz about the show’s gripping story lines and great acting appealing? Yes, but bottom line, there’s no time.

I knew she was exactly right. Lately I’ve been poring over my Netflix options, wondering what shows to try next. Do I go with How I Met Your Mother, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Psych, The Big Bang Theory, or Dexter? All of those sound good, but what do I choose? Where do I begin? Will I get so hooked with those shows that are still running that I have to somehow work them into my already busy viewing schedule? Yes, this much pain goes into my Netflix subscription these days. Yet if I wasn’t bold enough to try Supernatural when I first got the subscription, I would have missed out on one of the best shows I’ve seen in my life. No guts, no glory. However, no time either.

How can I even entertain the idea of taking in a new upcoming series? If checking out existing shows is this hard, a new idea for an old show must be a harder sell, right? Familiar goes away, fans not happy. No, that’s far from the truth. The new Scrubs concept is being pitched as a spinoff and that’s riling up viewers. I’m not sure why. Viewers have always embraced spinoffs in the past. Look at classics like The Jeffersons, Maude, Mork and Mindy, The King of Queens, and Frasier. How about the CSI and Law and Order franchises? Why not embrace the idea? Is it because for every Frasier there’s The Tortellis? For every Angel, there’s Joey? Is it fear of the unknown? Maybe. Is it because as our choices increase, so do our anxieties? Possibly, especially since the emotional investment put into a show, spinoff or not, is often quickly crushed by a network that doesn’t like the 18-49 female demographics on the Nielsen reports. That usually results in tampering or cancellation, both of which break many hearts.

Network programming choices are ruled by branding more than anything else these days, which leaves little choice for some to cling onto an older show that might no longer fit the network’s vision. Why isn’t there a Justice League or Green Arrow spinoff from Smallville? Simple, it doesn’t cater to The CW’s "laser focus" on 18-34 females. No other network or cable station will consider it, because it’s a leftover of another station’s aging programming and the buzz has long since passed.

However, for a network like CBS that’s strong on procedurals, the entire CSI franchise couldn’t fail. All three shows cater to their core demographic and follow the same formula. CBS is very lucky to be able to ride that wave that long, but considering their viewers skew older, it makes sense. The older we get, the stricter viewing habits become. My parents complain there’s crap on TV, but always watch CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, or Without A Trace after their regular shows because "it’s what comes on next." That’s a problem The CW is begging to have.

Anyway, so what does this mumbo jumbo have to do with Scrubs? I’m not sure anymore. Ultimately, the show is still on my TiVo season pass, so it’ll stay there. That’s enough to keep me watching. Same for Smallville. In the meantime, me and my overwhelmed brain are vowing to give The Vampire Diaries a try this fall, even though I don’t need another show. It’s time to break my viewing rut. Plus, Supernatural is what comes on next.

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About Alice Jester

  • Actually El Bicho, I was going to say the same of “Mork and Mindy.” Everyone has a different definition of “classic.” I just listed it because I was having trouble coming up with recent spinoffs off the top of my head. 🙂

  • “The King of Queens” a classic?!